May 20, 2006


My idea of Israel before I came was singular: land of Intifada-bombs and Charleton Heston in a caftan and a fake beard. The idea of going on a cultural junket with the express purpose of understanding Israeli culture outside of the conflict, the life inspite of terrorism and miltarism and walling off, seemed strange for many reasons; flaunting culture while people in Ramallah are starving, promoting Israeli pop while under nuclear threat from Iran-etc.--it seemed almost ridiculous. Perhaps because in America, as a media, and as a country, our bout with on-soil terrosim put us into a paralysis, a stasis: sole focus and motivation. American-mind made the most complicated idea to consider was the in spite of. 9/11 is still headline news in all medias five years after. Our in spite of makes us look like big babies. Israel is a warzone in comparison to Chicago; our wars are elsewhere, those wars roles in conciousness and our every day is modest at best in comparison how steeped in The Conflict every single thing is here. We are hanging mostly with journalists, students and diplomatic types thus far, Israeli and American Jews and some Arab Israelis--everything from centerists to extreme leftists. Invariably discussions always return to the same topic: they cannot ignore the conflict nor do they desire to, it defines Israeli life, but at the same time people strive to have a life during wartime. The people who brought us on this junket did so as an extention of that complicated/simple idea.

America is the dominant cultural force worldwide, so that even when we at our most terrorist/racist-nation ugliness ourselves, as a country, we are still not forced to sweat it. We too can live in spite of it, be untouched by it. Our in-spite-of is different; we can live in Omaha with satellite TV and consider ourselves informed and concerned citizens and never be impacted by what the rest of the world thinks of us, not even once, for the duration of our natural lives. We could actively cultivate a personal concern about it, be deeply aware of it--and never have to touch it, see it or answer for it as a person or as a citizenry; American priviledge at it's finest.

There are some parts of this that are incredibly difficult to get my head around.

Two more days then home.
Tomorrow is the Dead Sea.

Posted by Jessica at May 20, 2006 02:17 AM | TrackBack