Monday, June 16, 2014

I Hate Talking about Israel

I love Israel. And really hate to talk about it. This is my challenge as I head out for a conference in Israel --the requirement of participation is "talk about Israel."

I love: People welcome with genuine zest. The American filter of politeness is absent so you quickly hear what folks really think Streets, the sands and trees make a palette of creams, and greens and blues I've never seen in another country. Everyone agrees the simple foods like tomato, lettuce, cucumber and coffee actually have a memorable taste in Israel..that is a flavor beyond a texture.

The staccato beat of the cities and the take-it-as-it-comes country tempo evens out my own rhythm and slows me down. When I leave Israel, inside my chest is a yearning to return to Israel that feels like the words from 1140 by Yehudi HaLevi "My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west..How can I find savor in food? How shall it be sweet to me?" Once you've tasted Israel,  you desire another mouthful.

 I love Israel because it is part of my Jewish story. Israel, Bnei yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, flowing with milk and honey, where your Uncle started (ok later I learned not quite a founder) a kibbutz, and where your cousin stepped into the water cut his foot and died, in 1948, and if there were a state of Israel there wouldn't be a Holocaust, at the seder we say next year in Jerusalem, and my Mom-Mom pushed the stroller with her son from door to door to sell Israel bonds and then in 1967 and then. And Israel did this and that to the Palestinians, holds prisoners, look at the Arab neighborhoods and their sewage systems compared to the Jewish ones, and they put up a wall and there are not equal rights, and they shoot down on people picking olives.

The full story of Israel tells the heroics of Israel creating the homeland for the Jewish people surrounded by Arabs trying to destroy them. "We didn't have trucks," a soldier from the Haganah once told me, "but we wanted to them to think we did. So we lined people up the distance of a truck, and gave them flashlights. Line after line it made the Arabs think we had a hundred trucks and weapons." And the story of Israel's falters and cruelty, of Palestinians being arrested, and thrown in jail and worse.

Every sovereign nation has it heroics and its shames. My support of an independent Jewish nation is unquestionable. Policies and procedures are questionable. And I support a nation--a different one-- for the Palestinians. I do wonder what right I, as a non-Israeli,  have to get into these debates. One of my son's gave me a wag of the finger to say, I do have a moral obligation to get involved in those conversations. Another son, wags a finger to say, "most people from >>>organization talk about Israel don't know the history, they are just talking out of emotion."

The emotions for me start to shift from love to...the other pole, because the fights begin. Someone is right and someone is wrong. It is the same reason I turn off MSNBC, Fox NEws and CNN. There is no truth or seeking of solution. Conversations is only "you are all wrong, all right, evil or good."

The conference is really about Israel education. When I told a colleague I was going he asked:
"Is it about advocacy or education." In other words is it about "stand with Israel no matter what," or is it about "learning the stories, writing your values into the story, learning to think critically, and being empowered to act."

My suitcase is packed with my history book, a deep breath and an extra ear, for extra listening. Can I avoid the hated quagmire of righteousness from the right, left and center?

If it falls into the pit of emotional battle arts, I'll go another a cafe to write a short story about  a family torn apart because they can't reconcile core differences. I'll order some tasty tomato, lettuce, cucumber and coffee. And instead of hating, I'll stick my head in the computer, and love.