Sunday, April 29, 2007

Politics and Family

So often family issues come in the way of any form of political activism. We were talking about it here, IsraeliDad and myself, wondering whether we should get more active and actually "do something". When we were younger we used to participate in left-wing demonstrations every now and again. The last one we went to, we already had one baby and carried him along with is. It seems like there are fewer large demonstrations being held nowadays. I guess part of it is a reflection on the morale of the Israeli left wing. There was a wave of euphoria when Barak went to Washington and offered what was seen as a very progressive offer by Israel. By the same token, hopes were crashed when Arafat failed to respond to that offer. I realize that this is a game of perception. I won't even go into that argument here (I have discussed this in
detail with Khaled on his site here

Bottom line, is that the Israeli moderate left-wing has taken a major blow and I'm not sure it's on the recovery just yet. I don't recall any huge demonstrations in the past few years. We finally got an email this week, inviting us for a demonstration calling our Prime Minister to move forward and initiate official negotiations with Syria, regardless of what the Americans will say. It's meant to be a journey up to the Golan Heights, where families will drive up to the border carrying posters calling for peace with Syria. We really wanted to go to that one, but unfortunately we have a Bar Mitzva on the same day... So, there you go. Family engagements come in the way again. It's pretty much an emblem of my life in general. Any political awareness is usually pushed aside by the mundane tasks of raising a family. And on this note I have to leave now, my son needs a change of clothes here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Recovering from a mild cold...

Too much talking politics probably, I came down with a cold yesterday. I'm better today, but not a lot to post on really. Khaled left yesterday morning, on his way to Jerusalem and then the West Bank. I feel a bit OD'ed on politics atm, so no long post here today. Don't get me wrong, it's a fascinating visit so far, and we're enjoying every minute. We've tried to get quite a few of our family members/friends to meet Khaled and the one word they keep coming up with after meeting him is "fascinating". It's good, I guess. Good for us to see things from a totally different perspective. We don't argue a lot over facts (well, ok, a little), but it's interesting to see how two different narratives have evolved around the same facts. Each side chooses to emphasize some aspects and ignore others.

The bottom line for me so far? (or is it too Israeli to be looking for a bottom line? ;)) Well, Khaled and ourselves, despite our different opinions on some things, could easily reach peace in the Middle East. A warm kind of peace too, with friendships forming across borders. We could live in a confederation even. Unfortunately, I still think that Khaled is in the minority in the Arab world. Here in Israel, people like here may not be in the majority either (about 50/50 at this point, I think). It is encouraging for us to see that likeminded people do exist in the countries around us. Would we be enough to reach not only peace, but a viable Middle East, liberal, advanced, progressive, where human and civil rights are adhered to? Will the Middle East be the next European Union? or did this visit make us delusional?

Anyway, read on on Khaled's blog. I know I do!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Zionism 101 - Day 2 of the Visit

If there's one theme that keeps coming up in our conversations during Khaled's visit it's the different versions to history out there. Don't get the wrong impression, we don't actually spent too much time arguing about facts - for one thing we do mostly agree on the facts, for another thing, when we disagree we usually agree that it's not that important. All the same, it's fascinating for me to see how the same facts can be construed into such essentially different historical narratives. It sometimes takes someone who looks at the same facts from a totally different angle to help you see that, I guess.

Yesterday's visit to the museum of the Palmach was prime example. I have been to this museum several times before. As I warned Khaled prior to his visit, this place gives you a hardcore Zionist experience, telling the tale of the war of 1948 from the Zionist perspective. All the same, it never fails to move me and my family when we visit there. Granted, the exhibition is well thought out and planned to pull at the heart strings. We can see as much by ourselves. The story is told through the eyes of a group of Palmach members, and you can't help but like these young men and women, with their very human feelings of love, fear, humor. When several of them get killed during the war, it's heartbreaking. Like a good soap opera, if you like. Still, as I said, it's effective...

When Dovale (one of the characters) talks about how he saved his little sister from the concentration camp in the end of the war and brought her into the country aboard the Exodus, and how painful it was for her to be sent out to another fenced camp after having walked on the soil of the Land of Israel for only 20 meters, it breaks my heart, Sorry. The fact that we were visiting there during the Eve of the Memorial Day only added to this. I had to reign in the tears, not wanting to make a fool of myself in front of the group of young tank guides (all women) which we were assigned to go the tour with. If those teenaged girls managed to keep a stiff upper lip, I figured I should as well. There was only so much I could do though, by the end I was crying. Sue me.

