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A few weeks ago, I was asked how many times I had been to Israel. I think I’m up to seven. Given my short twenty-two years of life, I think that’s a pretty good track record so far. My experiences in Israel have forced me to feel as though I’m not really at home there or in the United States. I exist somewhere between the two.

Perhaps because of this, I have incredibly distinct memories of every time I leave Israel. Besides the fabulous duty-free shopping that is in Ben Gurion airport, there are always intense tears. The first time I left Israel, I was twelve. My parents decided it would be a brilliant idea to take us to Israel for a year and subject us to the wonders of the Israeli Education System. I was miserable for the majority of the year. My day-school education had not adequately prepared me for full-time Hebrew, and let’s just say that the discipline system in the classroom was a little more lax than what I was used to. Of course, my parents knew that this would be an amazing experience for our family and, I will admit, they were completely and totally right in the end. My last view of Mavo Dakar 3 (our address in Jerusalem) was through the rear windshield of the taxi taking us to the airport. I was sitting next to my Abba, and both of us were crying profusely. Up until that last moment when we drove away, I was sure we were going to stay. My living in Israel and that feeling of never wanting to leave has stayed with me over the past ten years.

I can say quite confidently that I love Israel. And contrary to popular belief, love does mean having to say you’re sorry. I can also say quite confidently that I strongly disagree with many of the Israeli government’s decisions and the army’s actions. I have had experiences that perhaps most American Jews have not: over the past five years I have been lucky enough to become friends with people who are Palestinian. Lama, Rawan, and Mohammed, among others, inform my views of Israel just as much as Sarah, David, and Nomi do. Once again, I am in limbo between two worlds – only instead of being caught between Israel and the US, I am caught in a conflict that is made of history, religion, and directly opposing beliefs. I am constantly tested by these relationships. Most of my Palestinian friends have travel documents, not passports; their fathers and uncles have been in jail. I feel guilty for feeling guilty about not serving in the IDF. I am caught between two worlds.

At this point, I have been exposed to many views on Israel and Palestine– sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. I grew up in a traditional Jewish community, I have been to Ramallah, I have spent a lot of time in East Jerusalem, I have attended peace rallies in Rabin Square, and I still don’t have a solution. What I do know is that the only way to peace is through inter-personal communication. During my time in Israel, I have volunteered at Rabbis for Human Rights and the Interfaith Coordinating Council of Israel and in the US, I have worked for many years at Seeking Common Ground. Not everyone is willing to engage in this kind of dialogue, but those that are willing to do so, should. I have been fulfilled in immeasurable ways through my friendships with people that both support and challenge me.

I think my Palestinian friends would fight with me for saying this, and yet I must – I wish I had Israeli citizenship. I always feel like I lack a certain amount of legitimacy in any conversation about Israel because I don’t have a teudat zehut. Maybe one day I will make aliyah. I haven’t decided yet; I’m going to give myself a few more years. For now though, I live in a liminal state. I go out of my way to stand next to the Hebrew-speakers on the subway, I’m constantly searching for authentic hummus in the Diaspora, and I take every chance I get to return. I love Israel, I’m disappointed in Israel, I believe in Israel, I’m confused by Israel. At the end of the day, perhaps both in spite of and because of all of these feelings, Israel is home. The words of Israeli poet Leah Goldberg, and most recently sung by Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, describe the feeling best:

Oh my darling, I have grown with you
But my roots… on both sides of the sea.

Perhaps only the migrating birds can know,
When they’re suspended between earth and heaven,
This pain of the two homelands.

With you I have been planted twice
With you I have grown, pines
And my roots are in two different landscapes.

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  • quote:
    What I do know is that the only way to peace is through inter-personal communication.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Nope – at least, not when you’re being attacked.

    You don’t talk with people who are attacking you. You stop their attack and make sure they gain nothing from the attack. When the attacks stop – with a committment not to use violence again as a “negotiating” tactic – THEN you offer to dialogue.

    For all your gushing about Israeli citizenship, you embrace this “let’s all join hands” line precisely because you don’t live here, don’t have to live with the consequences. Your “dialogue” experiences are “zipless fucks” (google it). Getting back on the plane allows to you romanticize Israel, Israelis, and Palestinians.

    As you yourself say:
    I always feel like I lack a certain amount of legitimacy in any conversation about Israel because I don’t have a teudat zehut.

  • Ben-David: Did you wake up on the wrong side of your mitah this morning? You’re a little grouchy there.

    You’ve essentially ignored the essence of a thoughtful, smart piece–that to love Israel is to also own its complications.

    Praise Allah you’re not in charge of the peace process.

  • I don’t think he’s addressing formal negotiations, just approving of micro-level, person-to-person contacts.

  • Nope – this is the same old “let’s all join hands and have The Audacity of Hope”.

    It’s more about the non-Israeli world this person is coming from than it is about the reality of Israel. It’s about the self-delusion of thinking you know what is going on here.

    All Israelis have numerous positive personal encounters/relationships with Arabs during their lives.

    The fact that the writer thinks this is something s/he must urge The Rest of Us to do tells me that s/he really is not as connected to the situation here as s/he thinks. It tells me the piece is of a piece with another political/cultural milieu, and that milieu’s condescension to/stereotyping of Israelis.

    The fact that this pollyannaish notion is being put forward now – without any modifiers – indicates that the writer does not really have the understanding of Israeli context that s/he claims. At this point in the piece/peace process, many Israelis would seriously doubt that such a speaker really cared for or admired them – or even bothered to really understand their situation.

    Urging people to talk to their attackers – to *understand* them in that PC way – is a mighty funny way to demonstrate solidarity.

  • The auction value of your first edition copy of Audacity of Hope went up this past night, Ben-David.

  • BatHaNasi, I think we might be in better hands if Bendavid were in charge of something.

    As for the spawnof6, just do it. Make aliyah. If you’ve been here so much and really feel emotional about it too, then your aliyah would probably be a success. One reason I made aliyah is that I wanted my life to mean something. In ‘America’, you can make a difference, but who cares? You’re just one in 340 million and what do you improve? America? Moving to Israel means helping Jews, our people, even just by being here and going to the store. And frankly, you can only make a difference if you live here. Having Americans sending over money is nice, but imagine if they all lived here and ran the country instead of these corrupt and weak-minded fools. Whoever moves here is part of this, now.