I am fond of saying “Politics in Israel is like sex in America; every one is either doing it, or talking about it”.

I don’t often engage in political debates on this site, because I LIVE them. Particularly in a city as charged as Jerusalem they bear down on me at every turn. You in America do not have posters plastered about town calling soldiers traitors, you do not have check out girls emotionally giving you their unsolicited opinions about the settlements. Even the cab drivers here engage you in debate about disengagement. You there can choose to turn on the news or open a Web page if you desire, and you can chose to close it again and be done with it.

It is easier, I believe to propose solutions from 10,000 miles away, because at the end of the day, while Israel certainly affects your emotions, it does not affect your daily life and safety. Another intifada could break out tomorrow and you could ride, walk and bike around your city with equally as much safety as you do today. You can put your children on a bus and have your greatest concern for their safety be that no one makes fun of them at school.

If a Palestinian state gets created that becomes a bad idea, those of you who do not live here do not really even need to deal with just how bad an idea it might be, because you are not in the crosshairs from guns in enemy windows, and it is not your spouse that gets on a bus everyday. It is not your children playing in a park that has a rocket fall on it. Is it not even your economy that suffers or your job that gets cut.

So it’s easy to say redivide Jerusalem and place international security forces to guard it, because you will only have to deal with the complications and consequences of such proposed solutions once every two years, maybe, when you come to visit for a week. But what? I have to show my “papers” every time I want to go to the Kotel to pray? Sorry, but we have fought too long and too hard to let that happen.

Third party international guards have never done too well by Jews in the past. In fact, they’ve never done too well by anyone. U Thant anyone?

This is a country where our kids “go off to war” and the front lines are still close enough to come home for the weekend or have mom come and hand deliver a pizza. It is quite easy to say we should clearly give away the “West Bank” when it is not literally three miles from your door. That makes you three miles from a potentially hostile enemy border. We’re not talking about Mexico here.

I guess what I’m really saying is I don’t think people fully realize just how awfully easy it is to propose solutions that sound good on paper from the relative safety of America, because at the end of the day, it is not Americans that have to live with the direct consequences. I’m sure everyone will be sad if Israel ceases to exist. That’s what’s at stake here after all. But that will be small comfort me, my friends and neighbors as we lay dying.

These debates are not theoretical here. They are real and pervasive. I am, quite frankly, just a little tired of the style of debate that acts as though if you and I can come to a solution, there WILL be peace in the Middle East. I guess I’m just in a place that says lets enjoy our lives and our country, and leave politics to the politicians. But hey, that’s just where I’m holding.

About the author

Laya Millman

10 Comments

  • Zinger! Although I’m sure you will be lambasted in the comments about the “holier than thou” attitude of your post I agree with nearly every word. At least up until the last paragraph. I fear our politicians are corrupt and are more about self-preservation and self-interest than anything else. *sigh*

  • I have very much stayed away from this debate for the sole reason that I KNOW I don’t fully understand the situation. And I am most definitely aware that it is too easy from my comfortable living room here in Toronto to offer solutions since I will not (yet!) have to live with them on a daily basis.

    My initial response to this debate was to say “pull the settlers out and put up a wall and be done with the Palestinians”. A rather over simplified stance, I realize, but my feelings were lacking education. Since then I have met a fellow blogger who is a ‘settler’ and have learned a lot about his world…. and my opinion has shifted. While I still don’t understand the debate well enough to join in the fray I now have a better picture in my mind about what we’re talking about. Not a trailer park full of mobile home or a large camp full of tents… these are living thriving communities. Neighbourhoods. With real buildings, real synagogues. And I don’t know what the right answer is in this debate anymore than I did before…. but I have a clearer view of both sides. And it breaks my heart to see Jews against Jews when we have enough enemies in the world as it is… to turn against each other is a tragedy.

  • Harry, of course “our politicians are corrupt and are more about self-preservation and self-interest than anything else. I take that as a given.

    However, like it or not, they are the only ones in a real position to institute any sort of governmental or political change. This is their business, and we voted them in. Every cab driver and blogger can pretend to play prime minister, but we just don’t make the decisions.

    And yeah, i know i may very well get slapped pretty hard for this one, but I’ll just try to avoid the crying in the corner this time. For what it’s worth, I apoligize for the tone if it offends anyone.

  • The Grand Muffti is sure that this will be predictable.

    Muffti isn’t one to say that Laya is wrong, but this kind of reasoning is, in his opinion [hat tip to ck], rather myopic and shallow.

    1) There is no reason why outside parties shouldn’t be able to propse things. Israel is manifestly not a case where outside forces come in and do what is in ‘Israel’s best interest’ without consultation of the relevant people (i.e. like, say, Iraq). The Israelis are vocal and make their opinions well known and are in a position to resist outside pressure in many cases. So it’s not like the political discourse is uninformed by the concerns of Israelis.

    2) Muffti can see no reason why living near an area of danger makes you better equipped to make decisions or have an opinion. If anything, one might think it makes you far less qualified in certain respects because your self interests, localized concerns, anger and fear all interfere with decent decision making.

    Think of it this way; if we wanted to create a policy on AIDS research, it would be a good idea to consult with AIDS patients and doctors to get a picture of what things are like on the front line (i.e. who needs more relief, which drugs actually seem to help etc.) But it would be a manifestly terrible idea to put all our research funds at their disposal. Though they know what AIDS is like and so forth, that doesn’t make them in the least qualified to actually apportion funds in the most optimal possible ways all things considered. What you would prefer, Muffti imagines, is adminstrators who take factors into account that AIDS patients are unable to see BECA– USE of the situation they are in (i.e. what future numbers of AIDS victims is like, which countries need more help etc.) Not living in constant danger can aid in what living on the front line can rob you of: a measure of objectivity (insofar as that is possible about politics).

