Growing up in NY, Bernie Kleinman had two lifelong dreams - to make aliyah and to have a muqata to call his very own. Upon realizing his dream of making aliyah, Bernie was distressed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and hatched a plan to change attitudes from within. Taking on the name Afula (as in "I fooled ya") , Bernie donned a kefiyeh and infiltrated the ranks of the more militant wing of Arafat's Fatah movement.
At the very beginning, Bernie/Afula had some trouble fitting in. He almost blew his cover at a training meeting, where members raged against the Israelis:
Achmed: Infidels! May they know our wrath!
Jachnud: Land stealers! They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom!
Bernie/Afula: Yidden! May they know many many simchas!
Jacnud: What is that you say, Afula? What kind of insult is that?!
Bernie/Afula: What? What'd I say? I meant that in the worst possible way. I heard they serve very salty foods at their simchas. Very bad for you.
Jachnud: Afula, you disappoint me.
Bernie/Afula: Well, you're one to talk! Yours was a quote from Braveheart!
Soon, Bernie/Afula learned to blend in better. It wasn't long before he gained the trust of many Fatah members. One day, while lounging around PA headquarters after a lavish ceremony and fish (some of which had gone bad) buffet marking the anniversary of Arafat's death, Bernie/Afula was resting with an Arafat cousin, Chew-the-fat, and his friend Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi: My stomach. I feel sick because of that damn eel at the muqata.
Chew-the-fat: Do you mean Arafat?
As they all laughed at Chew's little joke, they did not notice a figure with a tape recorder standing in the doorway. They fell silent as they recognized the face of Alan Jazeera, an Arab reporter for the BBC.
Alan: Did you just call Arafat an eel?
Chew-the-fat and Abu Dhabi froze, quite literally fearing for their lives. Thinking quickly and sensing opportunity, Bernie/Afula came to the rescue.
Bernie/Afula: No, no. You misheard. They didn't say damn eel at the muqata. They said Jameel at the muqata, the new spokesperson. Me.
Relieved, Chew and Abu nodded in agreement: Yes. He is Jameel, the new spokesperson for the muqata.
Alan: You?! You don't even look Arab!
"But I am wearing a kefiyeh!" Bernie/Afula/Jameel protested. "Come, let me kiss you on both cheeks, and we will hold hands and talk of fatwas as we walk together in our flowing robes."
An interview with Jameel, the new spokesperson at the muqata, appeared on the BBC the next evening. Taken with the charm and personability of this Jew-loving Arab, it wasn't long before other reporters flocked to Jameel for pithy soundbites. Recognizing good PR when he saw it, Mahmoud Abbas officially appointed Jameel as spokesperson for the muqata in a lavish ceremony and fish (some of which had gone bad) buffet.
Jameel soon hit upon a plan to simultaneously promote aliyah for the Jews and the relocation of Palestinians to Jordan as a viable option. The yidden were intrigued by this oddly-named man who had such passion for the Jews and their homeland. Abbas, as you might imagine, did not react as well:
Abbas (holding his head in his hands): Jameel, why are you encouraging Jews to make aliyah?
Jameel: Look at it this way - more peace partners!
Abbas (holding his head in his hands): Jameel, why are you encouraging Palestinians to move to Jordan?
Jameel: The appeal of 40 virgins after death for a "martyr" is starting to wane. Jordan is tangible. And they have casinos there. It's a win-win.
Though he had added a last name, Rashid (in tribute to the biblical and Talmudic commentator, Rashi), Jameel became known far and wide as Jameel @ The Muqata. It was only a matter of time until he realized his second dream of building a muqata of his own to live in. Jameel's wife agreed to live in the muqata and play the part of Mrs. Rashid, but she worried over how to answer the phone so as not to alienate neither their religious Jewish friends nor Arab officials.
To avoid the Baruch HaShem vs. Allah Hu Akbhar issue, Jameel and his wife settled on the following:
"Mrs. @ the Muqata. God is great. How may I direct your call?"
Ocassionally, chanelling Joan Osborne, she would add, "yeah, yeah, God is good."
As for Jameel himself, when he answers the phone at the muqata, he simply says,
Wherever I am, my phone line and my heart turn towards Eretz Yisrael, but if you're calling from a militant faction of Fatah, know that I only mean that in the worst possible way....
For a profile of The Muqata and other great blogs, go here. And mazal tov to the entire @the Muqata clan on the Bar Mitzvah!
Disclaimer: The preceding is not necessarily reflective of my own political views, nor Jameel's, and was not meant to offend anyone's political sensibilities. It was written purely for entertainment purposes.