Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Time out/The End

It's amazing how quickly normality occupies territories, how strong is the force of life. The war ended so abruptly and although its smell of death was hanging in the air for a couple of more days, the force of life demanded us back. During the days of war it was hard to find a voice who'll break the consensus, but the minute the soldiers set foot on Israeli soil the ball was rolling, every one was blaming the army, claiming the resign of the political leaders, pointing the blind spots and the neglecting. So while the accusations fly, most of us just got back to our PhDs, to work. All that we felt we either set free or buried back. And we're taking a time out from this Blog. Secretly we always hoped it'll be temporary. We promise to get back should our lives change abruptly again, or if God forbid, Iran's president has a bad dream about the return of the secret imam riding an atomic bomb. But our true hope is that we won't need to update this Blog ever again and keep it as a souvenir. Was nice meeting you all.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

It isn't over till the hidden imam writes a poem

After a couple of depressing days of escalation, and so many soldiers killed daily, the war ended abruptly. That same day Hezbollah said they won't necessarily leave the south of Lebanon or disarm and Basher Asad said maybe it's time for Syria to fight for the Golan heights and after last night's IDF activity in Baalbeck maybe it is too early to book our vacations. But 24 hours after the ceasfire when no more rockets were flying around Israel, the real part of the war was officially over and people hurried back to normality. Docurel wrote about this, that creativity is the best answer to evil, and than it hit me. This is all about creativity.

Since we took over this piece of land we made wonders. We dried the swamps and created a modern high tech creative western country in such a short time. We Israeli people or even Jews in general, have a lot of creativity; that is undisputable even by our enemies. But I think this is really why we're so hated. We always stand on our feet and create, no matter what happens. And that freaks out people who can't create or are lazy, and they wait for someone else to do it and try to take it away from him. We must be the most hated people in the world, didn't you ever wonder why? Those crazy fanatic theologies are a good cover for pure jealousy on the part of people who are better in destroying than in creating.

Realizing that didn't make me feel much better since the war between the people who create and design realities and the people who are parasites of the creation, is not going to end soon. Parasites have good fantasy stories about the world order they want to create, but what they actually do is destroy things they don't like that belong to other people, and constantly deny reality. If we were to take our bags and leave the Middle East they'll find enemies within their own people who create, as it was before the Zionist movement existed. The countries who suffer from those extreme sects are always the ones who have more ability to create for themselves and prosper, like Lebanon or Iran in the Shah days. Because this isn't really about religion, ideology or oppression, it's about lack of ability to create the world you want from the materials of this reality.

Maybe we will never sit here in peace, maybe our society will keep living in an on going emergency state in a constantly post traumatic culture, but at least we're creative. As long as we create i know we wont' be extinct.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Down the rabbit hole of the Israeli soldier

The digital age is altering our perception and experience of reality in profound ways yet to be studied. In 1996, professor Kevin Robins wrote his influential article about the virtual unconscious in the post photography age. In that article he warns us softly that we've done so much to achieve freedom and shift the control back to the individual that we might just be loosing the balance, reaching a degree of control on things that alters them and alters us back. Digital photography is already taken for granted, the image can be controlled to the pixel level, reconstructed, molded, you name it. It is such a high level of control that you can barely trust it to reflect reality anymore. Even Reuters or "60 minutes" fall for these things.

Robbins's main claim is that in a photo you can reveal more than the eye saw, but a digital image/simulation reveals your subconscious. Towards the end of the article he expresses an ethical concern: what happens to a soldier that doesn't get his hands dirty anymore? A soldier that presses a button and the whole of Baghdad disappears? A soldier who shoots from a war plane after years of training on video games and flight simulators? Does he have the sense of killing a person or is he so detached from the human face through technology mediation? Will humanity turn into a cold blooded high tech murder scene? Robbins speaks of it briefly, almost tip toes around it at the end of his article. He thinks soldiers might suffer now from new kinds of virtual post-traumas caused by the perception gap between the simulation and the real, and says some of the first gulf war soldiers already show some new symptoms of that sort.

You've made it through the intro, sorry if it was too academic, I had to present the issue. I want to talk about the subconscious of the Israeli soldier, in light of that. Around 15 years ago, during the first Intifada uprising, it was my generation's time in the army. They had to invent everything the army uses today. From there things took a turn and we became what we are today. Before that we were a bit innocent in our fighting, it was war as we knew it, with tanks in the desert. One of the concepts invented was at first top secret but today known to all: the elite units called "Shimshon" and "Duvdevan", people who learned perfect Arabic and disguised themselves as Gaza citizens, taking a great personal risk. Many of them killed terrorists from a short range under this cover.

Many of those fine young men, who found themselves in these new challenging army duties, although having weekly shrink meetings, couldn't really stand the psychological pressure. An intelligent young man convinces himself he protects his country this way but part of him just doesn't like him wondering around at nights and shooting people in the head, even if they're terrorists. I remember the first generation of "Shimshon". A large part of those men changed their attitudes towards human life; it became a cheap thing you can bet on. So they bet on their own lives. They used to play "Russian roulette" with their guns and some of them shot themselves. Some of their friends who lived to tell could never get back to normal life; some are in mental conditions till this very day. I have 3 friends who served in those times and their way to cope with it was to become spiritual/ pacifist in quite extreme ways.

During this second Lebanon war I kept thinking of the pilots of the war planes, Israel's best sons, hand picked. They rattle there up in the skies hitting their targets like in the flight simulator, like in the video games. And than they come back home, watch the news and see the pictures of the dead, civilians, sometimes children, who were caught in the fire. What happens in their virtual subconscious? How do they connect between their buttons and this frozen blooded body? Do they feel that horrible life draining feeling of "I took someone's life"? Is the virtuality of it making it easier or worse to bare?

Sorry fore those heavy questions, people, that's my way of dealing with the aftermath.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I am pissed off!

By Yael Israel

I'm pissed off, I'm mad, I'm furious, I'm so angry, I feel like blowing some faces. And I'm freaking out inside me from the unbearable pain.

And what do I get from this? The excuse for this bloody war, namely, bringing back our kidnapped soldiers failed miserably: not one of them was handed back to us and most probably they will never be returned. We failed to immobilize Hizbollah or to disarm them. And now we are standing naked in front of the whole world, while Syria who is lurking for years in the shade, waiting for us to weaken, is rising its ugly head, threatening to fight us. And now when Syria has sufficient proof, it might attack us.

This current Lebanon war is the worst war in the history of the State of Israel. Why? Because we are the only ones responsible for all the our failings. The situation now was unlike that of the 6th Day War or the Yom Kipur War, because we were'nt dragged into a war. We initiated it. It seems that a grave intelligence failure such as happened at the Yom Kippur War led us to this. However, back then we faced a surprise attack, but now we are the ones who initiated the attack. This war is even worse then the First Lebanon War, as at that time, at least our citizans were not harmed.
But this time we really messed up. The mess was so great, much greater than that of theYom Kippur War. The Israeli citizans suffered the most. Nobody estimated that this "little" military operation will turn into a real war. Dan Halutz, our Chief in Command, relied on his air force, and being terribly naïve or simply too busy with his stock investments, and thus unable to judge the situation, truly believed that his fancy air force will finish the job at one strike, so nettly, just as the naive Americans during the first Gulf War, who believed that attacking the enemy with their newest air crafts for a couple of nights will be sufficient to defeat them. Our Prime Minister and our Minister of Defence surely believed Halutz and his empty vain promises, who probably spoke so proudly about his beloved air force, and so they gave their consent for the attack; agreed to rush hastily into it.

