In his (presumably) last trip to the Middle East as president, Pres. Bush joined in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Israel. But he also, as Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes in the New York Times, “received something else: a little lesson in cultural awareness.”
In a museum garden, where Pres. Bush and his wife Laura were speaking with a group of a dozen young people selected by the American Embassy, he asked if Jews and Arabs dated one another, or went to dances:
“No dances?” he asked, sounding surprised.
There was a slight pause in the discussion, until the American ambassador, Richard H. Jones, stepped in, politely telling the president that society was more conservative here.
As to the dating question, Manar Saraia, a 22-year-old Israeli Arab from Haifa, had an answer. She has Jewish roommates, which is unusual enough. A Jewish boyfriend, she told Mr. Bush, would be too much. “The parents and the children themselves,” she said, “think if we are of different religions, that it’s hard to live as a couple together.”
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