Saturday, February 4, 2012

Israel - the good, the bad, and the ugly

This article expresses the ambivalence I feel about Israel perfectly - Israel? Palestine? This is my personal take on what Marc has said.

When I come to Israel and stay here for a while, I see the good, the bad, and the inbetween about the country - and a lot more gradations than those three. It's easy here to criticize things Israel does, while at the same time, simply feel that living here, renting an apartment, taking the bus, doing research in the library (which is what I'm doing now - I have a sabbatical semester and am doing research on women's roles in early Jewish magic and mysticism) is supporting the country. I like being in Israel, and I love Jerusalem, for all of its flaws. It's a beautiful city (that is, the streets that don't have overflowing rubbish bins). I like the quiet atmosphere on Shabbat (which I am here breaking by blogging on Shabbat). And incidentally, I love the fact that the almond trees are blooming, Tu B'Shvat is coming up next week, and it's not snowing in Jerusalem. (As opposed to Ithaca, or for that matter, Mt. Hermon, where a friend of mine took her son and friend this week and they went skiing).

I don't have to declare myself a Zionist in order to support Israel, nor do I have to declare myself an anti-Zionist in order say that Netanyahu is a terrible prime minister who only has his own political ambitions in mind, or that Lieberman is the worst foreign minister Israel has ever had and that he'd fit well into Putin's party in Russia, or to condemn Israel's occupation of the West Bank. By saying these things I'm participating in the Israeli conversation (or more frequently, screaming fight).

I'm sure that there are Israelis who would say that I shouldn't participate in the conversation, even while I'm living here, because I'm not a citizen and don't have to face the responsibilities and dangers that Israeli citizens have to face. They may be right, but I take words like those also to be part of the Israeli conversation.

When I return to the United States, however, immediately I'm thrown back into the black and white world of Zionist vs. anti-Zionist, of AIPAC vs. Jewish Voice for Peace, where the opinions of J Street, which are really not particularly different from those of Kadima, the Labor Party, and Meretz (all Israeli center-left parties, although Meretz is leftier than the other two) is attacked for being either anti-Israel (from the right) or as sucking up to the Israeli government (from the left). I hate that. I wish the American Jewish community (or more accurately - communities) had the breadth of conversation about Israel that exists in Israel itself.

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