Category Archives: conflict

Complex realities

Emotions have been high here the past few weeks. Not for me personally, but for the country as a whole.  Nothing new about that, I suppose, but since I’m not usually here to observe it, the past few weeks stand out to me in how they embody the complex realities of this place.  This is what I mean:

1. Shortly after Neil left, a group of several dozen Israeli Rabbis issued a religious ruling prohibiting the sale or rental of apartments in Israel to Arabs.  Their ruling caused a huge uproar in both the secular and religious communities here, with a group of Yeshiva students signing a petition opposing the ruling, the publishing of “compromise rulings/letters” [trying to assuage the enraged public], and general remarks about the racism in this country.

2. Shortly after this, a rally was held in the city of Bat Yam [just south of Tel Aviv] to continue the protest against renting/selling apartments to Arabs and to protest against Arabs dating Jews.

3.  Following this, just yesterday a group of Rabbi’s wives wrote an open letter pleading with Jewish women not to date Arabs, suggesting that doing so “removes them from the Jewish people.”

4.  Thrown into this mix is the increasing tension in southern Tel Aviv between veteran residents of the community and groups of Sudanese/Eritrean refugees – a tension manifested in one demonstration by the southern Tel Aviv community calling for the government to move the “infiltrators,” one demonstration by the refugees [and their supporters] calling for the government to take better care of them, and various meetings/newspaper editorials/film festivals/etc.

These issues permeate daily conversation and paint a pretty bleak picture of what’s happening here and in what direction Israel is headed.  And when there’s so much ignorance and hate, how much of an impact can education have? I went on a trip yesterday with one of the groups I’m observing to a Catholic church in Jaffa.  Two of the Jewish girls balked at entering the compound, citing a prohibition for Jews to enter non-Jewish holy places.  Whose prohibition? As an adult in the group gently pointed out, it’s important for them to think for themselves before accepting as ‘law’ the interpretation of a rabbi/group of rabbis.

I was thankful to hear his words, but skeptical about how much of a difference they made. This is not an easy place to be an independent thinker, especially not at their age.

Excuse the silence, please…

Hi everyone,

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.

complexities of the conflict

i had a meeting today with one of the directors of Peace Child Israel, an israeli organization that promotes coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs by means of theater. in theory, the meeting was about potential dissertation research, but over the course of the 45 minutes or so of our discussion, the conversation brought up a lot of interesting thoughts about the israeli/palestinian, israeli/arab, jewish/arab conflict.

one of the interesting things that came up was the amount of disagreement within organizations about objectives of the organization’s work, and, more broadly, about desires for the future of an israeli state. what happens when a coexistence organization, staffed by both jewish and non-jewish israelis, tries to keep its momentum going during war (as in, during the gaza war this past winter)? the cracks widen, disagreements abound, and the true complexities of peace-building in israel (note: within israel, not between israel and her neighbors) become painfully obvious. as i was told today, an israeli and palestinian state might exist side by side…but even once they do, it will take 5 generations for relations between all the citizens of this state – the state of israel – to normalize. whatever ‘normalize’ means.

it’s an interesting dilemma, especially for an organization committed to working jointly to give youth an opportunity to see a different future than the one that exists. the words i heard today were, “we agree to disagree, and it’s a starting point.” but that can only go so far, when at the end of the day the political issues have to be dealt with.