So, we're walking out of the museum, and asking our guest how he found the museum. To our great disappointment, Khaled showed no inclination to join the IDF and fight for the cause alongside our wonderful people. He actually, ummmm, found the exhibition to be well carried out but quite biased and one-sided, or as he put it, "propaganda". So, there you have it, I have seen this several times, and it never actually occurred to me that the Arab side isn't really represented in the exhibition. In fact, there isn't too much animosity or hostility towards Arabs there. The Arabs, other than in their role as the military forces against which we've had to fight, simply aren't there. Through out the years prior to 1947, the storyline relates to the Nazis and the British, and to internal fights within the Jewish settlers. Arabs? What Arabs?

I digress into an analysis of the exhibition here, but I'm using it as an illustration of something that I am seeing through out the visit so far. It's a positive thing, it's what I had hoped for, in a way. A fresh perspective for us, a well as a way to show our perspective to Khaled. Some things we seem to be taking for granted here, and it's always good to have someone rattle your ideological cage and make you think.

So... back to the descriptive account of our day. We came back from Tel Aviv and went through shopping center to get some groceries for dinner, then headed back home. The kids were being looked after by my dear mother-in-law and were all excited to see us. It took longer than expected to get dinner going, but we managed to do that eventually. The fact that IsraeliDad here decided to join his father in another hot air balloon escapade wasn't very helpful either... They didn't fly aboard one, but they flew a small one up the air. It flew further than expected, sending ID running after it through town. We still don't know where it landed, but apparently no huge fire registered in the vicinity.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Solving the Conflict

Khaled has arrived yesterday, woohoo! We were a bit concerned about how he would make it through the airport, but it didn't take as long as we feared it might. He only went through 4 investigators lol and then a chatty and friendly can driver too.

I met Khaled as he arrived and showed him to his room. We talked for a few minutes and since it was almost 4 AM, we figured it might be best for him to catch some sleep. Unfortunately, at 6:30, my five years old son was knocking at his door with a somewhat earlier than expected wake-up call ;) He did go back to sleep after that, so we were assured (Khaled, not my son, who was rather embarrassed later on by the episode, but easily appeased with some yummy Belgian chocolate!).

Breakfast took longer than expected, as we got into some fairly interesting conversation with our guest. My parents-in-law, my husband, myself and our guest of honor, with a constant hum of the kids in the background, we got talking, learning more about each other, and of course, discussing history as well as the current state of affairs in the Middle East. I can see how the fresh new perspective does bring the debate into life. We finally decided it was time to get up from the table and take a look at the Zionist State, all dressed up in blue and white flags. Today it's the Eve of Memorial Day here, going into a very sad day tomorrow which then switches abruptly into the celebrations of the Independence Day tomorrow evening. Everywhere is filled with flags, and even Khaled himself travel led with my father in law with two prominent Israeli flags proudly waving on the car roof lol We need to take a picture of that, makes it look like a formal visit indeed. Following them in our car, we actually chuckled and wondered what it might feel like for us, traveling in a neighboring country and being driven around with say, the Palestinian or Syrian or Iranian flag waving above our head at all times.

Our destination was the nearby kibbutz of Ein Shemer where they run a small tourist attraction called The Old Courtyard. It tells the story of the early settlers of the kibbutz, from long before the establishment of the State of Israel. In essence, giving you the Zionist "pioneers" ethos, with all of its cross stitched Russian shirts glory. We spent some time there, watching a short movie about life there in early times and looking over the exhibits. My kids were a bit disappointed, as they came mainly for "the movie" expecting the latest entertainment, Walt Disney style, the only got a "boring" 15 minutes presentation in English. I hope Khaled enjoyed it more than they did lol.

Back to the house to a small feast of homemade cooking by my dear mother-in-law. It's hard to describe this visit without the soundtrack really, of incessant talking on both sides. Before, throughout and after the meal, there is just an endless and very pleasant stream of questions, answers, views and ideas. One of the topics that came up was the experience of Jews who used to live in Arab countries, at which point I suggested that we go up and meet my grandfather, an elderly gentleman of Tunisian origin. And so, off we went to visit him and my mother and sister, in the town of Netanya.

The meeting proved to be hilarious. My grandpa finally had a chance to practice his Tunisian Arabic. His mother tongue, but he had not used it much for the past sixty years! An entertaining exchange of words went on, with him and Khaled comparing Egyptian and Tunisian dialects, mixing everything heavily with French as well. I was surprised to see just how easy it was for me to follow the conversation. My very limited knowledge of Arabic went well with the accents and dialects used and even the French part, went in well. I guess growing up listening to Tunisian Arabic and Tunisian French at my grandparents home, and also watching the famous "Egyptian" movie on Fridays on TV... something sunk in after all!

