People write me – why aren’t you writing about what happened? We know you’re all right because you’re showing signs of life, but you’re avoiding the terrible things happening that effect your every movement. All right – here is the picture: it is Friday night. We’re watching the news. Funeral after funeral – 33 Israelis killed this week. It can’t get worse, someone says, and every one rushes to answer – sure it can. Then they show how a man walking down a road is suspected of being terrorist. The soldiers call out to him by megaphone to drop his parcels, to take off his shirt. He does, with alarming speed. They call out for him to kneel down, his hands locked behind his head, and then slowly approach the parcels. They turn out to be his groceries. All the while we are saying – what humiliation! This guy will never forget what they did to him! No wonder they hate us. At the same time we know that very shortly after this scene, another guy ran into a crowd of mothers and children and blew himself up. We know this humiliation was unavoidable.
We see the people of Jerusalem mourning their families, their friends, the people of Gilo who lost something like 0.001% of their population a couple days ago. And then we see the people of Jenin, who in the middle of their shopping on Friday were fired into by mistake by an Israeli tank because they were violating the curfew.
I am guilty that I am relieved that these are not my own friends, not my own family.
Now how can I be expected me to write about what happened.
All I want to do is watch Eddie Cantor movies on television.
Charles asks me for my opinion on a film about Ein Hod – the wonderful artists’ colony up north. The film emphasizes the fact that there was an Arab village that was erased there during the war of independence. Yes, I say, there are signs all over that this was an Arab village – there were lots of Arab villages. I need to write him more about this – I know he is disturbed by my terseness – but I don’t have all the facts. What I have are the memories of stories of soldiers from ’48, how they wanted to live in peace with the Arabs, but the villagers were told to leave by their Muftis, assured they’d return in triumph. Some of them were ‘encouraged’ to leave by the Israeli soldiers, but by then there was a war going on between the Jews and the Arabs, and it had not been started by the Israelis. So we go back to those impossible questions of whose fault is it.
A futile question. I would prefer to work with the present, with the fact that we need to make peace and we need to strengthen the idea of a democracy that offers equal rights for everyone. But to have a democracy, you have to have a population that won’t kill each other if left to their own devices.
Here's a banal event: we go to a stupid movie with friends - at the mall - and there's nothing special going on. The mall is crowded, innocuous people spending everything they've got. And nothing happens out of the ordinary. So it should be a healing experience in its banality. But i am constantly aware of the possibility of danger, of the fear of economic disaster, of emotional and cultural disorders on the part of the population. Three teenage girls run giggling - An Arab family passes by - a few soldiers on leave - an acre of kids eat big macs. Everything terrifies me. What if something happens to them.
That's what happens when you have 2 days without a major attack.
People here have suddenly become awakened to the bias in international media. For the past 20 months we have been getting killed - because Arafat suddenly turned away from a peace offer - and not only has our blossoming country been destroyed, but the lives of countless Palestinians who had been working here, earning respectable livings. The occupation would have long been over if Arafat had continued to negotiate, even if he didn't like the offer.
And Israel constantly appears in the world news as the agressors. If there is a mass murder - it is a by a 'militant' - But you know the story.
Anyway, this is suddenly an issue here.
The story of a grandmother and granddaughter killed in a terrorist bombing appears side by side with the story of the mother of a terrorist also killed in the bombing. Except he blew himself and the others up. The 'evenness' of it is simply crazy.
People are writing to the media, objecting to terminology, objecting to bias, organizing boycotts.
There are so few Israelis I doubt whether they have any real impact. And I doubt whether they (we) are objective either. Nevertheless...
Aviv keeps pestering me. I've known him most of his life so he knows how to pester. He responded to my complaint about needing an atmosphere for discussion this way:
"i have an unsatisfying answer you probably feel you already know. an atmosphere of discussion does not exist. but a discussion is still going on. its just on a very small low fire. to create an atmosphere of discussion, more people need to participate in the discussion that is still going on. not only internally in israeli society. i would suggest openning the discussion up, including more people...international activists who are concerned about what's going on in the region. if you actually talk to them (i do) you will find that they are not anti israel and definitely not antisemitic. it is to this community of activists that people like you need to talk. i think palestinians, internationals and israeli working on the level of civil society against the occupation is the only hope for creating a small space of mental sanity, and an atmosphere of discussion. the internationals i think are critical in this recipe. getting involved in something like that for an israeli now more than ever before opens one up for massive criticism and hate...that's why i see the CO's so kindly..."
Of course Aviv is safe in Barcelona. It's harder to see the same thing from here.
Still, i need to keep being reminded of Aviv's voice because what i see from here, is not the same as what he sees from there....
Aviv's comments provoked a lot of responses. Linda from the U.S. writes: I read your remarks, too, about Aviv in Spain. I'm not quite as sanguine as he about the left's not being anti-Israel nor antisemitic; my impression is that some of the most leftist groups are so pro-Palestinian they really are both anti-Israel and anti-Jewish in that they can see no merit to any of Israel's needs. And individuals allied with those groups can be naive in their support for the Palestinian "underdog," having made up their minds already not to look at the pain on the Israeli side.Still, I think it's ordinary people on both sides who are suffering, and I don't see a clear path toward alleviating that suffering soon. I hope "good fences make good neighbors," if a fence must be built.
Linda also writes about the media:"You write about the bias of the media, and the media often seems biased here, largely against Israel, and in ways such as you describe, in the name of "balance." But you need to know that a lot of organizing is happening here to mobilize us to a media watch, for recognizing bias and for writing letters to the media to object it when we see it."
right after that I got another letter from my Israeli friend, also names Linda, who is in California for her son's wedding. She's finding CNN relaxing compared to the Israeli media. And i kind of sympathize with that. Although a lot of Israelis are really angry with CNN in particular, the news in Israeli is far more heart rending - we are spared nothing.
It's always been that way here. I once wrote a poem called "America" about how much I love the American news because it's so trivial, and the news here is comparable to having open heart surgery.
and now to celebrate Orit's birthday.