Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming Home: A Love Story

This 50 sheqel note was in my wallet when I left Israel on August 15, 2001 and resided there until January 1, 2008. I had kept it for those 2,331 days in חוץ לארץ as a sign for myself, a comfort and palpable assurance that I would return to Israel to spend it. (To satisfy your curiosity, I spent those 50 sheqels on a bus ticket from Jerusalem to Eilat- a sojourn through the beautiful Negev must be a worthy expenditure for this worn, weighty bill to complete its own journey.)

Because of jet lag, I wasn't able to sleep our first night, in Jerusalem. So I arose at 4 AM and left the hotel (before the buses started running) to walk to the Kotel for prayers at sunrise (vatikin). The streets were empty, dark, and quiet. The world was so still, it felt like walking through a photograph. I had a decent memory of the 3.5 km route and set out with my old map in my backpack, for backup.

Walking around is like déjà vu, only I've really been here before, these places, these streets. Sights I haven't seen in years and I have forgotten, or those that have faded, trigger in an instant a flood of memories. It's like carrying a Geiger counter through a hot area; pockets of some potent, invisible radiation set off flurries of activity.

It absolutely does not seem real- It just doesn't make sense that I'm in Israel. And yet, I am.

I spent the first half of our trip in euphoric disbelief that I was actually back. Standing, seeing, conversing, being on Israeli soil reawakened feelings that had lain dormant, atrophied from disuse with time spent in America. During the second half of our trip, my struggle was coming to terms with the fact that I'd be leaving again.

This time around, we spent the last of our sheqalim in the airport on chocolate and chips (no, not that kind). We aimed to contribute as much as we could to stimulate Israel's economy, and we knew we'd be back to spend more.

Earlier, back in the States, a fellow extern at Creedmoor, a Jamaican Christian, was excited to tell me about her mother's Christmas trip to Israel. She asked me, "Do you have a lot of family still in Israel?" People assume we came from there and left family behind. Jamaican = from Jamaica; Dominican = from the Dominican Republic; so Jewish = from Israel, right?

They don't quite get the distinction among scales of history, but in a sense, they're right. It is we Jews who artificially, inappropriately cleave the awareness of recent generations in Europe and America from the resonance of our millennial history and our homeland.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eyes shut tight

We in the Israeli and international Jewish communities are continually astounded by the extremes of the double standard to which terrorist Islamic extremists and the State of Israel are held. The world media, and of course the UN, condemn Israel and remain blind to the IDF's efforts to preserve all human life, at the cost of time, money, resources, security, and the lives of its own soldiers and citizens. The Arab terrorists seeking Israel's annihilation play dirty. In more formal terms, they violate international laws of warfare as a matter of tactic. Such repudiation of moral conduct alone should cause people to cease referring to them as "militants." They are not soldiers, they are not combatants, they are terrorists. Their priorities should be clear from their operations. They endanger their own civilians to protect their own lives and to provoke an Israeli response that can be vilified by the world.

The violence and deaths are tragic, the strife is saddening, but the absurd politics are frustrating and astounding. This goes beyond exclusion, selection, and confirmatory biases. This is distortion and self-delusion.

Here an IDF spokesperson shows some of the difference between Hamas and IDF tactics, and demonstrates how Hamas violates international and Islamic law.