Im not saying that the our PM and his ministers are not to blame. The very fact that the PM and Minister of Defence are in power blames them. But Im afraid Halutz have promised the PM & Minister of Defence, who have no clue in military issuses, as everybody in Israel suspected it when this usless pair rose to power, that everything will be OK and that his fancy airforce will finish the job. And the rest is history: our attack wasn’t a short clean cut operation, in which our soldiers leave the battle field without a scratch, rush home to their loving wives, expecting to be praised by everyone, but a big failure which left our army with its pants down: shortage of food & water, no basic equipment, no proper orders, and above all, led by Generals who underestimated the power of the enemy.

I am not sure which one is best: a moran Minister of Defence such as Peretz, a killer Minister of Defence such as Sharon (during the first Lebanon War), or a stoned Minister of Defence who is unaware as to what is going on around him, being too busy stealing archeology items, such as Moshe Dayan at the Yom Kipur War?

But one thing I know for sure: I do not forget nor forgive. I'm mad and I refuse to forgive. Too many people were hurt in this war. Too many people lost their self respect. And all of us lost our shaken feeling of security. We all received a preview of what is going to happen here in the future, but its all in vain. Just in vain. We'll have to fight this war again some time in the future, which means, that this war was not only unnecessary, but also develish.

I admit that if any one among the men responsible for the biggest mess in the history of Israel, would feel so guilty to a point of taking his own life or die of a broken heart (as happened after the Yom Kippur War to Chief in Command David Elazar ) , my heart will not grieve over him.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A letter addressed to the author David Grossman

By Yael Israel

Dear David!

We never met in person. Once, and now it seems it was ages ago, I interviewed you over the phone. That's all! But when I head about the death of your son, Uri, in the last days of the Lebanon War, I was struck as if I lost a dear friend. Please accept my condolences for his death. I want you to know that I share your endless pain. Yesterday you and your family members have become members of our endless, tragic, inconceivable Israeli bereaved family. This teaches us again that death does not skip over any of the houses in Israel, whether right or left, whether warmonger or war opponent.

At the beginning of the war I was in a state of a shock. As the days went by, I still felt as though I'm in a nightmare. As the war continued, I felt so mad, much more than in our previous wars. And now, when all is left for us to do is to count the dead, the wounded, the cripples and the devastating results of the destruction; when your dear son, Uri, has joined the growing number of deaths that our nation has counted in the last few days, just a moment before the cease-fire begins, I am at a loss of words, as words cannot begin to describe my pain. As I am writing this, my tears are running down.

I do not know any of the people who died in this damn unnecessary war, I didn’t know your son Uri, but I feel that I lost my own children, my own flesh and blood - young and old, citizens and soldiers, women, men, children and babies, Arabs and Jews. I dread getting up next morning, after the cease-fire have begun, when the counting of graves begins. I dread seeing the horrible destruction, and I wonder, who will take care of the wounded, the crippled, and the people who lost their homes, in a country led by a government that abandoned us all during the war.

I Practice for my death

Buddhist practice guides you to mindfully observe the present moment. Mindfulness leads to an inevitable recognition of the impermanent quality of reality. Most times you realize you cannot influence the variety of circumstances that create change. Some times you are one of many causes of change. On other occasions you can only recognize pain, feel compassion for the suffering caused by impermanence and the resistance to the change impermanence introduces.

This war has scrambled my life into uncertainty. Not only were we forced to abandon our plans for the summer vacation, but also many of the beliefs that constitute what I consider to be 'me', are being shattered by every falling missile.

The one certainty in life is death. War has brought death into my home: the realistic possibility of death by a lethal rocket, the loss of plans and beliefs, the stories of dead soldiers and wounded civilians, the live images of the havoc and destruction sowing suffering everywhere, the death of the identity I thought was 'me'.

The meditation bell is often called "a bell of mindfulness". The various tones of the gong bring me back to the present moment, yanking my attention out of the constant babble of the mind.

But now there's no meditation bell, there's only the sound of the alarm.

Every cry of the alarm is a call for mindfulness. Without the comfort of a meditation cushion, without the protective environment of a retreat, this is a practice of naked insight: fear rising with the tangible possibility of death or injury, anger developing into wild rage against those who disrupt my life, who seek to destroy my children, an inner cry against the terrible suffering taking place right here, right there, right now.

During the first Vipassana retreat I participated in, the teacher told us she practices for her death. Never has this plain declaration with its embedded ideas been more palpable than now.

In some remote future I cannot perceive right now, this might crystallize into a clear insight.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The margins of the Home Front

For Israel it's important to stress that our home front is strong and can take a hit bravely. In the last couple of days many are writing about the fact that this war is fought on the back of the poor people, that the government aid is absent and left for NGOs. Groups of volunteers went up north and searched houses door to door. They found many old people that were abandoned by their families. They were completely alone, sometimes in a wet bed, without food or medicine, God knows for how many days.

Those reports are never translated to the English edition, God knows why. I think it's important to account for this situation not only so the world would know that we suffer too but also in order to ponder our humanity. Maybe we cannot judge people who're afraid for their lives but does a couple of rockets justify loosing it? I'm leaving this question open.

I wanted to bring today a couple of stories I got by email from an Israeli NGO that protects animal rights. When humans suffer so much the animals are forgotten. The volunteers of this NGO had to risk their lives and drive a couple of times to northern cities to rescue cats and dogs that were left behind when their owners had to flea their homes. One dog owner in Naharia alerted the NGO that his dog was left in the house tied with a leash a week ago. They found the dog in a horrible shape, dried and hungry and all her body was full of scratches. In Zefad they rescued a dog that spent 2 week under a car during rockets falling, feeding her 8 puppies. 3 other dogs in the city that were left without food and water in a barred house were found dead and the apartment was stinking of their corps. In Acko a dog was hit by a rocket and seriously wounded, he was treated by a volunteer vet. These things never get to the news as well.

Many people do take their pets to the shelters or left their homes with the pets. Biri, who wrote for us, is a refugee with her dog and is going this week to visit the cat she left in Haifa, we're hoping she'll write for us again when she comes back. This is a very sad week, so many soldiers died, almost everyone knows someone… there are not so many men on the streets, everyone who can hold a gun is inside Lebanon. Yesterday I got an email from a friend with a picture AP took of a burning tank. He wrote: that's my tank. Thank God I'm home but my cell phone remained inside it so send your phone numbers again…

Sorry, this post has no clear topic. There's a ceasefire agreement but the army has increased the volume of the fighting to try and damage more Hezbollah infrastructure before we're stopped. I'm waiting for today's death toll, maybe in a couple of hours. I'm generally depressed.

Memories from Another Shelter

By Yael Israel

I was 7 years old when the 6th Day War broke out in 67. I was glad we didn’t go to school, but hated going down to the shelter, though I loved that mossy smell of those Ali Baba damp caves, as I saw it in my childish imagination. The sirens howled almost every night and made us run into the shelter along with the other 6 families living in our apartment building. My sister brought along her greenish beloved parrot, twittering desperately, scared to death. I brought along my grey donkey cloth doll, who grew old and bold overnight from too much worry. One night we woke up from sleep by the alarm sound and ran to the shelter still wearing our pajamas. Sometimes my teenage brother, fed up with going up and down to the shelter, stayed at home, taking the time to shampoo his hair and cover it with a black net hoping to straighten his curls. During other nights, when we didn’t run into that damp cave, I had nightmares. On Friday, we could finally go out. My sister and I ran to the corner to buy a newspaper, which announced by red bright bloody letters that Eastern Jerusalem is now in our hands. We felt terribly happy, like everybody else, like all the other morons, because we didn't know any better.