We decided to do a short tour of Netanya. A favorite destination for both French-Jewish tourists with a beautiful promenade by the seaside. My sister joined us and we walked around, and ended up in a nice restaurant which I used to frequent with my family while growing up. The restaurant is co-owned by Arabs and Jews and we were fortunate to have the Arab co-owner approach us. He did not only take our orders, but also had a nice exchange with Khaled. It was clear that he was very curious about this guest from Egypt, a first for him there in the restaurant. He came back several times, sharing his views on things, with Khaled in Arabic, with us in Hebrew and with both in English sometimes as well.

We finally headed back home, after picking up two sleeping children from my mom who had been baby sitting them for the evening. We nearly solved the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the way back, but some hurdles are still left. I am sure we'll go through them today! A solution by the end of the visit? I can't guarantee anything at this point. I will say though, that I am certain that if everyone can just talk like we're doing here constantly, in a such a friendly way, this conflict would indeed have a much better chance at ending, sooner than later too.

More to come in the next few days - I'll keep ya all posted! You can and should read Khaled's version of things in his blog dedicated specifically to this vist -

Friday, April 13, 2007

An Exciting Visit and Some Other Thoughts

Posting this during a short break in between preparing a small feast for this evening... We're expecting a very special visitor here within a week's time. It's Khaled Diab, aka DiabolicalIdea on the forums. We still have some activity over there, but out of the public eye, in a private forum which essentially includes the former staff members there. Khaled and myself have also had some interesting exchanges over the past few weeks, posted on his site here -
Exchange of Friendly Fire

I am very excited about this visit. The general plan is to turn Khaled into a true Zionist and a bearer of the new gospel to his fellow Arabs across the Middle East. Well, no, not really :p Actually, until I started Metalks, I had no idea that Zionism was such a loaded concept. It was the most natural thing in the world to me. Sure, I'm an Israeli and Jewish, therefore, I'm a Zionist. Simple, really. Nothing to ponder over for too long. When I grew up, I even assumed that all Jews were Zionists. I was somewhat shocked, to tell the truth, when confronted with what some people thought about Zionism. Turned out that for many people around the world, we're this brutal, violent and scary entity. Who knew. I always thought we were supportive of social justice and peace among the nations. Who could possible have anything against Zionism? and this is only a slight exaggeration btw, from what it felt like - that discrepancy between my own perception of Zionism, and that of others.

In a way, I am looking forward to seeing my country through Khaled's eyes, and showing him what it looks like to us. I think this can be an enlightening experience, for both of us. I am sure it will be for me. I will post more as we go along, and I know that Khaled will do the same on his blog. Best place to catch Khaled and his thoughts are on his site:

On another topic, I just wanted to note here, for all to see, and for future generations... I still think that my government is making a HUGE mistake nowdays. Syria is coming forward, albeit hesitantly, with a peace offering of sorts. I expect Israel to embrace that and jump on the opportunity. You have to be blind not to see that this is our best, and maybe even our only, chance at solving the Hezbulla problem. Peace with Syria, in effect blockading Hezbulla, is the only effective measure there. We're missing on that, and I'm afraid we might be heading for round 2 of the war as well, judging by the tunes coming from the HA in Beirut...

I can see two reasons why Olmert doesn't grab the opportunity. Ok, maybe three. The first, is that him and his advisers are complete idiots and don't see the situation which is very clear to me - that this is the way to bring down HA. No military solution will achieve that. Why get dragged into a second round of pointless fighting that will only bring on more tragedy on the Lebanese people and on Israel? Now, assuming that they're not complete morons, and can see as much, I can see two things possibly holding Olmert back:
1. The Americans saying they don't want us to talk to Syria, it being part of the axis of evil (I think that's the term?). Personally, I think it's appaling that our PM will sacrifice the lives of our soldiers and of civilians in both countries to appease the Americans. The price is too high.
2. Internal Political hurdles. Namely, the right-wing parties will resign from the government, possibly bringing down the coalition. That indeed is a huge problem. I think this is where the left needs to step in and assure Olmert of a political blanket.

Why is none of this happening? Beats me. To be honest, I don't have too much time to watch the news or read the papers. I just hope someone gets it somewhere in this country and realizes that now's the time to act.