I just wanted to write a short note apologizing for my silence the last few weeks. They have been full of coffee shops [where I tend to do most of my interviewing] and phone calls to set up appointments in coffee shops. And, I am still waiting for Ministry of Education permission, although signs are pointing in the direction of obtaining that soon. Fingers crossed…
I’ve also spent some time, particularly the last few weekends, away from Tel Aviv and from my dissertation. Yesterday I was up north, visiting a friend and her fiance, and we traveled through the Galilee to the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee] for a swim, then to Degania A – the first Kibbutz in Israel, and where this friend and I lived when I moved here in 2001 – for a picnic, and then down to the Tel Aviv area for an afternoon at the beach. A busy day!
…And a nice distraction from the things I am encountering here on a daily basis. One of the other reasons I haven’t been writing, I think, is because I have been struggling with how I feel about being here and about the way that Israeli society as a whole is moving. Through my research I am hearing many, many different perspectives on the nature of Israel as a Jewish state, a democratic state, neither, both, something in between…I’m having a hard time coming to clear conclusions about my own feelings, but I can say that it is emotionally exhausting to be here – and becoming harder and harder to do so, or rather, to live as an Israeli Jew in “Jewish Israel” while learning more and more about the structural inequalities that exist here and how they impact non-Jews [Palestinians, refugees, foreign workers] in a concrete, daily way.
It gets harder to be part of conversations like one I was part of recently, in which I was told, in reference to an Arab woman who works with the person I was speaking with, “She’s just like an Israeli!” [ummm, she is an Israeli], and “Not like the rest of her primitive family.” These are people I had met for the first time that day – it’s not so easy to stand up and disagree with what is being said.
And it gets harder to be vague about what I’m doing here. I wrote here about the political contentiousness of my topic, and things in that regard have not changed. But I keep asking myself, why is it so hard to be proud of what I am doing? Why am I so reluctant to get into the political discussions that inevitably arise when the subject of my dissertation comes up?
These are daily struggles for me – struggles which, as I stated above, make my life here immensely fulfilling but also emotionally draining. The “spaces I create for conversations,” as my roommate refers to my interviews, are learning experiences in multiple ways.