When the Yom Kippur War broke out on 73, I was 13 years old. The alarm sound found me in bed at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, hiding under the cover, listening to the radio, to the Voice of Peace, if I am not wrong, but maybe not, who remembers. I snatched my baby niece, a tiny scared crying bundle, and we all ran to the shelter. This time, it was a new shelter, in a new building, different from the previous damp shelter. During the next alarm, only a few neighbors came down and their number dropped more and more during the next other alarms. The next day there were no more alarms. We were asked to knit socks and caps for our soldiers and to also send them goodies. I sent "my soldier" a package filled with some candies, waffles and bagels. After about 6 months I received a postcard from him, trying to find out how I look, whishing to know if I am as sweet as my words.

During that bloody summer of 82, when the first Lebanon War broke out, I was a film student in an Art school. At that time, all I could think of was how to finish my year project, namely directing my lousy short film, based on a novel by John Bart, wondering what will happen if the man I love will get drafted and die in Lebanon. After all he didn’t get drafted then, but died anyway 7 years later. Tel Aviv seemed joyful and calm as usual, being criticized for it by the whole country. This time the shelters remained vacant. At one time, while the bombs howled in Lebanon, I visited the set of Uri Barabash film at The Golan hights, not too far from our national bleeding wound.

During the First Golf War at 91, I was already a film critic, and a promising young writer, dressed in black, true to my constant depressed mood and the latest Tel-Avivi Shenkin St. fashion. I carried everywhere my gas mask, its box adorned with colorful paper strips. This time, I went into the sealed room whenever the sirens blew. In spite of the missiles, I didn’t go down to the shelter, though a few days later we were told to to leave the sealed rooms in favor of those dark damp shelters, which have not been in use for years. Right now, at this dreadful Second Lebanon War, I have no intention of going back there. Let the missiles fall wherever they like, I am staying right here, determined not to go back there. As far as I am concerted, let me join my fathers, forefathers and my dead lovers, unfortunately too many of them, but to that damp shelter I am not returning.

And maybe now, hopefully we'll see the end of it all and we'll never have to take shelter there ever again!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The war is knocking on my door

By Biri Rottenberg-Rosler

The war is knocking on my door. I don’t want to open, I don’t want to answer that call. I am not at home.

When I left Israel five weeks ago to travel in Europe, the soldier Gilaad Shavit was kidnapped. I felt very sad. I knew that my country is a crazy place. But I could not imagine how far it is going to get. I became a refugee. I travel along Israel, moving from one city to another, with my husband, our dog, his violin and 9 bags.

Traveling in Rome, Florence and Barcelona, I went to every church and museum I could. I looked at these holy pieces of arts. And I felt waves of envy all over my body. I never felt envy towards a painting before. But to see it hanging there, knowing exactly where he is going to be in the next generations, made me feel like a temporary exhibition.

By the time we arrived to the Pyrenees, the beautiful landscape started to mix with the ugly news. I got a SMS from a friend who's working with me. She wrote that In the middle of the staff meeting they saw the missiles crossing the skies. In another part of mother earth's skirt I was crossing the skies on a special train. The beautiful and powerful mountains around were looking at me with surprise. I wanted to run away, I felt like a prisoner of mother earth between heaven and hell.

I've never thought that I love my life here so much, that I will miss it. All these precious moments, all of this routine -it is me. It is my self. I miss drinking coffee on the balcony, I miss the Carmel Mountain and I am sure that he is missing me. I miss looking at my big glass windows and feeling secure.

The war is still knocking on my door, on my body, on my ears. It is everywhere. I am covered with a huge shawl of pictures of suffering, ruins, lonely people and lost dogs. I feel that we are all looking for our owners. I want this war to come to its end! I want my life and my self back.

Biri Rottenberg-Rosler, 30, Bibliotherapist, Ph.d student, Haifa university.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Truth: An Integral Perspective

Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Palestinians… they all developed amazing narratives and presented facts to prove either their right to this land or the true identity of the aggressor, but how will we know what's true? This post is for the true truth seekers from all sides. Here are 3 kinds of truths we practice:

The first kind of truth is THE truth
. It's the belief that there's only one truth that applies anywhere anytime and can explain everything. Usually that truth resides in a certain interpretation of the Bible/Koran or in some ideology (Communism? Zionism?). That is THE truth and everyone else just didn't realize that yet and we have to help them do it...The people who believe truth to be so, are incapable of truly seeing someone else's perspective because they're completely identified with the weigh of their only truth. Sometimes they have overwhelming excuses that subject all other narratives to theirs. Religious Fanatics belong to this group but not only them. A lot of Israelis, who don't question the local framing of events and take our story as the only possible truth, are in this group. They see Lebanese people as ones who just fail to understand all that we're doing for their sake. Are they blind? Well, to a certain amount, yes. When you stop questioning your thoughts/believes, your blind spots multiply. If you question them it doesn't mean you have to change them, but answers become less black and white. It's the funniest thing to see them arguing in Lebanese blogs with Lebanese people who do the same thing with THEIR truth. It's the conversation of the blind and the deaf. Too often people die in the service of those truths, as their heroes or their necessary sacrifice. It's because of the belief that truth is bigger than life. If you see nothing wrong with all of that, that's fine. I just wish the truth you hold on to doesn't put you in an infinite conflict or consumes your life. In that case, I would suspect it enough to inquire more. Beware of people/ideologies who have a clear asnwer for every quetsion. you've lived long enough on this planet to suspect life ain't that simple.

The Second kind of truth is the Proven Truth. What was proven in scientific methods, what is rational and makes sense, based on facts and well written. The argument style of those people is to quote more facts, but isn't it weird that the other side can argue those facts with other facts, sometimes opposite facts, and you're getting lost in translation? If you insist to pursue the arguments to their core, you might accidentally find yourselves quoting some biblical right or a belief which isn't based on the principals of truth as you perceive it, and than it really becomes a dead end. Did anyone ever convince the other with "his" facts? Both Social and life Sciences have shown that our reality is chaotic and cannot be trusted to provide definite answers (Quantum physics, anyone?). The history we rely on was never an objective science, the Media we see through is biased and digital imaging is being forged, everything sought to be objective turns out to be socially constructed and some say now that even our eye doesn't really see everything there is but only part of reality and what it wants to interpret etc. Are these you weapons, stories who are naturalized as facts? Has anyone come up yet with a scientific test that can prove the truth of one form of interpretation over the other? I'm preparing the Nobel Prize for him.

