Friday, June 10, 2011

I Don't Hate Israel(is)

Circa 2008, I planted a tree in Israel. I forget the type, but it's the kind that
doesn't fully bear fruit until the generation of the grandchildren. Why?
I believe in Israel, and I believe in continuity.

My last post, Only in Israel, really resulted in quite the ruckus from my readership and some strangers. People said I was speaking lashon hara about Israel and Israelis and even Jews! I really don't like writing these "in defense of myself" posts, but the things people have said to me rub me in a really, really wrong way. Some things people said:
Stop talking loshon hara about Israel and it's [sic] people or leave the country. You should feel lucky that you're even here.
"Its" people are largely Jewish. I'm Jewish. I'm proud to be Jewish. In fact, I'm that person back in the U.S. fighting for Israel education and Hebrew language education, if I'm not mistaken. I'm the person in the U.S. defending the right of Israel and Israelis -- Jews for the most part -- to exist. Sure, I'm luck that I'm here, but you should be, too. 
These [the things I wrote in my post] are just blatant lies. You should have titled your post "why can't Israelis have class like me"
Class? What does "class" have to do with anything? It doesn't take class to let a woman with a stroller by or to not knock over an elderly person on the sidewalk. It also doesn't take "class" to give someone room to breathe, let alone stand, while attempting to connect with HaShem at the Kotel.

And to the comment that "With all due respect, you are writing about your somewhat limited experiences in Jerusalem," I've spent my fair share of time in Israel. December 2008-January 2009, I was here for 10 days. Another 10 days in November-December 2009, followed by another 10 days in November-December 2010. And now, here I am, here for three weeks in Jerusalem proper.  Aside from my first trip (which was Birthright), I've stayed in an apartment in Nachlaot, walked the streets of Jerusalem, sat at coffee shops and wasted time, and eaten at the restaurants and hole-in-the-walls that everyone else does.

That's 30 days before now, plus another 21 after this trip. It might not be consistent, but I know Jerusalem, and I know Israelis. Two of my best friends are Israelis, and they're moving back to Israel this month and I'm sad to see them go because they are my emotional rock much of the time.

I love Jerusalem, and I love Israel. I've been to so many places, including Ramat Shlomo and Ramat Beth Shemesh, Caesaria, Tel Aviv, the Golan, Chevron and so on. I love this country more than anything in the world, but the horror of that moment at the Kotel that sent me reeling and into the doors of an ambulance -- the psychological trauma of it -- sent me reeling.

Everyone, that was a personal post about a personal experience. I didn't want to go into the sordid details of the experience, but maybe I should, so you all understand the gravity of the situation. But it was *that* traumatizing. I didn't leave my apartment for a good day and a half after it. It could have happened anywhere in the world, but it happened in Israel, it's a result of circumstance.

I've been to dozens of concerts in the US, concerts of crowding and pushing and mosh pits, and nothing prepared me for what I experienced at the Kotel.

I love the frankness and chutzpah of Israelis. I love how Israelis can be harsh and giving in the same moment. I love how the same people will ask you for tzedakah over and over again, hoping to help groups of needy young Israelis. I love the attempts by Israel to have the Gap and American Apparel (it closed) and other "American" stores. I love the style of Israeli women in long flowing dresses and multi-colored scarves that dance around their dark eyes. I love the food, the smells, the color of everything and everyone. I love the children bouncing in payot and the scream of sellers in the shuk. I love how I don't feel the need to wear makeup here, and I don't spend hours getting ready everyday. I like how I can sit in my apartment, doing work or wasting time and how I feel completely at peace and at home without even trying.

We all have good days, and we all have bad days. There are, without a doubt, days when Israelis hate being Israelis. There are, without a doubt, days when I hate being in New Jersey, let alone the United States. But the reverse is true, too. Having a frustrated confusing experience in a land that you love with all of your heart can be heartbreaking, and for me, writing is therapeutic. It's like the child who sees his father as completely infallible, perfect, and in one quick moment something small makes him realize we're all human and nothing is meant to be held upon a pedestal, because the moment it is, it surely will begin to fall. Respect, love, and admiration are healthy -- but not without an understanding that all things in this world are imperfect. If they were perfect, then we wouldn't have such a heavy load to carry, Mashiach would come, and HaShem would be satisfied. Clearly, that's not the case.

As one commenter argued,
It's a wonderful country, but if you think we have nothing to work on, then _you_ can leave. E"Y is for people who want to grow, not for those who want to remain stagnant. (Mike)
Amen, amen.
And for those of you who doubt my sincerity or love of Israel, just look at my past posts on Israel. I write about Israel, Israelis, terror, and my desire to make aliyah all the time.