September 1 It is easy to see that there are efforts being made in Gaza to find peaceful ways of solving the problem. But in the middle of it we seem to keep making mistakes. Whoops! Four people killed. Whoops again! Five. Our Defence Minister apologizes - does it help that we didn't mean to do it? - the Hamas swears revenge, as they are wont to do. And the people who are seeking peaceful solutions in Gaza wonder out loud whether it is possible to make peace with people like us. Could they all be accidents?
I believe they are - As one of my businessmen-friends says "never attribute to evil what can be explained by stupidity."
Whatever the reasons -- life is getting cheaper and cheaper around here.
And today is the first of September and all the children (except the striking high school children) are back in their classrooms. I always remember the first day of school as one of anticipation and excitement. But today the excitement is mixed with the fear of terrorist attacks against schools.
Let's see what happens today.
Too busy with visiting grandchildren to read the paper, to watch the news with any concentration, to participate in the demonstration tonight. And yet, on this first day of school, I can't but think of the Arab children killed in the past few days. "Slips ups" Peres called the mistaken bombings, and I agree that it wasn't a question of intentional murder, or even of provocation. But it is also true that we have created in a situation in which life is cheap, and we're more likely to make sloppier decisions when it comes to human injuries.
I thought I was adding on tonight to what i wrote earlier in the day, but i was repeating myself. i saw it as i was saving this page. That is, I was thinking tonight what I thought in the morning --
May tonight be a safe one for all children.
God, I'm even talking like a grandmother! And I wanted to talk about the minutes of the meeting of the Igud Hasophrim, the other Writers association - the one that broke away from the Hebrew Writers' Union about 5 years ago. I somehow belong to all of them - all of he possibile writers associations. And i seem to remember commenting on the infighting and the general deterioration. I didn't even go to the annual meeting because I was too tired of all the petty bickerings of writers. So I was very suprised to find that 8 out of 13 of their resolutions in the minutes were concerned with ending the occupation, with trying to get Arab writers back into dialogue with Hebrew writers, with helping create a better society. They're as penniless and helpless as the rest of them, but they don't give up.
Yehudit writes:i sometimes feel that your dauntlessness in things is constant because you must have some notions of a fascinating sphere where social commitment is fearless and vigorous and commitment is tantamount to love. in the world that we live in drives toward social commitments often remain drives or are dirty in some way and love is impossible inasmuch as it makes commitment haphazard, or makes any interpersonal connectability nigh impossible. i'm trying to say that i think you may have certain ideal notions that affect your writing. i don't think the actual world could be concomitant with such a readiness to allow for miracles outside of the dauntlessness of some poetry or some words.But the thing is that i can't foresee what this sphere or these spheres might engender. It may be meant as a compliment, but note that all i'm doing is writing a diary. I talk about bigger things, but the most I've got going is an anthology in my head. People like me often talk out all their goodness an righteousness and do nothing. I hope I will be strong enough to act more affirmatively and in a focussed way. What do i want to do? To create human bonds between people who might be at war, to find ways for both sides to recognize the others' humanity. and similarity.
When I first came to Israel, to Jerusalem, I met a great number of men. And because I didn't know the little codes that every one knows that distinguish people - the respectable from the non-respectable - i got to talk with most of them. There was a grad student in Physics I was seeing, a tall blond guy named Yair, and his best friend was small and dark and delicious and named Jamal. It took me a while to understand that this was an unusual friendship because it was between Jew and Arab. And it made me love them both even more.
I've actually wondered often what became of Jamal Abu Toumeh - from what i remember he had been sent by his village to study law in order for him to represent them, but as soon as he left the village he found it hard to imagine a life there. I caught a glimpse of him once on tv years ago but didn't know the context of the interview or how to find him.
There were also a lot of other men, boys, i met in Jerusalem - whose stories became a culture soup to me -- Kuti, the Yemenite boy who became a high powered Veterinarian, Yaacob, the romanian immigrant dreaming of having his own garage, Hashim, who's eyes narrowed whenever he spoke of politics. I always assumed that these were parts of one culture. And I would like this to be true some day.
