Monday, May 19, 2008

Blogging away on

Already have 3 posts down, so I guess it's official now! Please do join me at and read about the last holiday (with some pictures) and the next one!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Moving to a new domain name

It's almost two years since I started this blog, and I feel that it's time to move forward and move to my own domain name and hosting. I just bought (the .com is taken, although not in use, and the current owner doesn't want to sell it :( ). I am excited about the move, as it means I'll be able to use Wordpress with a bunch of plug-ins which I like. Nothing against blogger/blogspot - I think it's a wonderful free platform and highly recommend it to anyone seeking a free blogging service.

Lots to post about, but I prefer to wait till we're at the new place. Hopefully will be up and running within a few days! I'll still post here every now and again to refer folks to the new place. Hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some more Thoughts about the Conflict

Warning - another long post ahead! I have these thoughts running through my head, resonating and developing, and I'd like to share them here.

I truly believe that in order to change things and arrive at a solid foundation for peace, we have to learn to accept each other narratives. A narrative isn't necessarily "historical truth" if there is even such a thing. Yes, many events are documented, and I have a lot of respect for history as a discipline, but in the end of the day, we can go on arguing forever, because each side will pick the events that best suit their narrative, emphasize some events, and ignore or play down others. It's not an unimportant debate, the historical one, but it has to be done with a mind to reach the other side, teach them about our narrative, and learn theirs, with an aim of reaching a stage where we can acknowledge and respect the other side's narrative.

I respect the Palestinian narrative of the Naqbe. Yes, those villages were destroyed in the war, and it was a national tragedy of huge proportions. In the Palestinian narrative, they were driven away from their land by force by the Zionists. It's a narrative of pain and longing and one which I acknowledge and would like to work with in the future.

The Zionist narrative of the very same events is a different one. It's not myths to be put down and erased, IMO. It deserves its place in the joint space we're trying to build here, just as much as the Palestinian narrative deserves its own space. It's a narrative of a people who were (in their own feelings, as legitimate as those of any others) on the verge of extinction. Of people who lived under the fear of being slaughtered by their Palestinian neighbors (as has happened to Jews living in Hebron for example, and in other places). It's a narrative of a group of people dedicated to establishing a free national home for their people, just like the Palestinians are looking to do for themselves now. People dedicated, at least on the ideological level, to concepts of democracy, socialism and development of the land, along their neighbors (talking about the mainstream Zionism of that time, and to some extent up until now). I could go on, but I'll stop here. My point is that both sides should try and see both sides of the story, or we'll never get anywhere. I am opening my mind and my heart to the story of the Naqbe, to the Palestinian narrative. I think it should be taught in Israeli schools and hopefully that will happen someday. I agree that mainstream Zionists are not familiar enough with it, and thus many do not empathize enough with the pain of it. We have a lot to work on (not much of a surprise, eh? ;) ).

At the same time, I think Palestinians, those living inside of Israel, those living in the territories, and just anyone who right now is anti-Zionists, should maybe take the time to open their own minds and hearts too to the Zionist narrative. Get to know it, get to know us, because unless we do that, war will continue.

I'll end with something from the seminar in Givat Haviva (long post, I know - don't shoot me please!). We were fortunate to have a Palestinian older gentleman tell us his personal story of the Naqbe. His name was Adnan, or Abu Hussam, and he told the story of his village of Lajun in what we know today as Emek Yizrael. As it happens, they were never actually driven out per se, but ran away as refugees in the middle of the night after the Arab armies withdrew from their area. What touched me the most, was his story of this then 6-7 years old boy, scared out of his wits, riding a donkey in the middle of the night, and hearing the bullets flying over his head. I have a son who's the same age now, and it broke my heart. I think more Israelis should hear stories like this more often. At the same time, it made me think of my grandmother, who lived in the town of Holon, pregnant with my dad in her belly, and taking care of a 2 years old baby (my aunt), and being fired at every night, by Arabs in nearby villages. Just as scary, just as tragic, just as real. It also made me think of my other grandfather, at the same age, running through the markets of Tunisia, with his injured mother, slashed in her leg by Arabs in an outbreak of riots against Jews. Again, just as scary, just as tragic, just as real.

You see, war is always a tragedy, and no side has a monopoly on heartache. Let's listen to both stories, with respect, with empathy and with a willingness to change the future (the near future too), so that these stories don't repeat as often.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Naqbe-Independece Day Seminar - First Impressions

It's the 60th Independence Day in Israel today. Been a bit of a strange one for me this year, having attended the joint Israeli-Palestinian, or Arab-Jewish, or whatever you'd like to call it, meeting/seminar or whatever you'd like to call that...

It will take some time for me to digest what I've seen and heard, I think. So, these are just first impressions, really. In fact, I'll focus on just describing what went on, I think, just tell what I experienced.

We arrived at Givat Haviva yesterday, my parents-in-law and myself, yesterday at 2PM. A quiet day, Memorial Day in Israel, a day when Israelis take time to remember those who have lost their lives in our many wars. It's always a quiet sad day, with sad songs on the radio and nothing but Memorial programs on TV (not that I dare watch any of them - way too painful). So, four hours are the sirens were blowing for two minutes in memory of the fallen soldiers, we arrived at the Kibbutz.

