"Conversation on the Beach" with introduction by author
IMRA: "Conversation on the Beach" [repeated below] has received
considerable attention on internet. IMRA contacted the author and this is
Dear Aaron Lerner,
Thank you for your letter. First it is much simpler to find me on the
internet by my name: Just put in Solly Ganor in Google or any other
search engine and you will find 281 entries there, involving my
activities, writings and lectures around the world.
By the way, if you would like to see my web site, you will find it under
entry # 1, Solly Ganor Remembrance.
Concerning my letter, conversation on the beach, I just wrote it to a
friend of mine in San Francisco and never thought it will blossom into
this avalanche of information. However, perhaps it is good that many
more people read it than just a few.
I wrote down the conversation between the Arab youth and myself about
half an hour after our meeting. Since I didn't have a tape recorder I
couldn't recount it word by word. I am a writer and I wrote it more for
myself than for anyone to read. I go to the mosque quite often, because
it is a very picturesque place and you have a fantastic view from there.
I just went there to enjoy the view and the
conversation with the young Arab was something that was just an
addition. Living in Israel since the war of Independence and having
fought the Arabs in five bloody wars, I didn't think that what the young
Arab said was something extraordinary. We all know what they think of
us, and what is lately happening to their young people. Never before
were they ready to commit suicide en mass. Had they acted that way
during the war of Independence in 1948, I am not sure if the outcome of
the war would have been the same. The reason I wrote it down was
because the conversation portrays our situation in its full grim reality.
Anyone, who saw the jubilant crowds dancing in the streets in all
Palestinian towns and villages on September eleven, will realize the
hatred of the Palestinians towards us and the West in general. Quite
often you hear them speak of the Christians as 'Crusaders'. I assume
they adopted that old epitaph from president Bush's speech about a year
ago in which he pronounced that he is now on a crusade against El-Qaida.
The word 'crusade' brings old and triumphant stories to the Muslim
mind, of ancient wars, but ones, where Islam defeated the crusaders and
threw them out of the Holy Land. It is the crusaders that they are after
now once more, but this time they threw in the Jews as the crusader's
partners. It is ironic, because the crusaders were the ones who
initiated the progroms of the Jews of Europe on their way to the Holy
Land, murdering any Jew, man, woman, or child they came across. The
masses of the Palestinians and the Arabs in general are not educated.
They are much more prone to indulge in fantasies and make believe than
people in the West realize.
I am afraid that as much as we would like to find a modus vivendi with
them, a Palestinian state next to Israel, it won't happen. While in our
schools it would be inconceivable to teach our children hatred against
the Arabs, their learning books are so full of hatred and defamation of
the Jew that seventy percent of the young students are willing to become
shihads. How do you fight something like that?
Besides, who are we to make peace with? Fatah, Hammas, The Front for the
of Palestine, Hizbala or perhaps El-Qaida? They are all players in the
Palestinian game. They all have one thing in common though, they will
never recognize the right of the Jews to live here and they think that
they have discovered a cheap and efficient way, to defeat it us: The
'suicide bomber'. And as the Americans have recently experienced, they
too are not immune. The French have recently discovered a group of Arabs
who planed to topple the Eiffel tower. Too bad they didn't, because
perhaps the Europeans would wake up the way America woke up after
I am a Holocaust survivor and survived because of my optimism, but it is
hard to be an optimist under these circumstances.
The current Israeli joke is 'What is a Pessimist'?
The answer is:' An optimist with lots of experience'. That says it all.
Still, who knows, I went personally went through much, much worse
situations in my life. So I still hope.
With best wishes for the coming year,
Shalom, Solly Ganor
Conversation on the Beach
By Solly Ganor
Friday, December 6, 2002
About half a mile from where I live in Herzliya, on a hill overlooking the
Mediterranean, stands an old mosque. It was built during the Middle Ages
and a Moslem holy man is buried on that site. The holy man's name was
Sidney Ally and that is how the mosque is known to this day. The beach
bellow, stretches all the way to Herzliya to the South, and Netanya to the
I often go there for walks because from its heights one has a panoramic
view of the sea and the whole area. There is another reason why I go there;
from that hill, at certain weather conditions, the Mediterranean turns into
a color of blue that can not be seen anywhere else.
Last Friday, as the wind began blowing from the East, the Medi, as we call
our sea, began calming down. It flattened the waves coming ashore until it
became as placid as the Kinneret during the summer. It was then that the
deep blue color, as if by a magic wand, emerged from the depth of its
waters. It wasn't the first time I saw it and I always witness that
phenomenon with rising spirits. " If there is so much beauty in this
world, then there is hope for us humans yet." I said to myself.
