The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

Red Tile Roofs

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 30, 2014

I’m driving back from the Golan Heights with Eli. We’re on Route 6, the toll road south, passing an Arab town in Israel and I’m asking him if he believes there is any hope for peace.

Solar

Solar panels count even more

“Yes, and I will tell you why,” he says. “Look over there at that town.”

Eli calls my attention to the roofs.

“In Arab towns, even here in Israel, you will always see flat roofs. Flat roofs with rebar—iron bars for reinforcing concrete—sticking straight up out of the perimeter of the roof. Why? Because in Arab families, when the eldest son becomes engaged to be married, he is usually so broke that he has no choice but to move in, he and his bride, with his parents. He can’t afford a home of his own. That’s why you see the flat roofs. The family builds an apartment, an additional story on top of the house, and the son and his new wife move in.”

In Jewish Israeli towns, Eli continues, you never see flat roofs. You see sloped roofs, red-tiled roofs. Why? Because the sons, when they become engaged, are prosperous enough to buy their own homes. They don’t have to move in with their parents.

“Now look again at this Arab town we’re passing. See the red-tile roofs? There’s one. There’s another. I count four and I’m not even trying.”

I’m counting too. I see a number of other red tile roofs, even beyond the ones Eli is pointing out. “In other words … ”

“In other words, many Arabs in Israel today are doing very well. They are prosperous. A young husband can afford to buy his own home. He can move out of his mother and father’s place. He can live in a house with a red-tile roof.”

I’m thinking about something Danny said, passing Arab villages from before the Six Day War and those brought into Israel’s borders after the war. “The first ones hate us since 1948; the second ones hate us since 1967.”

I ask Eli if he thinks economic prosperity will really have an impact on something so powerful and so ineradicable as national aspiration, as attachment to the land and the unshakeable belief that it belongs to you.

“Not in one generation. Maybe not in ten. But I will tell you this. As bitterly as Israeli Arabs complain about their situation, if you ask them, ‘Then why don’t you leave and move to another Arab country?’, they have nothing to say. Life is better for them here, even among the people they call their enemies, than it would be anywhere else.

“It is no small thing that we’re seeing red tile roofs in Arab towns. It shows that things are changing. A guy is not so eager to throw a bomb if he lives in a house with a red-tile roof.”

Posted in The Book I've Been Avoiding Writing

10 Responses to “Red Tile Roofs”

  1. June 30, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Red tile roofs! What a lovely metaphor.
    The premise of democracy – or at least, American democracy – is shared compromise, that mutual economic benefit allows for mutual cultural tolerance (if not respect). It is being sorely tested now, by forces similar to those creating barriers to peace in Israel.

    If we can survive the lost generations and the power-hungry, there’s a chance for red tile roofs.

  2. June 30, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Another powerful, practical example of hope! Thank you.

  3. Mo
    June 30, 2014 at 8:59 am

    ” A guy is not so eager to throw a bomb if he lives in a house with a red-tile roof.”

    Muslim Jew-hatred has nothing to do with poverty or lack of opportunities. It’s enshrined in Islamic teachings.

    • Dan
      July 5, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      Exactly.

      It’s existential for them. The comment about how the roofing may point to a way out of the impasse was so superficial as to be a frivolous observation.

      I recall MacArthur’s comments while he was standing on the deck of the US Battleship Missouri, speaking of war, he said the problem was theological. The only way we may ever get truly beyond the cosmological crisis that the existence of the state of Israel creates for the followers of mohammad is when the latter begin to see that their “prophet” was anything but.

      Until such time, we will have wars………. and rumours thereof.

      Grim tidings to be sure. But better that than entertaining fantasies about the merits of Arab consumerism.

  4. June 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I like and agree with this insight. While in Afghanistan we would discuss what ‘success looks like’. Leaving Afghanistan in another ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ state is NOT success, but that is a much longer discussion.

    Here is how I defined it. “2 generations of little girls with an education, and Pashto men more concerned about which college their kids will attend than the goat that was killed by a rival tribe 800 years ago.”

    Wealth does allow for a widening of the spirit. All of the Civil Rights our country has developed is proportional to our wealth and time for contemplation. It is difficult to empathize with anyone after 18 hours of hard labor maintained by a meager 1000 calorie diet.

    There is a counter argument that all of the 9/11 bombers were middle class–but middle class without purpose, I would add. Middle class without purpose is worse than poor…see school shootings.
    bsn

  5. Robert
    July 1, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I disagree with Mo and agree with Brian aNd this post. Prosperity and comfort are the enemy of terrorism. A job, nice home, kids going to college..etc.. These create hope and a sense of accomplishment. I have dealt with some Iraqi refugees here in Utah. The two older generations seem like a lost cause to me. They only respond to a heavy hand, and blame all their problems on “the jews”. I have almost came to blows with a few. But anyway the kids give me hope. They are night and day better than their parents. They love cell phones, motor cycles and everything modern. Dm I think technology and red tile roofs will slowly help in change.

  6. Robert
    July 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    The small sample I know are from Anbar Provence. Our military is looked up to, and respected by this group of Iraqis. Especially the kids. I believe the sacrifice made there planted seeds of hope and freedom in many. It’s just my belief, but Iraq will slowly come around because of the USA military (especially marines) sacrifice.

  7. Samir
    July 2, 2014 at 5:56 am

    The peace will be when you return to the Palestinians their land. Why the IDF killing people – it’s the army, but those who opposed them – the terrorists? Is not that hypocrisy? The most that can count the Jews of Israel – the 1967 borders.

  8. July 7, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Most of the 9/11 bombers were from Saudi Arabia: a state without civil liberties. According to research by U.S. economist krueger, (see What Makes a Terrorist) lack of civil liberty is a better predictor than poverty for terrorism.

    …Which means it was bizarre for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to foist loans and military assistance on Egypt without insisting on human rights in return.

    I suppose Kerry’s excuse for imperializing in the middle of the “war on terror” is that President Obama has never used the phrase. With no war, it’s imperialism as usual…. No, I’m not a crackpot: I’m Canadian.

  9. July 17, 2014 at 2:51 am

    Yes, we Westerners always assume economic logic drives most decisions in the world. Maybe it does, but I doubt it. It’s one of our many Achilles’ heels.