Sunday, July 18, 2010

I know for sure when the Messiah is coming...

...that will be precisely the day Israelis learn to stand in line without cutting in.
So I advise all you evangelicals not to hold your breath. It ain't happening any time soon.

I had forgotten how exhilarating and aggravating that little country is. As I posted before, it has changed quite a bit since I saw it last in 1988. But many of its idiosincracies remain firmly in place. Israeli culture is very strong. If you come from any country where communication is not necessarily done by means of irony or sarcasm, you need to adjust. Every single communication exchange in Israel could be the seed for a lengthy Talmudic discussion. For example:
Our friend Jacqueline is driving us to the Jordanian crossing via Eilat. We are stopped at a police checkpoint (as is everybody else). The young policeman asks where we are going, we say Eilat. Then he says: "Why is the lady in the back not wearing a seatbelt?"
I'm pretty sure in any other country this would not be put in the form of a rhetorical question. Any policeman anywhere else would say something like, "passengers who sit in the back must also wear seat belts", or "please put on your seat belt, ma'am".
When a question is posed, there is fertile ground for equally sardonic responses, as is there for subtext. And as we know from millenia of Biblical reading and parsing, everything is subtext. So perhaps the subtext is: Which one of you morons is not aware that everyone in this country must wear a seat belt? Or "is this lady someone so special that the law does not apply to her?" The possibilities are endless.  The point is, everything in Israel is an argument. This is endearing the first five minutes but soon it becomes exhausting. It's like everybody is your pushy relative and they butt in at any time and under any circumstance, making sure you know how stupid they think you are.

I will tell you what made me very sad:
• Everyone has become more radical and more irrational and there is more tension between Arabs and Jews. Having said this, one of the most astounding sights of the entire trip was swimming at the springs at Sachne with Muslim women and orthodox Jewish women frolicking fully clothed in the same waters.

I remember a time when it was possible to visit inside the Dome of the Rock. Now that is forbidden to non-Muslims. This is very unfortunate. The Dome of the Rock is the perfect symbol of the craziness of Jerusalem. Said rock, according to Islamic tradition, is from where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and is the foundational stone of the world. According to Jewish tradition, it is where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac according to God's instructions. It is also where the main altar of the Second Jewish Temple stood. The Jews were expelled so the Muslims built their mosque in the exact same place. It's nuts.

I also remember a time when there wasn't a wall separating the occupied territories from Israel. This wall, as horrid as it sounds, has actually helped deter terrorist attacks in Israel, but it has also made life harder for the Arabs in the occupied territories who depend on Israel for their work. A lot of people who like to gripe about Israel do not realize at all how interconnected the lives of Jews and Arabs are. They think all the Arabs are living behind barbed wire in dire conditions. This is not the case. But the country has tragically shifted to the right, while the Arabs have also become radicalized. This does not bode well for peace anytime soon.

I remember a time when, if you stood at the amphiteater of the Hebrew University in Mount Scopus, you would see Jordan and mostly desert and you would not see the humongous and growing, horrid Maaleh Adumim settlement that is not only destroying the landscape but also the chances for peace.

I remember a time when the Dead Sea wasn't evaporating at an alarming rate. It looks like it's bound to disappear soon. This is appalling.

I remember a time when my Kibbutz had not been privatized and did not lease land to office complexes.

I remember a time when not everything wanted to be a mall.

• People are becoming more religious, and the religious are growing exponentially. This is a disaster if the country wants to be a secular democracy, which is what it should be. Secular Jews are not being forceful enough to demand a modern, secular democracy in Israel. Don't come crying to me when it turns into Iran. But about my absolute detestation of the very religious, there will be another post.

1 comment:

  1. Tova in Toronto11:28 AM

    What a wonderful blog and photos!! I lived in Israel from 76 to 81, and they were the best years of my life. I would love to retire there one day, but this zealotization of the area has me terrified. As an atheist with a great love of my jewish culture I could deal with the intrusion of the orthodox, but the loss of separation between state and religion is definitely not something I could accept. I do not understand why secular Israelis are not making their voices heard on this vital topic. As for the food there, oh what delicious memories!!! Nothing tastes as good as Israeli food. Thanks for the lovely salivatory pics.