The silence was interrupted by a noisy bus full of Arab worshipers who
arrived to the mosque for their Friday services. They wore the traditional
Arab garb, and entered the mosque quietly. Some of them threw me hostile
glances. Their arrival brought me back to our desperate conflict with these
people for the piece of land we call Israel, and they call Palestine. Only
a few years ago at Camp David, we deluded ourselves that they are finally
ready for peace; Israel and Palestine living next to each other for the
mutual benefit of both peoples. But that was not to be. They are still not
ready to relinquish their old dream to oust us out of the Middle East.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?" I heard a voice behind me speaking English. As
I turned around I saw a well dressed young man of about twenty five,
looking wistfully at the sea. By his accent and looks I realized that he
was an Arab, probably one of the lot that arrived by bus. A quick visual
scan of his body assured me that he didn't come to stab me, or blow himself
I nodded. "Yes it is beautiful". Well, we have at least one thing in
common, I thought.
And then I had a second thought. "Here stands an Arab youth next to me, in
the heart of Israel, calmly admiring with me the sea. There was not a
shadow of a doubt in his mind that something bad would ever happen to him
here in Israel. I tried to imagine myself standing that way in Ramalah, and
having that conversation with an Arab youth. Then I remembered a scene
filmed by an Italian TV correspondent in Ramalah last year.
Two Israelis, who by mistake took a wrong turn, found themselves among a
mob of Palestinians. They were brought to the Palestinian police station
where they were lynched and their mangled bodies were thrown out of the
window, to the cheering crowds below. They kicked them and beat them until
they were an unrecognizable mess of flesh." The Italian TV crew, who filmed
that scene, had to run for their lives to escape the mob. Fortunately, they
were able to sneak the film out and show it to the world, one of the few
films that were ever shown of the Arab atrocities. But the world isn't
interested in Arab atrocities. They are used to them and they don't make
For a while we stood in silence admiring the view.
"Didn't you come with the others to pray?" I asked just to make
conversation. I was curious about him. Why did he join me? It wasn't just
to watch the view, of this I was sure.
"I know what that old fool will say by heart. He is of the old school and
preaches moderation. Fortunately, his time is over."
" You don't think that moderation is a good idea?"
" What has moderation ever done for us? We have been moderate long
enough. We are growing weaker while you have grown stronger. It is time
for us to act."
I was a little surprised by his belligerent tone right from the start.
Usually Arabs are polite in the beginning of a conversation.
" Do you think that you were moderate up to now? Would you call five wars
the Arabs launched against us, moderation? I wonder what you would call
He gave me a sober look.
" Hostility is what you are getting now. Our young people are blowing
themselves up in all of your major towns, taking with them hundreds of your
Israelis. President Arafat has promised you a million 'Shihads' to march on
Jerusalem. The march has already began, and it won't be thanks to
Arafat. He is another old bungler. Things are changing. Until now you had
the upper hand, but no more!
Our "Shihads," are the answer to your atomic bombs. If necessary, one
"Shihad" can be an atomic bomb, here in Israel, in America, in Europe, or
anywhere the Jews and the Crusaders live. We don't need millions of dollars
worth of sophisticated labs and expensive scientist. What we have is cheap
and efficient. That is because we are not afraid to die. We have finally
found your soft underbelly, your Achilles Heal. You Judeo-Christians
worship the sanctity of life, while we don't mind dying for Islam" The last
sentence he said with certain pride in his voice.
From the way he expressed himself, I realized that he is a student. As if
confirming my thoughts, he told me that he is a student of political
science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. " Do all the Arab students
studying at the Israeli universities share your views?"
" Absolutely! A few may be oriented towards the West, but the overwhelming
majority are for the new emerging Renaissance of Islam."
Then he smiled and said, " You might as well enjoy the beautiful view from
"Sidney Alley" while you can. You won't be able to do so for long. If I
were you, I would pack and leave for safer countries." I gave him a long
"Thanks for the advice, but I remember another Arab who gave the same
advice to us in 1948, when the British were pulling out. He may have been
your grandfather, for all I know. He lived in a village somewhere around
here and he was a friend of a Jewish man named Peytan whom I knew as well.
Peytan lived in Kefar Shemaryahu across the road. One day the Arab
neighbor came visiting Mr. Peytan and strongly advised him to pack and
leave. At the same time, he brought out a measuring tape and began to
measure the room they were sitting in.
