Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Two Israels or Perhaps More

I learn from every e-mail concerned people forward to me, I learn how little I know and how much others do. I hope I am not breaking any e-mail rule but I want to share with you--if you are still there--a piece from http://themagneszionist.blogspot entitled "The Magnes Zionist: Israel and 'Jisrael" and then I can go to bed tonight. Posted July 13, 2008

Don't you hate it when you accept an invitation to a wedding or a bar mitzvah, and then remember that you have tickets for something that same night?...

Well, after my wife and I purchased tickets to this evening's screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, we realized that we had also accepted an invitation to a bar/bat mitzvah celebration. You know, family friends from the U. S. on a bar/bat mitzvah tour...So my wife, who is native Israeli, went to the Cintematheque, and I, the native American, went to the Bar/Bat Mitvah event.

Geographically, we were ten minutes walking-distance from each other. Psychologically we were in different worlds.

I was in the world or country that I shall call 'Jisrael'--Jewish Israel. Jisrael is a country that exists in the consciousness of Jews living outside of Israel, and those Anglos who come to live here. It is the Israel of the English-speaking subculture in Jerusalem, Raanana, Beit Shemesh...In Jisrael, Hebrew is spoken, if at all, with an Amercan accent. Most of the inhabitants of Jisrael nowadays are orthodox. In Jisrael, nobody is surprised when the bar and bat mitzvah from
America give speeches celebrating their heroes, King David and Gloda Meir. Everybody expects them to profess their love for Israel and Eretz Israel, and their father to speak with that American religious-zionist twinge of guilt for living in Suburban Maryland and not here.....

Most importantly, in Jisrael the only Arabs are street cleaners, construction workers or terrorists. They aren't doctors, lawyers, teachers or professionals. They aren't the people you socialize with. My wife, ten minutes away, was in the county of Israel. She was quite literally sitting in Gehenna, since the Jerusalem Cinematheque is in the valley identified by archaeologists as Gei Ben Himmon, the Gehenna of the New Testament... but emotionally she was sitting in another Gehenna, because she was watching ten short films on Jerusalem, sponsored by the Jerusalem NGO, Ir Amin.

While I was singing Hava Nagila and Oseh Shalom Bimromav, my wife was seeing films about four Palestinian brothers who support their families by selling chewing gum to Jewish motorists at intersections. She saw a short film about Sai al-Haradin, who wakes at the crack of dawn each day to embark upon a journey of several hours to get to al-Quds university in Abu Dis--a ten minute walk away from his refugee camp. Or a documentary by a Palestinian film student about how an Arab cab driver took into his home a Jewish woman with her family after they had been evicted from their flat.

The most powerful film was about the hideous 'creatures' that for years have terrorized Palestinians, destroying their homes, building walls around and through their lands and making life miserable for them. Last week, for the first time, the same creatures turned against the Jews. I refer, of course, to the Caterpillar bulldozers.

The films were not, on the whole, heavy-handed or propogandistic. There were no films about Israeli soldiers beating up Palestinian civilians or about suicide bombers or about Shin Bet infiltrators. The emphasis was on how normal people abnormal lives in the shrinking Gehenna that is Palestinian Jerusalem.

What would the Jews from Jisrael had felt had they attended the film screening? Some would have been deeply affected and deeply perplexed. Others would have pointed fingers at the Palestinians and would absolve the Israeli Jews of responsibility. But moat would have great difficulty recognizing Israel because of the Jisrael they had created.

What room was there for hope? Only this--the Jerusalem movie theater was filled with Jews and Palestinians, speaking to each other, relating to each other, talking about their experiences. My wife could not remember ever attending any event in Israel where Palestinians and Israeli Jews mingled freely, on the same footing. It gave her some hope for Israel.

As for Jisrael--well, I lost hope for that 'imagined country' a long time ago."
(from newprofile@googlegroups.com)

When Australian Jews here say to me in a whisper, "you know, you really should not say anything about Isrsael--you don't live there," I say, yes, as an American Jew I do live there--in so many symbolic and political ways. I thank the man who wrote these words, the woman who forwarded them to my and you for listening; now to my bed.

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