Understanding the Arab Mind



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The Wisdom of Shlomo, the Barber that is...

By N. Shuldig

The war in Gaza had ended and I needed a haircut. Not that there is a direct connection between the two, but even though I am balder than a billiard ball I still have some fuzz that grows like wild like weeds and sort of folds over my ears in a most unattractive manner. I normally hate paying the regular price for a haircut when all I need is to have the fuzz hanging over my ears trimmed and the follicular adornment that is dropping over my collar needs to be tided up a bit. Why should I have to pay full price? But OK what am I to do, I can't go on forever looking like a derelict, the police eye me as I walk down the street and the man in the corner market won't give me credit so about twice or three times a year I drop into Shlomo's barber shop. He never remembers me – can you blame him?

Shlomo is about eighty years old, maybe more. He tells me with great pride how he has had his barber shop for over forty years. He came to this country from Iran just before the War of Independence – that was in 1948, sixty years ago. He had just married and wanted to get out of Iran. He heard that people with a profession could make a decent living in Israel so he learned the 'profession' of being a barber.

He is a nice easy going man and a pleasure to talk to. I almost wish I had some more hair if only for the purpose that I may drop in more frequently and schmooze with him.

This time I asked him a question that has been bothering me. The Israelis called the bluff of Hamas who publicly threatened to destroy the IDF if they invaded. Instead of the IDF suffering losses, Hamas lost many men and did not have the ability to push off the Israeli forces. Over a thousand Gaza residents were killed in the fighting. The loss to their homes and businesses was great. Suffering was immense. Hamas was caught off guard and took severe losses to men and equipment.

I asked him why when by all media accounts Hamas had taken a big loss; never the less they celebrated the Israeli pull back with a victory parade – claiming great victory over the Zionist infidels. What victory did they accomplish? What purpose did their obvious lies serve?

He explained to me that he knew the Arab mind very well. It is not a question of winning or losing so much, that is the question, but rather holding face. Lying is no sin to the Arabs, he explained. As a matter of fact of fact if an Arab can hood-wink you and gain any advantage over you by telling a lie, he feels good that he tricked you. Lies are a part of Arab life and are not looked down upon as it is in the Western world in which I live.

Shlomo went on to give me examples of what had transpired in Iran when he was young. He said that lying was part of the Arab mentality. A good liar considers himself to be an accomplished craftsman. The fact that Hamas can lie to its members and its supporters comes as no surprise to him; if they did not resort to the lie then he would have been surprised.

There is an old story that is told about an Arab man who wanted to take a nap during the afternoon. The children from the village were playing ball outside his window. He yelled at them, "Hey, why are you playing ball here? Don't you know that they are giving away free sweets down at the government office?"

Hearing that, all the children dropped their ball and ran down to the government office to get free sweets. The man felt smug that he had tricked the children into going into the town center on a wild goose chase. As he lay on his bed smirking, he thought, perhaps it is true that they are giving out free treats down there, after all, it could be!

Quickly he jumped out of bed, put on his clothes and ran down to the city hall, thinking to himself, "If they are giving away sweets, I am going to get some too!" Not only does the Arab population believe the lies, but the liars also believe their lies.

The Arabs are masters at lying; they are not flustered when caught lying; they just tell another lie. But the problem is not with the Arabs; the problem is that the Western world believes that a normal person will not lie. The newspapers will report their statements as if there is some merit or substance to it. They can not investigate everything, and because they can't, the Arabs utilize the lie. The Western nations should recognize that the Arab mentality is different from theirs and caution should be used in accepting their statements.

When reading reports that originate from Arabs or from Arab governments we must be prudent to evaluate what is being reported in light of what they want us to believe. (Witness George Bush's folly in suspecting that Sadaam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction – how much money and damage has been caused by a president who believed the Arab lie.)

Shlomo the barber knew that; he lived his youth with them. I didn't; I grew up in honest ol' America. But if I can learn, so too, can you.


from the March 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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