I’m pretty tired today, so I’ll just mention briefly what we did yesterday. We’ve been getting about five hours of sleep each night, so I’m wiped.
In the morning, we went to Sun Beach in Haifa. I mean, yeah, it was nice, but it’s a fucking beach, y’know? It was especially irritating to me since most of the people on this trip are from Los Angeles. It’s not like there’s a great dearth of nice beaches.
I took this as an opportunity to studiously avoid my group (Baruch Hashem!) and read some more of my book. I’m reading A Jest of God by the incomparable Canadian writer Margaret Laurence, and I felt my time was very well spent. Unfortunately this means I won’t appear in any group photos with all my new lifelong best friends, but I think I’ll survive.
(Incidentally, I’m writing this brief post from the Tishbi Winery cuz nothing gets Americans wetter than drinking in the morning. Party on, brahs.)
In the afternoon, we went to a sort of think tank / educational center for peace called Givat Haviva. Now that was a truly wonderful experience. We met with Lydia Aisenberg, a Welsh woman who has been living in Israel since the 1960s. She left the United Kingdom because of rampant anti-semitism and has been working as a peace educator and journalist in Israel ever since. Brilliantly funny, caustic woman with a real sense of the issues at play. She talked about the original borders of Israel and the West Bank and how the situation has evolved. She took us to a lookout point above the border wall and we gazed out at a Palestinian village. (Not allowed to visit, of course.) I got a real sense of the physical size of Israel when I saw the boundary with Palestine and mere kilometers away, the sea.
We also heard from an Arab-Israeli man named Mohammed about his struggles living in Israel and the discrimination he’s faced. Naturally his remarks brought out the absolute worst in the American Jews. I do understand the defensiveness of our Israeli compatriots to a degree, especially since Arab-Israelis do not serve in the IDF, and instead receive government tuition benefits for university in a sort of affirmative action system. This was often mentioned as a point of contention, but my knowledge of these issues is too shallow currently for me to say much more with any certainty.
I couldn’t, however, understand the outright hostility displayed by sheltered American Jews, most of whom have no firsthand experience of living, working, and being educated in Israel. It was also disgusting to watch Americans attacking Mohammed for the events of Gaza and the actions of extremists Palestinians when he repeated, ad nauseum, that he is an Arab-Israeli, has lived his whole life in Israel, and has no intention of leaving for an autonomous Palestine, cuz, y’know, he’s not fucking Palestinian. Somehow this concept of non-Palestinian, non-Jewish Arabs claiming Israel as their homeland is extremely foreign and confusing to certain American Jews.
I have to track down Mohammed’s last name, but he was an absolutely fantastic, insightful speaker and he was brave as hell for getting up in front of a group of rabid, intractable Jews. I know he has a Facebook page and he lectures frequently abroad, so if you’re curious to know more, I’ll track him down.
Worst part of the day was, of course, the debriefing session at the hotel with my fellow trip participants. At one point, I was so irate that I began to explain basic respect and active listening skills to a group of purported adults by using the analogy of a college professor lecturing his/her students. Fuuuuck. Q: Are we not men? A: No, we’re incorrigible children with a listening problem.
It was so bad at one point that our usually beatific guide had to step in. People were complaining that they had not been given enough background information on the history of Arab-Israelis that they were unable to listen to Mohammed’s lecture, a lecture in which he was, well…giving background information on the history of Arab-Israelis. S. called them out on this fallacy, bless his heart, but as Dorothy Parker famously said on the subject of “horticulture”: “You can lead a whore to culture, but you can’t make her think.” Judging by the antics at last night’s trip to bar, I think she may have had a point.
(See what I did there? I conflated two completely unrelated things, intellectual capacity and sexual prowess! I’m so smart! I guess that’s what happens when you start letting those damn Palestinians into this country…dem and those effin Aaaa-rabs. [Yes, an American did pronounce Arabs that way.] Anyway, if there’s one thing I hope these fucktards take away from that seminar, it’s that Arab-Israeli ≠ Palestinian ≠ terrorist.)