The third kind of Truth is that there can't be any truth or that it doesn't really matter. Truth is such a relative concept that you don’t bother dealing with it. Sometimes you're called "post modern" or "left wing". It's hard for you to establish a hierarchy between Israeli truth and Lebanese truth and who are you to judge, right? But it seems you ARE guided by some truth/guiding principal. Wouldn't all of you agree that peace and harmony should reside in the universe, between humans and between them and nature, all humans and animals' lives are scared etc.? so you do have a truth, right? The majority of people who are against this war (and wars in general), that magnify the killed civilians– act from this point of view. If you ask them about the Middle East they'll usually say all is awful and got to stop or at best side with the underdog/the suffering side. Facts or context don’t matter really, it's the human and nature suffering they're against. Many people might agree with this view, but although it seems tempting to hold it, it's an impotent view. If your country is attacked would you sit and let it happen because you don’t believe in violence and have compassion to the attackers? sometimes when there's no real truth or moral hierarchy, you have no tools to judge anyone even if everyone feels something's wrong about blowing up a train. This view can be experienced as non-judgmental or all-judgmental, which is what happens when a representative from every human war is trailed for war crimes in Hag. i mean, someone, show me a war that isn't a war crime! the best thing would be to make it illegal to start a war, I'll vote for that. As impossible as it may sound to you, disharmony is a part of harmony; if something's perfect it must include imperfection as well. You isolate what you perceive as "bad" from its natural place in existence. When a tiger eats an antelope you can't scream "it's wrong". Various traditions agree that conditions of friction and stress often are the ones that make us grow, wake us up to evolve beyond them. I think it is worthy to resist wars and violence but please be context picky, because if you have the same solutions for all actions, you're back to truth number 1. You might think your humanistic solution is just better than the one others shoot for and than you're falling into truth number 1's trap again. It's not the content of truth that has to be replaced but the whole structure.

*** So what do I suggest?
The truth doens't put all its eggs in one basket

"A Paradox is merely the Tension between Reality as it is and the way you think it is" (Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize winner in physics)

None of the former perspectives is true but all of them are. Truth is an integral perspective; it can never reside fully in one side and nobody's wrong 100% of the time. This principle exists in Ken Wilber's integral theory as well as in the Jewish Hassidic idea of "holding the paradox", or the Hindu saying that "even a broken clock shows the right time twice a day". (Is there such an idea in Islam, maybe in Sufism?)

If you're a real truth seeker you need to be willing to question the story you grew up on and the facts you have witnessed and listen to more narratives, get a more complex picture. When you reach the point you'll have no definite answer but you can see each side has a point and at the same time identify the potential distortion of it, you're there. I'm trying to do that all week, browsing Lebanese blogs and seeing things from their perspective. It cannot make me change sides since ignoring the fact I am already on my side would be unrealistic as well. But with their help I feel I have less answers and more questions, hence, more truth.

If you assume everything has a point, wouldn't it be worthy to try and see that point? I'll give you an example. I have my own believes about IDF as a moral army, I served in it, I know many of the soldiers since they're normally civilians, and I trust them to be humane. Lately so many people tell me IDF is a bully that I feel compelled to look into those times when it actually is. The truth would be that IDF is both moral and a bully in different situations, I guess. Ironically, taking responsibility for those times you're a bully is what makes you moral. Instead of stereotyping, we should react to each situation in its appropriate way. Usually people tend to bundle things in one package, call it "their political view" and cling to it regardless the circumstances. If one is pro Israel in one attack and anti Israel in the other, he's called "unstable" when he's actually more realistic than all of us.

We all could start this quest for truth by separating facts from interpretations and being careful with semiotics that carries an interpretation (terrorists, freedom fighters, murderers etc.), but most important is to try and see the spark of truth in every thing being said, even if most of it IS twisted, what can you still learn from it? Reading so much anti-Israeli views didn't change my mind and didn’t' change what I know to be true about my country. But it does help me understand that my country suffers from the bitten child syndrome. For generations it has been the persecuted victim, the "other" and now the abused falls into the role of the abuser (although he might live in denial or blame the new victim for the situation), acts like a bully thinking there is no other way/choice. the only other choice is to keep feeding that ancient belief that we will forever be persecuted and trust no one. A lot of healing is needed here and the more we bomb the more it's evident that we need help. i don't believe we'll loose a war since loosing can mean genoicde or ww3, but i believe we're already loosing many things that will force us to work on this healing.

And look at Lebanon, a country of war lords barely scratching its national identity, how united it became when attacked, how thier leadership awoke and its military might even start enforcing order. I truly believe they will come out strong and rebuilt in a healthy way out of this war. I think we should aspire to growth through peace and love but in reality we're not awake enough for it to happen all the time, and sometimes we are forced to see the opportunities that lie in conflict. It doesn't justify any price being paid for it, it's not in terms of reward and punishment, and it's damn worthy to try and change it. but meanwhile, it is reality and we're called to be realistic: instead of standing helpless against what we can't influence, let's start working on its teaching so it won't have to repeat and spell it out for us. lets accept what we can't change and learn from it how to change.

Byron Katie's working assumption is "when you argue with reality you loose, but only 100% of the time". All the trouble we have in the Middle East comes from arguing with reality and than no wonder we don’t trust each other. In Byron Katrie's work truth=reality. If in reality de facto all of us live here, than it's our loss if we argue with that. The only truth starts from accepting this fact. You can't start changing a thing you keep denying. The first step of making a change is accepting the current situation for what it is. Jordan and Egypt, for instance, are doing great since they accepted Middle East reality for what it is and so they have the best chances of helping and pushing to change it if they wish. The reality will most certainly not change with suicide bombers or PM murderers, we'll just find ourselves in the same spot years later after one more round of suffery. Reality won't change if there's a peace process but you blow it up because you want EVRYTHING, not just plain MORE (either Hamas or the Jewish Settlers take care of that stand). And THAT is arguing with reality. They constantly suffer for being reality-control freaks and all of us suffer along.

It is important to see the sparks of truth in their views but also to identify the point it gets twisted, maybe through being linked to another assumption we can break and still keep their core interest?... I long for the time governments will operate this way. Meanwhile, Every time I refresh the news web page a soldier dies, and I just need a break.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A panther wouldn't know what scruples mean

This is the first war I undergo as a mother, and motherhood makes all the difference. The juncture in which the commitment to my children's well-being encounters the rockets that endanger their lives is the place where I care only for myself and my own. When the sirens wail and the rockets fall I'm willing to kill those who endanger my children's lives.

In "Vietnam" Vislava Shimborska suggests that a mother is indifferent to politics, knowing only her children, ignoring everything else:

"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."

However, indifference breads evil. Sometimes you have to choose sides in order to ensure your children's survival in the broadest sense of the word. Taking this newly discovered murderous instinct to its end might mean that my six-year-old son will have to go to war in the not-so-far future in order to protect a new generation of Israeli children.

In "In Praise of Feeling Bad about Yourself" Shimborska writes:

The buzzard never says it is to blame.
The panther wouldn't know what scruples mean.
When the piranha strikes, it feels no shame.
If snakes had hands, they'd claim their hands were clean.
A jackal doesn't understand remorse.
Lions and lice don't waver in their course.
Why should they, when they know they're right?
Though hearts of killer whales may weigh a ton,
in every other way they're light.
On this third planet of the sun
among the signs of bestiality
a clear conscience is Number One.

I do not wish to be an unscrupulous panther. And yet, I do not wish to live under constant threats of rockets. Uncompromising statements such as "the solution to this conflict is the destruction of Israel" make me wonder whether peaceful ideals should be put aside while the war is raging. Dead people with clear conscience do not sign peace agreements.

I have no clear solution to offer. I write to explore the meaning and implication of this complex situation in which nobody is an entirely free agent, yet no-one is an absolute victim.

[Both poems were translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Chemotherapy, Anyone?

While we keep fighting each other, Cancer is a silent lethal enemy fighting all humans from the inside, symbolizing our ability to self destruct. Today I visited a friend of mine recovering from a breast cancer surgery and although it seems the lump was completely removed, she might have to receive chemotherapy to make sure it's all clear. That "making sure" is a dangerous treatment which might harm many other systems in her body, including fertility, but that's a small prices to pay when the alternative is giving cancer the benefit of the doubt. I tried to convince her not to accept this treatment. I know people who refuse chemotherapy in much serious cases and treat themselves through alternative medicine successfully. But most people with cancer panic so much and trust doctors too much they can't take those chances, so they accept colloquial damage to the body "just in case".

