My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: II. Why Study Intercultural Friendships?
Before turning to the methodology of this study, let us first introduce its two main subjects; one of them is my friend Bashar, the other is me. Below I will share the story of our first encounter. Next are some factual details about each of us, followed by a general description of our friendship.
Stories of friendship: The first encounter
Jerusalem, Summer 2003. I was going home after a long day of work out of town. I descended from the intercity bus at the central bus station and halted a taxi with the purpose of getting home quicker. When I looked into the taxi, I saw that another passenger was there already. When asking about this person, the driver said “do not bother; I will take you both”. I thought “what the heck?” and entered. During the short drive, the three of us started talking. I enjoyed their company and at the end of our ride, I invited them in for coffee.
The passenger was Bashar and since then we are friends. The taxi-driver was Jaffer, and he will play some part in my life as well. I was brought up with notions of privacy and taking distance from strangers. For me it was unusual to join them in the taxi. In contrast, they were brought up with the idea of doing things collectively. Bashar was not a paying passenger in the taxi, as I had interpreted at first; he simply had joined his friend Jaffer in his work. From a cultural point of view, inviting strangers in my flat was not at all in line with my Dutch background. In the Netherlands invitations tend to be made much in advance, and there is not much space for spontaneity, in particular not with strangers. Nonetheless, enjoying their company and out of curiosity I trespassed cultural norms. For Bashar and Jaffer my invitation was nothing out of the ordinary. Palestinians do not seem to have this urge to plan. Israeli culture is actually a mixture of many cultures, but the dominant (Euro-American) culture would allow for some spontaneity. Still, in most Israeli Jewish circles in would be out of the question to invite two – unknown – Arabs to one’s home.