Archive | October, 2014

Muslims Barking at Dogs

19 Oct

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.

Our dog Max "guarding" the front gate

Our dog Max “guarding” the front gate

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!”

They’re terrified.



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.

Are they gone yet?

Are they gone yet?

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

or at







What $10 will get you in Galilee

4 Oct

$10 doesn’t go far these days.  Years ago, in California, $10 would be enough for 2 movie tickets or four rounds of beer, or a decent meal.  Okay, okay, that was a long time ago.  But still, back then, when you had $10 in your wallet, you weren’t completely broke.  Uncle Sam saw to it that a dollar was a dollar.  Which is why, before going to settle in Israel 3 years ago, I thought dollars converted in shekels would go a long way.

They don’t.

Everything’s expensive in Israel.  Don’t even ask.  Use almost anything as an example, and it costs more in Israel than it does in America.

But prices are not the same everywhere.  Much the same way things costs more in New York City than in Montgomery, Alabama — things cost more in Tel-Aviv than where I live in Galilee.

So I assembled a few examples of feeling rich in Galilee for under $10.

Car Wash — Our village in Galilee is surrounded by farmland.  Wind kicks up dust.  My car is often dirty.  Most times, I hose it down and I’m done.  Other times I splurge on a personal car wash in Shibli, an Arab village next door.

Car wash in Shibli

Car wash in Shibli

Shibli sits at the foot of Mt. Tabor.  It’s a holy site for Christian pilgrims who climb to the church to hear of Jesus’s ascent to the mountaintop and his talk with Elijah and Moses.

But today I’m concerned with more earthly needs, like washing the grime and dirt from my car.  The “Car Wash” is nothing more than a flat pad over which a blue tarp is stretched to keep the sun out.  Arabic music at ear-splitting volume greets you.  I brake my car, hand the three Arab men my keys, and stroll to the “waiting area” – four plastic chairs under a canopy.  On the small table there’s a coffee Thermos, compliments of the house, tiny cups and a crowded ashtray.

Coffee while you wait at Shibli Car Wash

Coffee while you wait at Shibli Car Wash

Soon after, the men get to work.  Water is stored in steel drums.  They use power hoses to wash off the dirt, then soap it, then brush it with a broom (?), then hose it, then dry it, then hang a fragrant pine tree that smells like coconut on the rear-view-mirror, compliments of the house, then they hand me back my keys.  Time spent: 30 minutes.  Cost: $9.  I drive off, feeling like a millionaire, as I recover my sense of hearing.

Hummus — It’s fast food around here.  It’s everywhere, it’s always fresh, and hits the spot in the best possible way, if done right.  One place where they do it right is in Nazareth, at the footsteps of the Church of Annunciation.

Hummus plate in Nazareth

Hummus plate in Nazareth

The “El Sheikh” hummus bar is a hole in the wall, with simple tables, plain chairs.  They serve creamy hummus without frills, just authentic, stick to your gut goodness.  The owner throws in 3 falafel balls, sliced tomato, half a raw onion (?), pickles and two warm pita at no extra charge.  Time spent: 30 minutes.  Cost: $7

Shoe Repair  — Who repairs shoes any more?  In the old days, people had two pairs: one for work, one for play, and a pair of house slippers.  Today, it seems, people wear a different pair for every hour of the day.  The shoe cobbler is a relic of the past, went out of style and out of need along with watch repairmen.

Boots repaired

Boots repaired

But not in Galilee.  My wife loves the pair of boots she got in L.A a few years ago.  Over time, the zipper that ran  the side of the boot went bad.  Last week, in preparation for the rainy season, she found an old-fashioned shoe cobbler.  He’s Russian, ageless, built like a bear.  He used to repair boots for the communist army.  Today he sits in a shop in Afula, a small town 15 minutes from our house.  The shop is organized and spotless like a pharmacy.  The man takes pride in his work; his tools, hammers, saws, pliers, nails, glue jars are arranged neatly on shelves.  He blows new life into worn out heels, mends ripped leather and makes zippers slide effortlessly.   Time spent: dropped off boots, picked up the next day.  Cost: $10

Flat Tire — The low-pressure icon lit up on my car dashboard.  I drove to Kfar Kama, the Circassian village next door.  It’s eight in the morning, and the sound of the tire air compressor is at full blast.  My car is lifted on a jack.  Within seconds  the wheel nuts are removed, the puncture patched up, the tire dunked in a water tank to check for bubbles, then mounted back on the car.  “Do you want a receipt?” he asks me.  “No need,” I say.  Time spent: 15 minutes.  Cost: $9

So you could spend $35 in Galilee to fix a flat tire, wash the car, repair your shoe’s broken heel, and wipe a plate of hummus, or you could spend $1,000,000 to buy a two-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv.

Which will it be?


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

or at