Like strangers they stand at opposite ends of the same spectrum. How can a people who inhabit so much of the same space maintain such a disconnected existence?
We spoke today with some organizers within the gay community here in Tel Aviv. We were surprised to hear that even in the gay community, political polling numbers reflect almost exactly the same distribution as the rest of the country. Upon original consideration this would seem to make sense in a nation where there is no separation between god and country. Israel, although on some fronts very tolerant of homosexuality (cases of transexuals in the military, and immigration rights for gay partners), also maintains a majorly devout constituency who stand diametrically opposed to the very premise of homosexuality. The disenfranchisement of the gay community in Israel would thereby perhaps lead one to create a separate political identity not served by elected officials. But our friend Sha'ul told us otherwise.
He says, "It is a struggle to survive in Israel, when you survive, you deal with the most important issue which you have in your life... which is security. You see it all over, if you live in Jerusalem, the chances that you are around an area that a suicide bomber explodes over there, and the chances that you see a finger sticking in the wall, or those kind of horrible sights, are very, very high. The chances that you know someone who died..."
Even for the gay community, issues of security remain paramount. This is the sad reality for Israel, a security crisis all the time. Yesterday, and probably tonight as well Israel bombs Gaza and Lebanon. What a horrible thing for Israel to be doing on the eve of elections in the Palestinian Authority. What better way to galvanize voters into voting Hamas (the only political party capable of providing social programs to Palestinian citizens), and what better way to undermine the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas (the only Palestinian voice of moderation)? The violence is so deeply ingrained here, it is frightening. People who live potentially just a mile apart, separated only by an imaginary line (although now it has become also a fence), live in vastly different worlds. This is in some ways a more blatant offense, a severely flamboyant form of social violence. The eyes and imaginations and expectations are darkened by the false promises and acute awareness of all the things they cannot have, and in what they can have there remains vast deficiencies.
You have to understand one thing though. To hear people talk about the nature of the conflict, it is never a matter of blame. The people I have conversed with want peace so badly it pains them to speak of it. They don't describe things to me in this way as good or bad, it just is. Neither yesterday nor tomorrow is important, just today. This is what is happening now. Sometimes on the other side of the world it is easy to forget that there is a whole generation of children who have been exposed to, and therefore want nothing else more than to just live normally and have the same opportunities as the rest of the developed world. And Palestinian children deserve the same, but they have not been exposed in the same way that Israelis have, they maintain an existence that is pathologically removed.