    (That isn’t too say people who are nearby aren’t in better shape to provide relevant information and concerns. See point #1).

    3) Your politicians disagree. Massively. Ergo they can’t all be right (unless there is no decent solution at all). Muffti can’t see what’s wrong with trying to figure out who got it right and who got it wrong.

    In fact, the real hope is that discussion on these things will lead to better voting patterns. Obviously this leads to excesses and to lots of stupid debate since everyone can participate and, well, most people are kinda stupid. But that’s democracy, baby. The style of debate where you try to come up with the best solution is a good thing.

    4) There is a slippery slope argument implicit in what you say.

    This is a country where our kids “go off to war” and the front lines are still close enough to come home for the week…

    Uh, wait. You don’t have kids. So perhaps you should be left out of political discourse since, after all, why should we take YOUR opinion as seriously as someone who has their lives AND the lives of their own children on the line? And you’ve only been there a little while. Why should we take your concerns in as pressing a manner as people whose parent fought for the territory both Israelis and Americans discuss? The point? You can always find a group of people less comfortable and with more at stake than you but that doesn’t mean that your views shouldn’t be taken seriously because they may be apt and relevant. But that’s true of people at any level of removal from the area.

    5) Muffti doesn’t mind your holier than thou tone. It’s kinda cute.

  • Muffti, all your points are well taken. I do think however that they are misplaced. Laya never said that debate is useless, or that outsiders should never offer opinions. She only said that it could probably benefit from being tempered by the realities faced by those most directly affected by it. North Americans of all political stripe arte often very vociferous about their solutions regarding the Middle East and Israel. Perhaps that vociferousness and all knowing tone would be slightly muted once the immediate impact of their implementation was understood.

    Laya also evinces an understandable weariness. For those of us outside Israel, engaging in its political course is something we do by choice. For those living in the country it’s something all encompassing and pervasive – they cannot escape it, even when shopping at a makolet.

    Laya’s point, if I may, is not to squelch discussion. It’s not to deligitimize the interest North American Jews have in the good and Welfare of Israel and their role in its promotion. It is mearly an attempt to describe her and others like her’s daily reality. It is a call for greater sensitivity. Nothing wrong with that.

    And T_M? Come on, be reasonable. No one wants to keep you quiet. Say whatever you like, but just try to be fair. And if that’s impossible, don’t get upset when people respond accordingly. Believe me, I’ve said it before and I will say it again – Israel ought not be immune from criticism. It is a far from perfect country and has lots of room for improvement.

    We can turn on the TV, or go to a local college campus or visit any number of Web pages and get our fill of hateful and unproductive bile aimed at Israel. We also get our fill of ideologically biased criticism. And we get our fill of just plain old ignorant criticism. I would like to think that we here can do better than that. We can try to make our opinions known in a way that does not anger and in a way that is not hurtful and in a way that takes all relevant factors into account. Except when it comes to Tommy Lapid of course ….

    No I’m kidding. I kinda feel bad about the whole whore thing. That graphic I put up was kinda mean. I did it more cuz it was funny. I’ll try to be more sensitive next time. That doesn’t mean we should only post about flowers though. Sheesh. Al tagzim!

  • Muffti, I appreciate the apology, (and the slightly flirtatious diffusing comment). I wrote this less to prove a point than to express a feeling. Very little that I write could ever stand up to the criticism of your always logical brain.

    TM, don’t. Please.

    and ck, you are mostly right. I’m just asking for a little more sensitivity and little less disrespect on this here blog of ours.

    Living in Israel, though i love it, is an endlessly frustrating experience, and trust me, i see every day what there is to criticize. I ride on buses with rude Haredim, I see the ineffeciency of corrupt banks, whenever i try to deposit a check. .

    Every time i type in “israel” to google news i have to search through seemingly endless links to find something not negative. It wasn’t that long ago I was on college campuses in America. But from the very beginning of this blog, I hoped it could be a positive voice for Israel. And that doesn’t mean flowers. It means a voice that isn’t ashamed of Israel and knows how F-ing cool it is, and a voice that can speak it’s criticism of Israel or Judaism fairly, and with love and respect when it is due. I haven’t always been feeling we live up that lately. But hey, maybe that was only my thought of what this blog could be. I realize that it is far beyond my control. But you can consider this my vote to rethink our tone.

  • Laya, as a fellow citizen of this blessed country i understand the frustration of the pervasiveness of debate, I humbly offer some thoughts and observations:
    1) I really hope that at least at work you can have peace from debate.
    2) You are lucky. at the grocery counter, i get shopping bags thrown at me with a “my life is miserable you bag it” look. I wish they would talk politics
    3) The base argument that just because i do not experience it or live it i can not really comment on it is just, well, wrong. Back in the old country i stood for gay rights ( not gay) woman’s right for abortions ( not woman and well…) Fought to protect rain forests ( not a tree nor have i made rain) .
    4) As one who created an alternative dispute resolution center on my campus, i can’t help but believe that too often those of us in the thick of things are not able to see out of the problem , and “outsiders” can help see what we can’t.
    5) You should promote birthright programs so that blogger folk can come and witness what you struggle with and what fuels, drains and consumes every debate, shequel, resource this country has..
    6) If i got a guaranteed peace in exchange for showing id to pray at the wall, I’d ask where is the line. (guaranteed being the key word)

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