Israeli Arab Diplomat George Deek addressed JFS students on Thursday afternoon in an event organised by JNF UK. Deek, 31, currently serves as vice-Ambassador to Norway. He was raised in a Christian Arab family in Yafo.
The vice-ambassador spoke to Year 12 students about life as an Arab in Israel and cited his family history as evidence of the possibility of communities coexisting peacefully in the Jewish state.
He began his talk by expressing his delight at an incident he had witnessed at Heathrow, when a Sikh, a Muslim and a Christian standing ahead of him in the line each stopped for a moment to remember British soldiers killed in the service of their country.
The incident reminded him of his multicultural home town, Yafo. The apartment block in which he was raised was home to four families; his Christian Arab family, a religious Jewish couple, a Catholic priest and a religious Muslim family.
When Israel was formed in 1948 his grandparents were advised to leave by neighbours who warned them that the Jews intended to kill any Arabs who remained. His grandparents left, became refugees, then later realised that they had been given false information. They walked for days back to Israel to find that their Arab neighbours were unharmed and happy. His grandparents chose to “believe Jews weren’t enemies and instead made new friends”.
Deek was asked why it’s important for Israel to exist at all, and he said “as long as Israel exists the Middle East will always have a chance to redeem itself.”
“People always ask me why I care so much about the Jewish State when I’m a Christian Arab, and I always say that anti-semitism and anti-Zionism are not just Jewish problems. If the Middle East has no room for Jews, it will have no room for anyone different. Jews, Muslims and Christians need to stand together and be proud to be different; we all need a shared humanity.”