My Friend is a Palestinian Bedouin: XII. Individualism versus Collectivism. Friendships
Perceptions of friendship
The story below demonstrates in a nutshell many of the intercultural differences to be discussed later on. Specifically, we can see here the different cultural dimensions: individualism/collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, and masculinity/femininity. However, at this point I will only relate to the question of friendship in general, to the issue of togetherness, and to variations in perceptions of matters being either public or private.
Stories of friendship: The netstick
Jerusalem, Friday night, December, 2010. At night, Bashar and I are supposed to meet so that he can give me a netstick. The next day my doctorate student cohort will have a workshop and the netstick will allow a student from Amsterdam to participate through Skype.
9.45 PM I just finished my Shabbat dinner with my relatives, take off my yarmulke and call Bashar from my car. I want to make sure that we will meet and fix a meeting place. He tells me that he wants to come over to Jerusalem. I am very excited. It is the first time in about half a year that he will come and see me in Jerusalem. We have lots to talk about and are hardly ever in private. I am also highly fearful. I recall that he once came to me by surprise. When I opened the door, he was standing there with his shirt torn and covered with blood. He got stuck in the barbed wire while crossing the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I also recall that about a month ago someone was shot dead while traversing the wall nearby the place where he intends to cross. He wants to be sure that he will be able to cross the wall tonight and will call me back in about a quarter of an hour.
10.30 PM Bashar calls and tells me that he and Akram, his partner in the garage, have crossed the wall and are waiting for me to come and fetch them. They have some things to do. I am highly upset. I thought that he wanted to come and see me. Furthermore, I was already arrested once for driving him in my car in Israel. I take a huge risk, which I was willing to take to be with him, but not necessarily for two people who want to do some errands. I wonder why he did not give me this information before, and withheld from me the opportunity to make up my mind freely. Now there is a sense of urgency. It is only minutes driving from where I live. I feel that I cannot just leave them standing there, and get in my car.
10.45 PM In the car, Bashar tells me that Suleiman got himself into trouble with Bedouins in the town of Lod. (Suleiman is the brother of Abdalla, a mutual friend of us. Both Suleiman and Abdalla are refugees and fled to Israel from Sudan.) The incident created tension between the local Bedouin and Sudanese communities. Bashar is concerned and since he is both a good friend of Abdalla and a person of standing among the Bedouins, he wants to go there to try to settle the issue between the two communities. Jaffer, the taxi-driver, is supposed to come and fetch them from my place.