I spent the morning trying to help think of a representative writer to send to the PEN conference in Macedonia. The writer who was supposed to go had to cancel at the last minute and it turns out that every one else is busy. The morning discussion gave us also an opportunity to go over the dilapidated state of Israel's cultural institutions. Born in a socialist society in which culture was central and writers were the spearhead of Zionism, intellectualism, and all the other values that have disappeared from the world, these organizations founder now that their funds have been cut off. And powerful thinking founders as well. A country like Israel needs writers to shape their ideals, and we have not yet recovered from the losses of the past decade and the need to regroup, reorganize, re-think. Of course I always complain about the lack of funds – even the United States gives its writers far more support than Israel, and countries like Ireland host the Poetry Society in the central government buildings, knowing the value of their poets. But I also complain about the writers here – their unwillingness to work together, to lobby – if not for more money then for government television programs, for the breaking of the monopoly of the anti-intellectual book chains, for more literature programs in the schools (including creative writing – imagine it in different languages!).
I write this while the radio is summarizing the output of summer camps – particularly the Hamas camps where the children learn how to blow up Jewish Shopping Centers, how to hide an ammunition belt, and other fun activities. These kids should be learning to write inspirational poetry!
I HEARD that giggle.
The Arab-Israelis involved in harboring suicide bombers or transporting them do great harm for the relations between Arabs and Jews here. It is true that the number of deep personal friendships between the groups has not been that great, but it was increasing a great deal in recent years as peace seemed near, and fear and resentment was beginning to subside. But now the situation is reversing.
One example, writers. When I edited the PEN anthology with Nazih Khir and Moshe Ben Shaul five years ago, the percentage of pages for Arab writers was at least 20%. There would have been more if Nazih had brought us new talent. But I've lost contact with most of those writers – they've changed their phones, don't come to meetings, seem indifferent. I am sure it is more a question of inner conflict about identity, as well as the need to forge an Arab-Israeli identity. But since I believe more and more that the solutions to the problems here will be aided as much by personal relations and understanding than politics, I'm saddened by it.
And the possibilities that Arab-Israelis are involved in terrorism makes 'normalization' more difficult.
And what about me? My life? During the winter there was a woman keeping a journal in Hebron that Gush Shalom kept on their website. I used to read about the daily humiliations and insults she was subjected to by Israeli soldiers – a few days ago it occurred to me (I'm always slow about things like this) – that she was provoking the soldiers so she'd have something to write about in her journal. The temptation for this kind of dishonesty is great. I recognize it from poetry – I had a poet friend once who used to have affairs so that he could write little volumes about them.
It is also true on a larger scale – we sometimes make up or dramatize issues to promote or alleviate our own little internal dramas. When we're not trying to solve a problem but deal with our own emotions. I'm not going to discuss this now – but sometime soon.
While I'm looking for the big dramas I sometimes forget the little ones that tell as much or more about "situation" as the big events. For example, the wedding last night. Each time we go to a wedding it seems the security is more strict, and our consciousness about the outside world the same. That is we block out anything that has to do with the reality of our daily lives. Only last night as I was gyrating to the westernized Arabic music of Albina did I think – there are no Arabs here. we Ashkenazis are making a token gesture to the Mizrachi culture – which has been westernized and has lost its subtlety and complexity in the process.
Then I think – every time I have a new revelation, I seem to remember having written about this before in these pages. And the revelation didn't help me at all. It makes it worse – it means that every time I understand something, all I do with my understanding is state it, make myself feel smart, and then forget it. Then I can have another identical revelation. Like the goldfish with his twenty second memory swimming in his bowl and discovering the ruined castle every time he goes around.
That's how problems don't get solved.
Ha'aretz has a cartoon today of fat Fuad with a full shopping card saying to the lean man behind him, "No, Mohammed, now's not a good time!" I understand our desire to maintain our relatively sumptuous way of life, but the papers are also full of the injustice of it. The section on medicine last week notes the difference between Arab and Jewish mortality rate from the same diseases. Articles on education note the distinction between cuts for Arab and Jewish schools. etc. etc. These are things that never made the papers before. Because none of the people who wrote about these things ever noticed before.
that must mean something.
So my nephew's in-laws found an explosive device in their front yard this morning -- something attached to a cellphone -- the bomb squad blew it up - another typical day in the suburbs.
Just about that time of the day I was having a conversation with someone about Jewish identity without religion. I said that some of us find a way to define themselves by defining themselves as not like their enemy. Not Arab, for example. And I said that some people won't be able to make peace with the Arabs because they'd lose who they were. it sounded good to me -- but of course that was a real bomb in the Lehrer's front yard, and it was right under the window where their grandchildern often sleep.