Suddenly it occurred to me cancer is a brilliant metaphor for this war. Let's say Lebanon is the person, and Hezbollah is the cancer eating that person from within. When the cancer is already spread all over the body, it's pointless to start operating on each lump, the person is full of it and you can't dig a needle out of the hay. Chemotherapy gives a death strike to the whole body. The person will never be the same, but he'll survive. It seems everyone expects IDF to be the surgent in this case since other doctors are so afraid of the malpractice law suits. The U.S had too many deformed patients this year; it's IDF's turn to draw the fire.

(We can't treat a patient against his will, especially if he has learned to live with cancer in some form of denial and would rather maintain that status quo than start loosing his hair. but if that patient keeps attacking the hospital crew because of this illness, I guess it'll be forced upon him).

A person understands the sacrifice he makes when undergoing chemotherapy, but when it comes to the state level, every time the hair falls or you throw up, you blame the doctor for being a murderer and an abuser. I'm not becoming heartless at this point. I know that in the micro level killing children is more horrible than words can express, but if it wasn't done intentionally and systematically it can't be a war crime, because than every war is a crime! (I personally believe every war is indeed a crime and one day it'll be illegal to start a war under any circumstances, but I believe the world is not ready to embrace that yet. Although, the amount of war crime accusations is a good indicator we are making our way there).

I am not justifying this killing!!! It hurts me!!! People die on both sides!!! But this is war, nothing more nothing less, like western medicine is what it is with all its faults. This is how war works and this is how chemo works. Sometimes when your health is better and the cancer is not so spread and embedded in your other tissues, you can afford alternative solutions. But there are cases, like Lebanon's case, I believe, in which there's probably no choice. It doesn't seem logical we have to harm my friend's fertility in order to kill cancer in a different part of the body but this is how it works. I guess the same logic applies to the reason IAF attacks in certain places to avoid Hezbollah escape north. I don't know...

A later update:

Tonight was a lethal night. 4 rockets fell in the center of Haifa and many are dead and injured. 10 reserve army soldiers newly-drafted and ready to enter Lebanon were killed from one rocket by the border and their names weren't published yet, I'm worried for my friends who might be there. This is just getting worse and giving Israel the legitimacy it needs to strike back, probably on the back of Lebanese people again. I'm so depressed with all this death and I don’t think the war can be stopped anymore, I'm afraid the West is quite comfortable with us disarming Hezbollah, and they figuere, since everyone already hates Israel so they better take advantage of it and at least finish the job this time.

How many people have to die until our societies move beyond ideologies or pragmatic interests and realize nothing can be more important and sacred than individual life? God isn't an army lord giving orders from his pedestal in the sky. He doesn't tell the difference between us, it's us who tell those stories to ourselves for generations. Every time a person dies somewhere, a star falls, a spark of God's light goes out. What will be of us if we don’t wake up in time to save our savior?

Women Just Don't Get it

By Yael Israel

We, women are different, we have a small brain. We just can't get it. War seems so strange to us. It is far beyond us. It is surreal, something out of this world, most certainly out of our world. When I hear a man talking about his war experiences, I shut myself down and I run to the toilet. The same happens if I try to watch a war film, an action film or anything that has to do with violence: my small brain shuts itself down. I just don’t get it: violence, war, battles. For nearly a month I have been sitting in front of the TV, and frankly, I just don’t get it. It does not seem real to me. How did we get into it? What are we doing there? Why on earth are we fighting? What for? Why? For whom? And the same applies to both sides: us and the enemy. Why? Is it really necessary? Do you really find it necessary?

I guess men believe war is a necessity. That it is indispensable. That it's inevitable. And so on. We, women, even if we get a chance to go to war, we would never go. It's not in our genes. We do not have this drive. We don’t have the need to fight. It’s a known fact that little girls air their aggressions in many ways such as declaring a boycott, humiliating other girls, etc. Yes it sucks, but they will never hit you. Physical violence in women is a fairly new phenomena and it thrives upon the media and computer games. Women who kill are usually drug addicts, hence the violence. Nobody denies the fact that only a very small number of women killed their husbands, while there are tons of men who murdered their wives or girlfriends. Even violence towars their children is less common among mothers then among fathers. I am sure my statements will not please several men and even women who are desperatly seeking a dubious equality with men, even in this realm of violence and making war.

Last week I wrote in my Hebrew blog about Jud Neamaan, the film maker, and quoted him (From an interview in Mahbarot Kolnoa Darom). Basically what he said is that men‘s desire to go to war is the reverse of the penis envy in women, namely: men’s envy our womb. Some of my readers, mainly men, really got angry with me. I understand it pisses you off since I blame you, men, collectively. And perhaps you, my dear reader, reading my words at this very minute, are against violence. I have met a number of such men and not all of them are gay. But the majority take great pleaseure in fighting, upto a point of getting addicted to it.

Here are but a few examples: We have seen daily on the news, men who should not be at the battle field, those rockets fields forever, but still they volunteer to be there, in the midst of hell. We all saw that group of elderly veterans who volounteered to get drafted . If it wasn’t so tragic, it was hilarious, pathetic. Last week we saw several civilians, men who volunteered to extinguish fires in the Galilee, runing here and there under the fire among burning bushes and rockets. Then we saw a group of Jewish firemen from NY who had came to the rescue of the local fire dept. We saw those soldiers who got wounded, grinning at us from the TV, declaring that as soon as they get better, they’ll go back in no time to the war zone. We all saw a men aged 105, who lives on the frontline who spends his days happily on the terrace or running in the streets, counting the rockets with much pleasure.

But if you come to me with words such as: altruism, heroism, etc, I’d laught at your face. Why? Because none of us is an altruist, we all are doing what our hormones and subconciousness dictate us . And by the way, even in the tone of most of the male TV reporters, all those "Roni Daniels", you could hear the excitement, the intoxication, as if their Adrenalin is gushing forth. Yes, its about time you, men, face it. In times of danger, you get addicted to the Adrenaline which gushes forth. We, on the other hand have no wish to endanger our lives. Why should we die for nothing?

And now, when the rockets seem closer and closer to me, I am sitting in my little coasy home in Tel Aviv, enjoying my peace and quiet and I just don’t get it, why should I, a women with a small brain, have to pay the price of men’s bloody desire to take risks and go to war.

Thou shall not murder in my name

I've never been to a political demonstration in my life; I'm not a political person. Today was my first, a "stop the war" demonstration in Tel Aviv. I went with an older friend who remembers going to the 1982 huge demonstration after Sabra and Shatila, but we didn't find ourselves in a spontaneous consensus demonstration, on the contrary. This was an extreme left wing one, full with communist flags and symbols (someone even came with a Stalin shirt!), the protest was led by Arab Israelis from Arabic left political parties and that is hardly consensus in this country. In fact, people stopped their cars to shout at us that we are traitors and others threw eggs at us from their balconies. It felt weird. I've never belonged to either left or right, I try to use both my limbs :-)

Many people would agree with the message of the protest: we have no business in Lebanon, this will solve nothing, stop shooting and start talking, we don’t want to be a conquering army, and we prefer exchanging prisoners than body bags. Even people from right wing and certainly most of the soldiers I know don't want wars, but the minute this message is linked with the Palestinian problem, which is a different and more complex issue, and lead by extreme leftists, consensus people just stay indoors and won't support this. There were a couple of us there that belonged no where or came for humanitarian reasons but this wasn't our game, we felt out of place. I took comfort in playing journalist, taking some photos and a video for this Blog.

