Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Does His Name Need to Be On the Mailbox?"

My friend Steve, who I stay with in Jerusalem, was telling me a story about a run in he had with a realtor a while back. As you may recall, my friend Azmi has rented a room from Steve for many years. Steve is Jewish. Azmi is an Arab Muslim. I've written in the past about the reactions of people to the news that they were going to be roommates. Over the years, they have developed a father/son relationship. Azmi's name is listed on the mail box right along-side Steve's.

This recent story involved a realtor who was trying to show people apartments in their building. The realtor came to Steve's door, told him that she'd been showing people apartments in the building, and that having 'an Arab's' name on the mail box was preventing some people (Jewish Israelis) from wanting to live in the building. She asked if his name could be removed from the mailbox!

Steve told her what she could do with that suggestion, and further stated that he didn't want people in the building that would be bothered by an Arab living here. The truth is, there are several Arab families living here. It is a very mixed (Jewish/Arab) building. Thanks, in large part, to Steve's efforts to have an integrated buildling. :)

It happens every day, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It is important for all of us to search ourselves for ways that we might be expressing prejudice. It is just as important, however, for us to challenge it when we see it around us, just as Steve did with this ignorant real estate agent! We can all contribute to breaking down this sort of 'status quo.' The world can transform with our efforts!

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