The commotion begins at the sound of the buzzer outside our home’s front gate. Max, our dog, barks and barks. Needless to say he doesn’t like the irksome sound of the buzzer, and he likes strangers even less. To people unfamiliar with Max, a mix between a German shepherd and red Alaskan Husky, he appears dangerous. Max bares his teeth, his eyes open wide, his ears perk — the ultimate guard dog. But at closer inspection, this almost 9 year-old dog is as friendly as a day-old puppy.
But try telling that to Arabs.
Galilee is 50% Arab, 50% Jewish, so it’s not unusual that we meet each other on the roads, the markets, the workplace. Living in Kfar Tavor village, we routinely rely on Arab men to repair a leaky faucet, to haul stuff away, to repair broken tiles.
The buzzer at the gate sounds again. I slide my feet into my flip-flops and rush out the front door, not so much to greet the Arab men but to control Max. But like a good “guard” dog, he’s at the gate barking, sniffing from under the gap. The men start speaking fast, nervously, first in Arabic and then in Hebrew: “Please, please, take the dog away!”
After three years in Galilee, I know not to argue with them or to reason with them with lines like “He’s a friendly dog. He won’t harm you.” Instead, I act like I always do when Max is near Arab men: I reach for the leash, apologize profusely behind the gate, tell them it will only be a minute, I tie up Max and drag him up the front yard stairs, through the open door, to my small office, undo his leash, pat him on the head, and lock the door behind me.
There, finally, the Arab men are safe!
I then run to meet them at the gate. Immediately they repeat word-for-word what they say about dogs: “We like dogs, but we’re allergic to them, you understand, yes?”
I do. Now.
Dogs in Islam are unclean. They are impure and should not come in contact with believers. If they do, man must wash the “affected” area seven times until it’s pure again. Under rare instances when Muslims own dogs, they’re strictly for hunting or watching after the herd and are always kept outdoors and people never come with touch with the animals’ saliva.
Muslims don’t keep dogs as pets; they regard them as wild animals that wander the streets in packs and should be avoided. A dog is another mouth to feed. Go into any Muslim grocery store in Galilee, and there’s no liquor on the shelves, and there’s no dog food either.
Drunk dogs don’t make good pets.
Muslims reject dogs on religious grounds. Dogs can’t come near a place of prayer. Angels are afraid of dogs, and will not enter a home. Muslim who bring a dog into a home lose “points” in the afterlife. Anxiety about dogs starts at childhood. How else to explain that the Arab men that come to our door, men with arms as thick as telephone poles, shake like little girls?
“Come in, come in,” I tell them and lead the way in. “The dog’s gone.”
The Arab men come into my yard, their eyes roving from side to side, fearing there might be another dog lurking in the bushes.
I go inside the house. I say, “You’re not afraid of cats, are you?”
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teenage daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com
or at BN.com