The loud and most exciting voices in this demonstration came from the Anarchist youth. You know those pictures from Anti-Globalization demonstrations around the world. A growing portion of Israel's youth is becoming Anarchists, and although the parents might suffer a bit, I think it's great for our future, I mean, look at the 60s generation, they grew up to be fine people. I believe in this young generation although they are still stigmatized for refusing army service in debatable ways, and you can't afford to be a pacifist in this country. But somewhere between the Neo-Zionists and the Anarchists we'll find the balance, I'm sure.

There was also a large portion of Queers singing: "we're coming out of the closet so IDF come out of Lebanon". In Hebrew it rhymes so it was brilliant. Not to mention there was a fanatic Rabbi in Jerusalem who claimed that Hezbollah attacked us in the first place only because there was supposed to be a gay parade in the holly city. I hope Nasrahlla heard the parade was cancelled; maybe he'd like to withdraw now…

We may brag about our democracy but Israel is an extremely racist society and I won't even dare to repeat the bad words screamed towards us today. One person even begged Nasrahlla to send a Zilzal rocket to Tel Aviv right now in the midst of this demonstration and screamed he's willing to get hurt too, just to see us bombed. It was very hard for me since I do understand both sides. People here are attacked in extreme ways and they feel they have a right to destroy the attackers. They freak out thinking their own people don’t subscribe to what seems to them as clear (and right!) as the sun will rise in the morning. It's not even about hate or revenge, someone fired at you so you fire back, could there be another answer that isn't stupid and irrelevant? I can understand logically how they see us as traitors. These people are not fanatics, they just don’t trust Arab people anymore and they can't grasp the fact people still try to, it seems suicidal. This is not a left and right issue since many of my leftist friends think we should beat the shit outta the hostiles and swallow the mistakes done on the way.

This is not about political views; it's a clash of value Memes. It's getting beyond "an eye for an eye" which leaves us both blind, as Gandhi said. One of the speakers in the demonstration was a man from Haifa that a rocket ruined his home and he still opposes the war. However, Israel as a whole is clearly not ready to move beyond ideology. For a moment there I thought it's behind us, Post-Zionism was the fashion. But it's amazing how fast we collapse into ideology and mythical clichés when we're being threatened. We have no right to judge other Arab countries since we're being so much like them. The only difference democracy makes is that the police in this country keeps the protestors safe from people who wanna beat the crap outta them, instead of shooting or locking them up.

"Children in Beirut and Haifa want to stay alive!" shouted the protestors. I think everyone will agree with this sentence but not on the means of accomplishing it. So many people are arrogant enough to think our army can accomplish peace and the best solution for BOTH sides. Maybe they're right to trust no one else, but their perspective is too narrow to realize it's absurd.

On the other hand, we already gave up to this inside pressure 6 years ago and pulled out of Lebanon, and what happened? Hezbollah settled back in a better position. It'll be suicidal to leave Lebanese soil but lethal to stay there. My only conclusion is that an international force has to come between us. There is no other way. The world has to stop nodding its head and frowning at Israel and just get its ass over here! Any realistic observer knows none of us can afford to withdrawal now. All this blood will be on the UN and NATO's hands.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Friday night in Tel-Aviv

Last night, as I was visiting my friend in Tel-Aviv we heard on the news that a Hezbollah missile hit the city of Haderah. Haderah is in between Haifa and Tel-Aviv, much closer to the center of Israel. "He kept his promise", I thought. Hezbollah threatened to go further south until he got in Tel-Aviv, and there it was, its first attempt, and it was getting closer to where I lived. My friend said that once a missile hit Tel-Aviv, she would run a way with her family to Jerusalem. She said she could barely sleep at nights as it was – she was so frightened by the whole war situation and she could not bear the thought of her 9 year old son get hurt. As it is, her son is tuned to the news (as all of his friends do) and already has nightmares: "What if Nassaralla hits our home? What if Hezbollah hits school? " He keeps asking her but she doesn't have a real answer. She, of course, tries to convince him that nothing will happen to him because "our strong army will protect us". But, he notices the uncertainty in her voice when she talks to him about it and he is still worried.

As I was leaving my friend's apartment around 11 pm I was thinking of how lucky I was I did not have kids (although I would like to have kids very much). I don't know how I would have coped with seeing their fears and worries. It hurts too much to see these little kids who are supposed to be dealing with kid problems, forced by this harsh reality to contemplate about war and death issues; issues even their parents are having problems coping with.

On my way back to my place, I was passing by Tel-Aviv's restaurants and bars that were filled with people hanging out. Traffic was busy as always on a typical Friday night and it seemed as if the war was hardly remembered as Tel-Aviv's night life was just coming to life. I have to admit that I kind of like the normality this city projects. It's like living in a bubble although I know this bubble can evaporate as fast as it takes a missile to get in Tel-Aviv. Yet, I like it that somewhere in this crazy country there is a place that never shuts down, a place that keeps showing us- the frightened, alert, upset, worried, frustrated "others"- that life continues and should be continued at any time no matter what. Yes, there is in it a sense of sanity amidst this craziness around us. I'd like to think of Tel-Aviv as a smaller equivalent of New York City. Like in NYC, many people who live in Tel-Aviv are "outsiders" feeling quite at home. It is a pluralistic city as it embraces people of all ethnic-social backgrounds. Furthermore, it has the mannerism of a cosmopolitan city as being the center of business and cultural life. It is a city that never goes to sleep offering diverse alternatives for escapism. Yes, "maybe this is what I need right now", I am thinking, "a place where I can get a way for a few minutes from my troubling thoughts I have been contemplating with lately". "Why don't I go into a bar, one of the many opened , and have a drink", I am thinking to myself while still stuck in the traffic jam…but then, "I do not drink, so why start now? I need to be sober and alert when the missile hit close to my home"…I am thinking. Finally, I decide to drive home as planned and get some news updates….

By now traffic was moving and I was heading home as my cell phone was ringing. On the phone was another friend of mine whose husband was called in by the army as a reserved soldier when they were just about to eat their family dinner. I should mention that this friend who is in her 40's has a 19 year old son who is in the army as well fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Ever since this war started and her son was moved to Lebanon she stopped sleeping at nights. She was worried sick for her "baby" fighting in Lebanon. And now, what will she do? Both husband and son were called by the army to "serve" this country. She said she was worried about her husband not being cautious enough while fighting as he himself kept worrying about their son….

That friend made me think of the traditional roles (and outdated to my opinion) Israeli women have been fulfilling in the last 50 years; Israeli women have always been expected to contribute to the collective effort by simply becoming mothers who deliver babies, preferably boys, who could be one day soldiers protecting our lives here…Is that it? Are we doomed to be raising kids for the sake of our country's collective needs? What about our needs? And what about our children's needs? So, the various governments have been telling us over the years that we have had no choice; but what about our children's choice? How are we to protect their lives? Should we have kids at all? I am ending this post with some questions I don't really have answers to, but, as writing earlier, keep me busy these days….

Sleepless with the enemy

it's 3am here and I'm sleepless. reading news sites and Lebanese blogs and commenting so much someone decided i get paid by the foreign ministry. Actually, I'm afraid soon enough they'll offer to pay me in order to shut up.

a couple of hours ago i wrote quite a Zionist post, full of belief in our air force, but i don't like what I'm reading now, the continuous attacks seem irrational and even crazy. they attack places in which our ground forces activate which is completely unlike them, and somehow every one gets killed besides Hezbollah! things i defended an hour ago make me feel stupid or stunned.

