An American suburb in Palestine? Leave it to Beaver meets the Arabian Nights
The village of Mazraa Sharqiya, only 10 miles outside of the Palestinian Authority administrative capital of Ramallah in the West Bank, is different from many of its neighboring towns, according to a he Jerusalem Post. The Israeli daily recently reported that sixty percent of all the residents of this Palestinian suburb are American citizens.
American dominated towns are nothing new in Israel, with major American populations in cities such as Bet Shemesh and Modiin, but the existence of a separate Palestinian-American identity in the West Bank is less known. Since many of the town’s resident’s live and work in the United States and earn American salaries, they have been able to take advantage of low land prices and cheap construction costs to build a suburban paradise that is two parts “Leave it to Beaver” and one part “Arabian Nights.”
The Post reported that “according to local residents, the origins of the town’s unusual circumstances date back to the 1930s when ‘people left the village because of the lack of jobs.’ Many went to Cuba and, beginning in the 1950s, began arriving in the US as well. Once a villager received American citizenship, he would usually bring along as many members of his extended family as possible.”
Every summer, as thousands of expatriates throng back to their hometown on summer break, the local language switches from Arabic to English and you are more likely to hear youngsters referring to Justin Bieber than Mohammed as they stroll down Mazraa Sharqiya’s main drag.
The American influence is most apparent in the breaking down of barriers cited by the Mayor, who stated that women are now allowed to dance with men at weddings, an act previously banned in this strict Muslim society. This is a far cry from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip, in which modesty patrols walk the pristine beaches in order to enforce Islamic dress codes.
An interesting mix of people has emerged in this little, Mid-Eastern, slice of America, with local Arabs saying that they have inducted many Cubans, North Americans and Mexicans into their community as honorary Palestinians.