How a young Muslim blogger in Pakistan challenged the conventional views of Israel held by many in his country and was amazed by what he discovered.
Shalom everyone. Despite the fact that I live in a country where people almost consider it a religious obligation to spew odium of all sorts against Israel and everything related to the Jewish state, I have triumphantly mustered up enough courage to pen this article out of my fascination for different facets of the country of Israel.
Israel is not often seen in a positive light in my country of Pakistan. It is thought of as one conspiring against every predominantly Muslim country as well as each and every Muslim living on this planet, through some “secret machinations”. So “secret”, that I think even Israelis and Jews may not be aware of them.
I have always been vehemently opposed to anti-Semitic propaganda which fellow countryman have tried to feed into my mind. I have been quite rebellious when it comes to disagreeing with them over labeling all Jews and all Israelis as “Bad Guys”.
Israel is portrayed with a biased, one-dimensional image by Arab, Iranian and by Pakistani media. Usually as a country always engaged in some conflict with the “Islamic brothers” of Pakistan (Arabs and Iranians), or a country which takes sheer “delight” in bombing “Islamic” cities like Beirut and Gaza.
These futile efforts of my fellow countryman to instill animosity for Israel, instead resulted in increasing my curiosity to explore what Israel really is?
I learned about Israeli culture and society through Israeli movies like “The House on Chelouche Street” and “Lemon Popsicle” trilogy, songs of divas like Shiri Maimon and Sarit Haddad and TV shows like X factor.
I studied the history and learned how in less than 24 hours after the State of Israel was proclaimed in May 1948, it was assailed by the regular armies of five Arab countries, forcing it to safeguard the sovereignty it had salvaged in the Jewish people’s ancestral homeland. A population of some 650,000, while millions of European Jews (survivors of the Nazi Holocaust) and Jews living in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa (From Yemen to Morocco) were waiting to immigrate to Israel.
Considering the struggle for survival Israel faced and the exigency of provision of the fundamental needs of a population which tripled itself in a decade, it was quite arduous to think that Israel would prosper economically. That it would ever be able to have any sort of political clout in Middle East.
Now, however, it is a reality (a bitter one for the foes of Israel) and no one can deny it. Today, it cannot be denied by anyone with eyes in their head, the increasing military and also politico-economic might of Israel.
I was amazed how Israel, a tiny country one can barely see on the world map, possess the energy within that small geographical area that distinguishes her from all the other countries, be it the geographically largest Russia or smallest Vatican City.
Israel has a progressive and growing economy and it has managed to triumph in the field of Science and Technology like many developed European nations have done over the years. Israel has achieved all of this, despite being surrounded by hostile neighbors and despite being located in a highly turbulent region and despite being a constant victim of terrorism both from beyond and within its borders.
My admiration for Israel was further augmented when seeing how despite being almost devoid of natural resources compared to other states in the region such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, it still has progressed just because of advanced education and scientific research. Its academics produce more scientific papers per capita than anywhere else in the world and that it has the world’s highest ratio of university degrees to the population.
According to Freedom House’s annual report for 2017, Israel remains the only free country in the Middle East, scoring 80 on a scale of 100. That compares favorably with partly free countries in the region such as Turkey (38), Jordan (37) and Kuwait (36), and with countries deemed “not free”: Iraq (27), Iran (17), Saudi Arabia (10) and Syria (-1), among all other Mideast nations.
Kudos to Israel for being the only beacon of democratic values, progression and free thinking in Middle East. I lament the anti-Israel rhetoric which has been pursued by the honorable government of my homeland, unfortunately for years.
I would love to see our two great nations as two great friends in the near future. I have always seen Israel as an amalgam of old and new, possessing both a glorious past and a progressive present, and great potential for the future. Israeli culture is a beautiful mélange of Western and Eastern values (European and Middle Eastern values).
It’s such a heterogeneous country where you can meet with people from diverse ancestral backgrounds. Hailing from places from Baghdad to Berlin and from Milan to Mumbai. It’s a country which is generous to such an extent that it shares electricity and water even with the ones who regularly fire rockets at her citizens.
Israel for me is a cradle of civilization and it’s a country where you can walk in the same footsteps as different Biblical and Quranic prophets such as Jesus (Isa in Quran) and David (Dawood in Quran).
It’s one of my biggest desires to visit Israel at least once in my life, to witness the miracle this country is for my own eyes, rather than from the lens of a foreign writer, photographer, actor, singer or film maker.
I wish one day my desire will come true. Wishing you all a happy holiday.
Sarmad Iqbal is a Pakistani writer, blogger and student. He Tweets @sarmadiqbal7
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