Hanin Majadli, 24, originally from Baka al-Garbiyeh, has lived in Tel Aviv for five years now. On Monday, her search for a place to live led her to a shared apartment in the Florentine neighborhood. Y., the departing roommate, knew her from "Kilma," the Facebook page she edits, which posts a new word in Arabic every day. Majadli liked the apartment and agreed to the price, and Y., who was responsible for finding a replacement, told her the room was hers.
Majadli, a student who also works and sees teaching Arabic to Israelis (this author included) as her mission, called the apartment owner to finalize the deal, but the owner said she was busy and would get back to her later. The next day the owner still couldn’t talk, and told Majadli to send information about herself in writing. “I thought she really needed more details,” Majadli said.
But then she got a text message from Y. saying she had been rejected. “How many years have you lived in Israel?” he added. Only then did she understand: She asked him whether the owner refused to rent to an Arab, and Y. replied that the owner said it could create problems with the neighbors.
Majadli posted her exchange with Y. on her Facebook page, and within hours she had gotten some 700 shares and thousands of likes.
Y., a 28-year-old restaurant manager, confirmed her story. He said Majadli was the most serious of those who came to see the apartment and accepted the contract immediately despite some off-putting provisions. But when he told the owner he had settled with Majadli, she told him to keep looking. So he asked if the problem was that Majadli was Arab.
“You don’t have a problem with that, the roommates don’t have a problem with that, and I don’t have a problem with that, but the neighbors might have a problem,” she replied. Yet Y. noted that all the building’s residents were young singles without families.
The whole incident, he said, “shows you the older generation with their outdated views, compared to our generation, who look at the person and not the language he speaks. Maybe because of my work at the restaurant, I have a lot of contact with Arabs and I know generalizations are out of place.”
The owner, N., denied that she rejected Majadli because she is Arab or due to concern about the neighbors. She has no problem renting to Arabs, she said; in fact, she rents to a Muslim woman named Lubana, “and I have no problem with that.” The problem, she said, was simply that she insists on meeting prospective tenants and making sure they’re appropriate. “I want to see all the people and then decide. Wouldn’t you want to check who’s entering your apartment?”
'I've become a statistic'
Majadli said friends of hers have had similar experiences, but this was the first time it had happened to her. “I’ve officially become a statistic,” she said. “For the first half hour, it was very hard for me ... I sat with an Arab friend who told me, ‘It’s also happened to me, even though I’m a well-connected guy.’ I asked myself what I do now. Do I swallow it and move on? And then I recalled the power of Facebook.”
Majadli said the decision to go public with her story was a political one. “I assume I’ll eventually find an apartment easily, but I thought about all those whom people won’t rent to. If I were a girl with a head scarf, or a boy named Mohammed, it would be more complicated. But I have the privilege and the platform to talk about this. I wanted to speak for those whose voices aren’t heard.”
One of those is Mohammed Agueni, 26, who sought a flat in Jaffa for over a year. Even many Arabs prefer renting to Jews, he said with disgust. “We’re starting to be Germany.”
Majadli said her Facebook post brought her not only support, but many offers of apartments, while her Arab friends rejoiced at her publicizing an experience they know all too well. “It’s inconceivable,” she said. “My question is, how is it possible to solve this?”
Majadli's post on Facebook (Hebrew):