Tuesday, December 20, 2005

One Week...

Wow… I can’t believe it’s already been a week in Israel. So much has happened. Today Jessy and I walked to the old Arab village of Yaffa which is just south of the Tel Aviv city center. My grandfather has been admitted to the hospital for fluid in his lungs. I spoke to Marty yesterday on the telephone, it was my first time speaking to him since he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, the prognosis is not good, and Marty is not optimistic. Helen is “beside herself,” both Dot and she used those words to describe her condition. Not good. I was at the wailing wall in Jerusalem yesterday, I prayed for Marty, my grandfather and Mary Isham, it was quite the spiritual experience.

Some more observations… I met and had dinner at the house of Imri’s great uncle, Joseph Agassi. Apparently he is quite the scholar, although he seems a bit embittered about the nature of Israeli politics. He claims that the nation itself is fundamentally fascist. I can see his point I think, he gave me his book to read, which should shed some more light onto his thinking process.
People in Israel are consumed by the fragility of their little nation’s political existence. I was speaking to Mr. Agassi about the apathy expressed by American youth, and he attempted to explain to me the difference between young Israeli attitudes towards politics and the attitudes of American youth. For Israel it is a question of total loss. This country constantly walks a thin line between existence and obliteration, or at least in the minds of those who live here, there is a balance that hangs precariously.

Jessy and I encountered some soldiers today as we walked along the edge of the sea, they were preparing to be discharged from the army. We spent time speaking with them about their experience of the political environment around them. To them it appeared a question of the right person for the job, as opposed to a question of whether or not the system was right. They believe in the nation, which is not to say that they support the aggressive real politik reality of the Israeli military, but there is this sense that the people are good. For a people whose future seems so undetermined, whose mere existence is so routinely questioned, it is truly remarkable, the resolve of the people is steadfast. The Jewish people are so persistent and determined it is truly remarkable.

Being in Israel I am overwhelmed by the urge to discover my people, to realize what I come from, what have been the cultural impacts on my being. Every thing here is just so Jewish, I can’t help myself but to describe it in this way. I saw the main office building for the government, the capital building so to speak. You have never seen anything so ugly. So I asked Imri and his housemate Ido, ‘how can the government have such an ugly headquarters?’ The answer was plainly obvious to them, decision makers in Israel simply cannot coordinate the funding to undertake a majestic edifice because everyone has conflicting opinions as to what should be the appropriate use of government funding. Jewish. I believe that there is a old saying that goes something along the lines of, ‘5 Jews, 10 opinions.’ And that’s just it, I mean Israel is just a conflicted nation. We hear so much about the crisis of the Palestinian people, but it’s not Palestinians who are politicizing the issue, it’s Jews!

When you consider the human rights violations and injustices transpiring around the world, it’s a wonder why Israel gets so much attention. Jewish people are consumed with this question, why does Israel get such a bad rap, why all the attention? Well, it is precisely the fact that every Jew is constantly asking this question, that makes it such a hot topic. It is the Jewish people themselves, they won’t have it any other way. Obsession with seeking truth and fairness, it is this annoying persistence that defines the Jewish people, it is the solution and the problem all at once.

Spoke with a man named Barak at the coffee shop at the corner underneath our building, he invited me to a gathering tomorrow night from 8 until midnight… I can’t wait!

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