People were hanging around one of the main halls there (they have quite a few places there, since the Kibbutz specializes in courses and seminars). People of all ages, Arabs, Jews and others too. Some children running around too. We signed up at the entrance and went into the hall, where there were mattresses and pillows on the floor, and plastic chairs all around. A musician was playing sad and beautiful music on a clarinet.

After a while, people entered the room and the first session begun. It was led by two people, an Arab man, Jamal, and a Jewish woman, Michal. The whole event was in Hebrew, by the way, with speakers in Arabic translated into Hebrew. They did apologize for that, sort of, and explained that it was a technical thing.

There was quite a long opening talk, where the organizers thanked us all profusely for coming, and took time to emphasize how difficult it is for people of both sides to make this step, this hugely unpopular step for many outside the room, and try to spend the Naqbe Day/Independence Day together, sharing our experiences.

The main theme of the whole seminar, as explained by the speakers, was to listen to each other's pain, to listen to each other's stories, without judging and without guilt too. I really liked that approach, as expressed there and then. The idea was to listen and not to argue. Not to focus on historical fact, and argue about which event was real and which was not, but just show empathy and make room for the other side's narrative. Solutions were not to be discussed either - a rather feminine outlook, I guess, of solving conflict by listening and showing empathy.

I liked that notion a lot, and it was actually why I came in the first place. I will say here and now that I feel that the seminar did not fully achieve its goal, at least not during the time I was there (I did not stay till the end). I felt that while the Palestinian narrative, the personal, emotional one, was well delivered, no room was given for the Zionist narrative of the same events. I am not talking about historical facts either, just about emotions and human experiences from the time. I think a Palestinian acceptance, not in the sense of agreement, just as acknowledgment, of the Zionist narrative is just as crucial as a Zionist acceptance of the Palestinian narrative.

The next session was a lecture by an Israeli left-wing historian, Dr. Yair Boimel, about the Zionist-Palestinian conflict (his definition btw, which I really liked). It was absolutely fascinating and delivered in a very professional, well balanced way, and with some humor too (more on that later). His lecture went by the premise that history is shaped by decisions made by human beings. Be them politicians or ordinary people, it's actions which people chose to make that shaped our history.

Dr. Boimel then went on to review the various points of disputes and dilemmas through out the history of the Zionist-Palestinian conflict from 1800 till today, reviewing decisions on both sides and essentially pointing out how they were decisions, and not something forced on any side. I liked both the thesis presented and the wealth of solid information provided during the lecture. It was an eye opener on some points, even.

Next on the evening's agenda was a joint Memorial Service, which turned out to be pretty much a Memorial Service for the Naqbe. Now, having grown up in a mainstream Zionist environment, the Naqbe, as a concept, was something we learned about fairly recently, about a decade ago. In that sense, I have a lot to learn, and it's what I came to experience too. To listen and show empathy to a national trauma experienced by "the other side".

I had no problem with that part of the evening. My problem was with the lack of balance. The evening was made up of two personal stories. The first was a moving tale of an elderly Palestinian gentleman, whose family ran away from their village in the Galille, lost their homes and became refugees because of the war. It was told in Arabic (and I was surprised to see that I could understand at least half of what he said without the translation), and brought a very personal childhood story of one person. Highly effective and moving, and the kind of story I would like to see more Israelis exposed to.

The second story, I expected to be the story of an Israeli/Jewish person who lived through the same war, and would come to tell about the fear of annihilation, about refugees from the holocaust facing destruction again, about fighting and losing your friends and dear ones to the war, and then the joy of being saved and gaining independence. Instead, we had a Jewish-Israeli person of the right age, who came to tell us again about the Naqbe experienced by the Palestinians. Basically, telling us how he had witnessed the bulldozers destroying the empty villages near where he had lived and building new neighborhoods there, and then talking about the denial the Israelis live in, and the guilt we should be feeling. Not very constructive, I felt, and definitely not a story to evoke emotions of empathy and sharing.

Next was a peaceful and quite moving ceremony. The clarinet was playing a sad tune, and a circle of unlit candles was placed in the middle of the room. People were invited to come forward and light a candle in memory of someone who was killed, or a community destroyed or anything else that they wanted to bring up. It was again, personal and a place of empathy and joint sorrow. Palestinians lit candles for people they knew who were killed in war, of their late parents who became refugees. Jews lit candles for people killed in wars and terror attacks, and also for family members who died in the holocaust. The children of Gaza were mentioned more than once, by both sides (unfortunately, the children of Sderot killed by Kassams were not mentioned...).

I think this post is getting long enough, so I'll describe the next day in another post. Time to get back to earth, clean the house, clean the kids, feed them and tuck them into bed. Back to the normal life of a mom - in the hope for normal lives for moms, dads, kids and everyone else in our region.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A few more pictures from Passover

A quick post today, just uploading a few more pictures from our Passover holiday to share with family and friends.

