Corrections into the New Year
Well first off... I have to correct my last post. Non-Jews are exempted from military service, which is to say their country does not call them to serve. This is indeed a profound difference from my previous understanding, which was that non-Jews were prohibited. Nevertheless, I can only imagine that this rule would seriously undermine a citizen's sense of partnership with the nation of Israel. In fact, I believe for many Israelis, service is held as the highest of responsibilities, and the ultimate symbol of membership.
I spent the past 24 hours in Omer, which is a suburban community next to Be'er Shevah, I went down to attend a party in Imri's honor at his father's house. He bought 25 bottles of vodka in preparation for the party (he expected 150 people to show up, of which only 30 actually came), only 3 bottles were consumed by the end of the night. Clearly he's not an organizer.
I took a bus to get to Omer, which I caught at Tel Aviv central bus station. In order to keep terrorists off the busses, there is an elaborate security procedure (not unlike what we go through at American airports) used to screen bags and people for dangerous items. The only problem is, at a busy bus station in Tel Aviv there is a huge bottleneck that accumulates at the checkpoint. In the process of waiting to be screened, I was stuck in the middle of a mass of surly Jews pushing their way to the front of the line. And the whole time, all I could think about was the fact that all a terrorist would have to do is plant himself in the middle of all these people (packed in like sardines) and would easily be able to take out thirty to forty men, women and children. Major oversight.
Israel is a civilization living at the edge of Middle-Eastern extremities, sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sensation of being in the midst of lemmings plodding tribally off to sea. The landscape here is so bleak, miles and miles of terra-formed desert, undulating tracks of green agriculture punctuated by man-made sand dunes, remnants of some unfinished construction project. To the Israelites this little strip of land seems to hold endless potential, and so they sweat, bleed and toil towards a dream that to many an outsider is a bit outlandish, literally. I appreciate the spiritual significance and theoretical symbolism that a greater Zion provides the Jewish people – a heartland. It is a space to celebrate and cherish a crippled history, scarred by years of suffering, discrimination and attempted genocide. But sometimes this history is just too much to bear, I am distraught by the thought that Israel is a projection of the past. It is a metaphorical land that in many ways is the physical embodiment of all these things at once – a story of benevolent perseverance, and incredible, unbearable suffering.