'What are you doing?" Asked my friend.
"Look, you are going to lose your house anyway. There is no way that six
hundred thousand of you can stand up to the combined might of six Arab
regular armies, not to mention our Palestinian battalions. We can actually
kill you with our hats!" Yes, that is what he actually said: "We can kill
you with our hats." We have been good friends for a long time. You might as
well give me your house rather than to someone you don't know."
"His advice reminded me of your advice. Yet during the 1948 war, that was
forced on us by you, your 'grandfather', not only didn't get the house in
Kefar Shemaryahu, but he lost his own house and became a refugee. And now
he is blaming it on the Jews. Fifty-five years later he still sits in the
camp. His views haven't changed much. He still wants not only his house
back, but he wants the house in Kefar Shemaryahu, of his Jewish friend as
well. Will he ever get it? I doubt it. "
" Yes, he will get it! And you know why? Because in 1948 they were all
cowards! Today, our generation is proving that we are not! Eighteen
determined men with carton cutters who were not afraid to die, defied the
big American might, causing them thousands of dead and trillions of
dollars worth of losses. We found out that we can bring the Western
capitalist system to its knees, and we shall do so! It is a shameless
selfish system that causes endless human misery around the world,
especially in the third world countries and for Islam. It is time for it to
go!" It was obvious from the way he said it that he didn't say it for the
"Communism, Nazism, Fascism, they all were defeated by the Western
Democracies, what system do you propose to replace it with?" I asked. I was
beginning to get irritated with this young Arab.
" Islam!" He said fiercely.
" Islam?" I asked. " Islam? What did Islam ever do for the countries under
its rule? It brought nothing but poverty and misery to the masses, while
bestowing fabulous riches to the rulers. All you have to do is look around
you. Israel, that was in 1948 a pauper state, barely able to feed its
population, has grown into a modern self sufficient state. We have absorbed
a million Jews from the Arab countries, who fled for their lives leaving
all they possessed behind, while your Arab brothers with their billions of
petro dollars let the Palestinians rot in refugee camps. While we
progressed in the last fifty years, the Arab states have only regressed
. As a matter of fact, the Arab masses are worse off than when they were
under the British or the French rule. How many Nobel prize winners has
Islam produced? How many new inventions to benefit mankind? Practically
How many Einsteins, Freuds, Salks and Rubinsteins has Islam produced? Zero!
From a once vibrant Arab civilization, that gave us Algebra and the
concept of the zero, Islam has plunged you into a pit of fanaticism,
illiteracy, poverty and corruption, and you would like to force the world
into the same abyss?. "
For a while he looked at me perturbed. " We all make mistakes. But Islam
with all its faults is a thousand times more preferable to the abomination
that is the West." He finally said quietly.
Then he gave me a fierce look and said: "If you had said in any Arab
country about Islam, what you have just said to me, you would be a dead
" I am sure I would. And if you had said in any Arab country denouncing
their corrupt regimes the way you are denouncing Israel, you would be a
dead man too. Yet, here you are, studying at the Hebrew University in
Jerusalem, allowing yourself openly to speak of subversion and treason
against the State of Israel, without any fear of being arrested, let alone
being killed for it. Doesn't it say something to you?"
" Yes, it says that you are weak, and that weakness will be your undoing."
he said seriously.
" Isn't there a way our two nations could ever come to terms and make
Again he gave me that serious look. " Yes, there is a way. We are not like
the Nazis who gave you no other choice but death. We give you the chance to
convert to Islam, then you will become a part of us and our people will
live in peace."
For a while we stood in silence looking at the sea.
"You will never defeat us because we have a secret weapon, the same weapon
that saved us from you in 1948." I said.
" Yes, and what is that, your atom bomb?" His tone was derisive.
" No. In Hebrew it is known as 'Ein Breira'.
"Ein breira? That is your secret weapon? It means 'there is no other
choice.' Why, we too can say the same thing."
"But that is not quite true. We have 'no other choice' because you
challenge our very existence in this country, whereas we don't do that. We
are quite willing to coexist with you as a Palestinian state and an Israeli
state, side by side. You don't. '
There was nothing more to be said. The sun was dipping towards the horizon
in the West, and the sea lost it's deep blue color. The magic was gone. It
was time to go home.
"Good bye. I have to go inside the mosque. I promised them a lecture." He
said walking away.
I could imagine what the lecture was all about. We didn't offer to shake
hands. After all, you don't shake hands with your sworn enemy. I walked
home depressed. If there was a way out of this
conflict, I didn't see one.