I'm confused and I'm torn between all i grew up on and things i hear from individual soldiers, and... the facts. are they facts? what are facts in days of twisted media, psychological wars and digital imaging? how odd is it, that i find authentic bits of sanity I'm willing to call truth only in personal narratives in "enemies" blogs... should I call them enemies? since it seems I'll find myself in this position tomorrow, like it or not. on one hand i want my army to defend me from Hezbollah aggression but on the other hand they must stop those air raids immediately before it evolves into WW3! can both requests exist in the same reality?

I want to be realistic and able to change my opinions in present tense but those quick twists are exhausting. I think I'm going to rest for a couple of days and encourage our other guest women writers working on their posts to hurry up and step inside. stay tuned.

Friday, August 04, 2006

I Love to Hate you

Funny, i started this blog out of frustration, i wanted people in the world to know so many people in Israel don't agree with all of this and speak it up but the more i read Lebanese bloggers and the more i try to write, all my school years of Zionist breeding bursts out of me. in Hebrew blogs i attack my country and in English blogs i defend it like hell. i hear it happens to more people, i mean, we are what we are, after all. the good news is we are open minded. so, although this is the most Zionist post I'll ever write (i promise to get back to my doubtful self), i hope you'll live through it:
Israel doesn’t start wars but it usually wins them. It always starts with a legitimate defense but pretty soon you can't tell the difference between reacting and over-reacting. Army officials would of course explain they're doing only the minimum necessary to create a "safety belt". I would so very much want to believe them, because I served in this strong and moral army, I know soldiers who really shoot and cry. But this IDF entity seems bigger than its sum of individual soldiers and in foreign reports or in the Lebanese blogs I read, it sounds pretty scary. I would like to condemn and defend my army in the same sentence. I'm lost.

In the second season of "Lost" we meet the ex-cop Ana-Lucia who abuses the wrong people and kills some by mistake while trying to protect the group from "the others". When people question her actions she asks: "have I not kept you alive so far?" somehow, as you follow those episodes you come to understand she's doing her best, but no one follows us that closely and somehow we end up being hated again. Being hated is what we do best. It seems Israel is going to conquer the south of Lebanon and "clean" it off Hezbollah. We'll be an occupation army again, convincing ourselves, as usual, that we have no other choice and it's the only way to protect ourselves. Pretty soon the world will forget who started this and why, and we will be condemned, because the world is always for the underdog and we would rather die than broadcast our weakness.

I think Jewish people are so sick and tired of being victims that they will do anything not to appear weak again. Half of Israel is refugees, running south; only yesterday 210 rockets were fired at us and people die on daily basis, but somehow this is not what the world sees on TV. As part of some stupid psychological war against Hezbollah, Israel wants to appear strong and the price is that the whole world sees us as the aggressor. I need you (hence, the world) to know we suffer too. And we are on the same side, because the border doesn't fall between Lebanon and Israel to me, but between two ideologies trying to shoot each other pointlessly and the people caught in the fire between them.

The absurd is that the only reason we're going to war is in order to refrain from hurting Lebanese citizens. I don't know if people realize how easy it is for the Israeli air force to wipe out all those villages in one night. The only reason our soldiers die on daily basis fighting door to door, is because Israel tries to involve as less civilians as possible. It frustrates me so much that people judge IDF's actions without realizing this basic fact.

I hate this war in its macro level, I think it's vicious and pointless and I long for anything from the UN to gray aliens to put an end to it. But on the micro level, I trust the soldiers. The newly drafted reserve forces are my friends and neighbors and I know they'll do their best when it comes to sparing civilians. Although there are problematic ideological pockets in this country, the majority of soldiers don’t fight from deep hate or a sacred cause, they just want to get back home to their families and high tech jobs. So how do you deal with an enemy that destroying you is his main reason for living?

On my last post I wondered about those soldiers dying for my sake, but the truth is they're dying for Lebanese people's sake. I bet you that if the Americans lived here, they would have finished this from the air, justifying the killing of civilians with a good PR system, like they did in Afghanistan and Iraq that didn’t even threaten them directly. I'm wondering if any other country would have acted differently if it had to live in this place. Remember how the British freaked out after one terror attack and started shooting everyone who looked Muslim in the train? Being the only democracy around here is why we even bother to listen to the rest of the world, but please, people, cut us some slack. (I'm trying to do this as well today)

Don`t mention the war

In a brilliant episode of Fawlty Towers, some germans come to the hotel and Basil, who is suffering from a brain concussion, cautions everyone not to mention the war but keeps offering the german guests things like “a Goering salad” and “something to drink before the war”. Finally, when confronted by the insulted germans, he defends himself: “Well, you started it! You invaded Poland!”

It is hard to talk about the war and it is hard not to talk about it. My beloved husband, who is a gentle soul and hasn’t a violent bone in his body, thinks that this time Israel is the justified side and that we have to fight this time, otherwise we will find ourselves in an extremely dangerous situation sooner or later, maybe sooner. A close friend who is like a brother to me is radical left-wing and is appalled by the militarism and agressivity of our government. They both try to talk to me about the war, and I have a hard time talking to them.

What can I say? I say I don’t know. What I do know is that I can’t stand to watch the news and the leaders’ speeches, that if I were the kidnapped soldiers’ parents I would be very angry that freeing them doesn’t seem to be a top priority, that it is absurd to me that people have to be killed, so many people. I don’t know if the war is justified: To me no war is justified. Do I feel confident enough about the war being wrong to go out in the streets and protest? No. Besides, protesting in the streets is very scary to me.

Am I irresponsible for not having a firm opinion to stick to and fight for? Or is that the responsible stance? Again, I do not know. “I do not know… I feel…” are phrases I hear also from my female friends. Maybe it’s a gender issue, though many women do have firm opinions. I do not know. I just wish for us all to be safe soon, for all the craziness to stop.

Lee Evron-Vaknin, 30, lives in Jerusalem. She writes prose and poetry and works as an editor at a “Keter-books” publishing house.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

How does one fire death?

I woke up at 5 am this morning. Noisy war planes were passing back and forth and my first thought was: in Lebanon, in 15 minutes from now, a woman like me will hear the same noise and will be filled with horrible fear. And here I am, ashamed of the fact this noise makes me feel.. Safe. Like it or not, it's mine. Support it or not, it protects me. Someone out there is willing to die for my sake though I never asked for it. Carmit wrote yesterday about choosing sides, but I feel the side was already chosen for me. There wasn't a real choice there. A terrorist aiming rockets at me doesn't check my value preferences.

My Zionism in a nutshell

The image of the Diaspora Jewish man was closer to Woody Allen than to Jacky Chan. Zionism carried the promise of reconnection both to the land and to the body; it was the story of the constant-victim taking responsibility for his life. It was a tempting story. But as Spiderman's uncle said: "With great power comes great responsibility" - power corrupts - the abused may become abusers since they don't know how to break the cycle. This country was and is attacked all the time from all directions. But when it started fighting back and won, it found itself in the new position of the conqueror. Holding on to places it doesn't want to be in and on the verge of loosing its sanity just to maintain some level of normalization.