From a short hike we took near Zikhron Ya'acov's Hanadiv Gardens. I posted more pictures from the gardens themselves here. That's me and Ron there, resting near the ancient Roman Villa (great location for a villa btw, right on top of the Carmel Mt. with a great view of the Mediterranean!)

Next two pictures are from the Air Force museum near Be'er Sheva. It was a hot day, but the kids enjoyed the planes.

I really like this picture of the boys with the pelicans. It was taken in the Monkey Forest Park in Yodfat in the Galillee. The boys decided that the Pelicans were brothers, so they posed next to them.

So much for the pictures. In a about ten minutes from now the sirens are going to go off marking the beginning of the Memorial Day. Tomorrow is the Memorial Day itself, and then tomorrow evening, the country switches into celebration mode and the Independence Day celebrations begin. Mega celebrations this year, since it's the 60th Independence Day.

As if the mixture of grief and celebrations tomorrow wasn't enough, things will be even more complicated tomorrow, as I'll be going to the Arab-Jewish seminar that will discuss those events along with the Palestinian Naqba. I wonder what it will be like, keeping an open mind for now. I will definitely report when I'm back.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Holocaust Day - Some Thoughts

It's the Holocaust Memorial Day here today. The sirens went off about an hour ago, to mark two minutes of silence in memory of those who died in the Holocaust. I can't stand listening to any more holocaust stories, so my radio is tuned on Galgalatz where they only serve music. Sad music, Hebrew songs only, but still better than those stories.

Like most people of my generation, third generation to the Holocaust, I think we've been handed down our own version of post traumatic stress syndrome from the Holocaust. We've been exposed to so many survivor stories at school, some directly, some through movies. I recall one particularly traumatic seminar, in high school, where they sent us for three days away from home in some holocaust research institute where we got lecture after lecture, movie after movie, about the subject. Lots of Nazi propaganda too, to the extent that I distinctly recall how I felt disgusted by all these Jews in the movies. Felt awfully weird, knowing I belong to that minority - that effective those movies were.

I think only in recent years, since having children of my own, did I realize just how traumatizing this exposure to the horrors of the holocaust was. I don't even want to get into the historical uniqueness of the holocaust, I don't think it really matters on the personal level. In the end of the day, people exposed to such conditions get scarred, mentally. It's what post traumatic stress is all about. The experience of the holocaust is just a very very extreme form of that stress, but it's essentially the same type of stress in every war, of any situation where you and your family are facing mortal peril, really. It's been burnt into our mental retinas, in a way, growing up in Israel. And it keeps coming back, in various ways. That underlying sense, that your world could come apart, and you'll be thrown, helpless, into a storm of war that will wipe off your children, yourself, anyone dear to you.

Sigh. Not much more to say. For myself, I try to shelter my kids from those stories, for as long as I can. Not an easy task here, but they do spare the kindergarten kids, so they're safe for now. I think I won't let them go to any holocaust seminar when they grow up though.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In between Holidays and Memorial Days

I swear, there's not a week without some festivity, holiday or memorial day in this country. The long Passover vacation has finally ended, whew! We survived! And even managed to have some fun with the kids too. I have quite a bunch of pictures to post too, and will start with that today.

This week we'll be marking the Holocaust Memorial Day, and next week it's the Memorial Day for those killed during their military service, followed right away by our 60th Independence Day. Never a dull moment! I'm going to have a different kind of Independence Day though. There's a joint seminar of Arabs and Jews taking place on that day, where participants will be talking about the events of 1948 from their very different perspectives.

This is about Israeli citizens, not Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, but those Palestinians/Arabs (not sure how they wish to define themselves) who live with us and form 20% of the population of the State of Israel. I realize they have a very different angle on what happened back then, not celebrating the Independence Day, but rather having their own Memorial Day for the Naqba. I am curious about that, actually, and I want to learn more. I have never been to such a seminar before, and I'm both curious and apprehensive. I will write a separate post about it, I hope, before I leave, with my own thoughts and expectations. Should be interesting to compare afterwards.

Ok, I mentioned Passover pictures, so I'll start with the first batch of pictures from the Seder itself -

We celebrated the Seder at my brother-in-law's place in Neta'im. It's just about over an hour away from here, and we were afraid it might take double the time with the Seder traffic, but we got lucky, and it didn't take that long after all. Still, Dan napped on the way, which was a good idea. Grandpa Amos didn't mind being his pillow either -

We actually arrived early, so could enjoy my SIL's table decor for a while.

Can't have a Seder without Matzh -

Wouldn't that be a weird plate to be having as one of the guests? Good thing it's the central Seder plate, with the six elements of the Seder Plate. I found a link explaining it all on Wikipedia -

Just because it's kosher and you can't have any dough, doesn't mean you don't get fabulous cakes!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Happy Passover!

Just a quick note to officially say Happy Passover! We've had the Seder night last night, and I'll post some pictures soon. Looks like a busy day ahead of us, with bringing my 6 yo son back home from my Mom's, along with my niece, and then possibly heading out to visit family in the Lower Galilee. Hey, the camera is back from China, so there will be pictures posted!