Every time it tried to pull back and trust, it got just more hate and terror. So a lot of people just can't take this kind of thinking out of their minds, because it's dangerous to do so, it's an anti-survival instinct in these life conditions. Did you know that technically, ever since Israel was founded, it operates legally under orders of emergency conditions originating from the British mandate? Being always alert, even when everything seems normal for years, is our real trademark; you can see this Habitus even after years of immigration. It makes us devour life in present tense.

In my 20s I used to see the bright side of this Zionist army culture. I used to be proud of our fine boys who seemed so mature and independent compared to foreign collage brats. I had to turn 30 (and a bit feminist) in order to start missing gentle men, to realize the price of this imposed conquest culture in other areas of our lives, from the bed to the parliament. And yet, this wasn't the real price we paid for this new amazing Jewish hybrid. The real price was a deal with the devil; with death.

Death is never unemployed

The "sliver tray" is a myth I grew up on; this is the image chosen to frame the horrible toll of deaths in all the wars. "They gave their lives so you could live here" I was told and sang to. Am I supposed to forever tiptoe on a grave yard, filled with guilt and sense of debt? This new war claims its death toll already. We don’t have a professional army, everyone here serves in the army. And these days when all the army reserves are being drafted, we're talking about my friend's husbands and my students. I know war has its rules and there's a supposed distinction between soldiers and civilians, but being on this side of the fence, it's just hard to perceive a soldier as an abstract faceless symbol when he's your next door neighbor.

Last week my friend's little brother died in the combat of Bint Jabil. I was present when army officials told the family how brave he was, how he jumped on a live grenade to save other people's lives. I was full of anger when I heard that, I was angry that he didn't think before he did something so stupid, he has 2 small kids who won't even remember they had a father, what was he thinking??? But the family seemed to react differently. The hero framing seems to bring a sort of consolation to his loved ones. All I could think of is how smart it is to draft people when they're young, because the older I grew, it seems I'm less willing to die for a cause, any cause. Am I the freak here?

The whole country is waking up in the last two weeks, you see the "be strong" or "we shall win" stickers every where. This keeps reminding me of Sting's lines in "Russians": "There's no such thing as a winnable war, it's a lie we don’t believe anymore". However, in the Post-Zionist era I'm afraid we failed to create an alternative ethos to make meaning and construct identity. We must unite against a vicious enemy every once in a while, or else we'll be lost, alienated, comfortably numb. And Arab nations are no better than us, if they won't have us to hate they might start a civil war. The diverse Arab world feels so together against us, the "others". But we're not that different, are we? Every time I met Muslim people in my backpacking trips, we would hit it off immediately and find so much more in common than any of us with any other traveler. I could never hate a person because his country was hostile to mine. I can't really hate anyone, even when I fight them off.

Death is never unemployed in the middle east. Planes keep humming above my house as I speak. I hear our troops are fighting tonight too. I pray I won't wake up tomorrow to the news about more heroes of that sort. How many mothers and wives are sleepless tonight? How does one fire death?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Kung-fu, Kindergarten and war

The Martial Art of Kung Fu isn't really about kicking each other's ass like in movies. It's really about reaching such a high level of self defense, that you actually never get to use it and you just live in harmony with life. I like this idea when I think of armies too. The stronger you are, the more you practice, should mean less likelihood to get into conflict. I don’t like this morning's headlines; it seems Israel is preparing for a real war. The more strength, unity and righteousness are being exercised, I smell disaster.

Do we really want to destroy Hezbollah? Do we really want to see the horrible things that hide behind this puppet and meet them face to face (Iran's atomic weapons, for instance…)? Does anyone in this country have any idea what he's doing one day after tomorrow??? Or as Elza Maaluf, a Lebanese-American citizen, active in the Integral newsgroup I attend, asked: Does Israel really think it can bomb an ideology?

Kid A: The sand box area is mine. if you step in there, I'll hit you with a stick
Kid B: Yours? Interesting, since I'm already standing in it for an hour. If you try to get me outta here, I'll hit you with a stone.
Kid A: You won't dare, you're a coward
Kid B: Did you call ME a coward??? @###Boom!@@##
(Throwing sticks and stones)
Adult: Put down the sticks and stones and play together immediately
Kid A: He is in MY sand box
Kida B: Technically it's MY sand box
Kida A: I was here first
Kid B: I was sent here by the kindergarten teacher herself!
Adult: I'm sorry guys but nobody can own a sand box. Besides, it's big enough for both of you to play.

This isn't' really about space, is it? It's about having things the way I want them in the world because I can't comprehend it else how. A different will becomes an enemy. Reality becomes an enemy and we seem to keep arguing with it, wanting to change it, wanting more pieces of it…
Listen, kids, men, I don't have time and patience for your lethal sand fights. Can the kindergarten teacher please interfere?

I wish this was as simple as this morning's kung fu lesson: always stay out of the range of your partner. The instant he enters your range – attack. But if he pulls back don’t chase him into his range, boy, you'll be in trouble than, Carmel. Even if you think you can handle it, that you're stronger, that you already know all his tricks, do not be tempted. Every time I was tempted to stay too much within his range, I got hit, since I couldn't maintain this full concentration for too long. Even if you're Bruce Lee, your first priority is to get outta his range. Only than we weigh the necessity of hitting back from a different angle. It depends what you're trying to accomplish.

The more energy you use, the larger your movements are, you're not following the best option, Carmel. Do not resist if he pulls you, flow with him, it's your best chance to find a weak spot on the way, use his own force against him, you can do it without any force from your side, sometimes it's just a twist away. We're fighting in order to be safe. Your first priority is defense. You hit your partner as a signal teaching him where are his weak spots, where his awareness isn't present yet and he's not covering it. Try to learn from his hits too.

Why rush into choosing sides?

I find myself quite confused lately. Naturally, I would rather have this war ended heading towards a diplomatic course of action rather than a military one. I would like to see these 19-20 year olds, serve as soldiers, coming home unharmed and see no more victims both in the Israeli and in the Lebanese sides. But, at the same time, am I supposed to voice an oppositional, anti-war voice automatically? I am pro protest anywhere and anytime. I do not have a problem with the right to protest. I do believe that we have to ask our government some difficult questions and not to go after their war strategy blindly like a sheep herd. Yet, I am against the automatic respond left-wing activists generate: Give me a chance to evaluate-and re-evaluate my own believes and thoughts.

Yes, I admit, this war brings up a frightening sense of déjà vu. The bleeding pictures and sights from the first Israeli war in Lebanon in the 1980's pop up in my mind like those unwanted Internet banners. And yes, I would expect my government to think it over and over before rushing into military acts. I would like the Israeli prime-minister not to sleep at night as he goes through the possible horrible outcomes of this "new" war.

But, and that is a big "but", if I am normally oriented toward left-wing politically supporting the "peace" movements, does this mean that I have to protest against this war automatically? As a rational, pragmatic person I would like to think I am (or at least trying to be), am I not obligated to think this through over and over again until I am actually able to form some kind of a clear and concrete opinion? I think that many people feel the same way in this respect – humanistic, human-right activists in nature and soul who find themselves quite confused in pertaining to the legitimacy of this war.

That is not to say that I am supporting this war or completely believe my government when declaring about the necessity of this war. All I am saying is that, given the complicated circumstances, I am not sure regarding my attitude which was changing in the last 2 week several times. Therefore, I refuse to "give-in" to some other peace activists who are already on the streets protesting and naming the Israeli government all kind of names as part of their always-prepared, non-spontaneous, non-rational protest….

Carmel: I say that if something is ALWAYS right - It's wrong. Values should always meet other values in different strategies and relvancies. being left wing can't mean saying the same thing about evrey thing at any time.