Attacking Women of the Wall has nothing to do with Judaism

Attacking Women of the Wall (WOW) has nothing to do with Judaism.

Similarly, rioting on the Temple Mount has nothing to do with Islam.

Spitting, screaming and blowing loud whistles at the Kotel are the ultimate disrespect towards our holy site. This behavior is very unJewish indeed. Jews do this to WOW regularly…

The Women of the Wall come together to pray in the women’s section of the Kotel. They are there for Rosh Chodesh and all religious holidays. There is nothing in the Torah to prohibit women from praying. These women also have a Torah scroll. There is nothing in the Torah to prohibit women from reading Torah or possessing one. Despite this, both the non-religious Jews and the ultra religious Jews show hate and venom towards these women who by all accounts are simply observant Jews.

In Reform, we believe that all of us were given the Torah. We were a “mixed multitude” at Sinai. The Torah wasn’t just given to men, but to women, children, elderly, disabled, gay straight, skinny, fat, dark skinned, light skinned, etc. We always have been and shall remain a mixed multitude. There is nothing homogenized about Judaism. Non-Reform Jews hate WOW and accuse them of an agenda that does not exist. Non-Reform Jews are threatened by a very simple difference: Reform Jews include women in ritual practice.

It would be wise to remind all Jewry that all of our ancestors stood together at Sinai. Israel is the Jewish State for world Jewry, not just Orthodox. Israel exists not as a “right” for Jews, but because she has a responsibility to provide a place for all of us.

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When Orthodox Jews tell Reform Jews they are not Jewish I want to do the following: I want to take them to Yad Vashem and access the database. I would ask the Orthodox person to put in his family name and location during the Shoah. They would see their family listed and where they were deported, along with the date of their extermination. Next, I would type in my family name, our location and show them where we were deported and our date of extermination. Perhaps sitting there in front of the computer, next to me, they would absorb the severity of their ways and just maybe they would catch a glimpse of why there is no upside to despising us, telling us we are not Jewish and acting hateful.

Members of WOW have been threatened with physical harm and even death. Graffiti, hate mail, throwing rocks and accusations of hating Israel are just a few of the abominations committed by fellow Jews against them.

The police nor security does their job to protect WOW nor maintain order at the Kotel when these hateful outbursts erupt. The duty to serve the public and protect human beings from bodily harm is ignored. The slander and libel against members of WOW is promulgated on social media, news outlets and gossip circles.

This is not only being tolerated, but encouraged and Jews of all types are participating in this despicable behavior.

When will Jews realize that the in-fighting and making enemies of our own brothers and sisters has never once in all of our history served us well?

This is not an opinion piece. This is not my attempt to tell other Jews that they cannot have their own opinions about WOW. This is about me calling out and shaming every Jew who ACTS on their opinions with hate, aggression, physical harm and tormenting these women publicly at our holy site, the Kotel.

This Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I call upon every Jew who has participated in the spreading of gossip, slander, hate, demeaning the lives and harming these women to search their souls. That is all I am asking. Humble yourselves, drop your egos and ask yourself if your comportment is acceptable behavior as a Jew. Sure, you can still despise them for wanting the option for families to pray together- because apparently that threatens you. You can bitch about them on your Facebook page and you can continue to assert all sorts of extrapolations and read all kinds of complex agendas into their efforts. You can continue to make shit up about them and declare publicly how you feel about them. Yet, at the end of the day we are all Jews.

There are people in the world that would kill all of us tomorrow and they don’t give a damn about egalitarianism. I hope your opinions; feelings and dogma keep you warm at night, safe in your houses and at peace within.

Chag Sameach. Shana tova.

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I’M NOT FINISHED TALKING ABOUT HEBRON

Sometime ago I wrote a blog titled: “We Need to Talk About Hebron”

I find myself coming back to the matter of Hebron again over a year later.

There is a moment I cannot get out of my head. I need to understand why Hebron keeps coming up for me. In a year’s time I have come to learn that Hebron is not talked about at great length. Judea & Samaria/West Bank/Occupied Territory/Jerusalem is discussed, but not Hebron.

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Last year I was visiting with three other people and one of them said it was the 30-day memorial of their colleague. He asked if we would mind making a pit stop to attend. The colleague was a gardener about my age who was brutally stabbed to death by a Palestinian. The mourner’s were all gathered and I was standing several feet away, but mumbling Kaddish to myself along with them.

Suddenly I heard a disruptive sound; it was my first time hearing the Muslim call to prayer. I was confused at first because I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and didn’t know it could be heard in a Jewish city. (Yes American Jews can be naïve). I walked away from the group and went a little ways up a hillside. I realized the Muezzin was in surround sound. It was all around me, 360 degrees.

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It was in that moment a light bulb went on.

I realized I was standing in the middle of a doughnut hole.

I grasped the severity that this tiny Jewish community was in the center of a rather large Palestinian city

I looked through a fence and saw a huge bustling metropolis. I didn’t know Hebron was the second largest city there. I also didn’t know what H1 and H2 were. I didn’t know there were 215,452 Palestinians there and that it was given to them at Oslo. I didn’t know there were only 80 Jewish families living there.

I stared at the fence.

I stared at the metropolis.

I heard the loud sound of the Muezzin.

I turned and saw the mourner’s out of the corner of my eye.

I lost my shit right then and there.

I began to cry on the spot.

One of my friends walked over to me and said- “Buddy, you ok?”

I said – “Are you ok?” He said- “I cried my first time here too. There would be something wrong with you if it didn’t make you cry.” The only response I could utter was – “This is not ok.”

A year later I found myself in a café in Jerusalem telling this story to a Palestinian friend who lives in Bethlehem. He wanted to tell me how horrible life is under the occupation in Hebron. I listened respectfully, validated his feelings and then shared my experience with him about my visit there.

He looked at me and said – “I’ve never felt sympathy for a Jew before. I am sorry Kara.”

Yesterday I met a Palestinian jeweler in the Old City. He made me a tiny pendant and I put it on my necklace. I wear an amulet containing the Shema and a Hamsa. There are now three charms that hang together from my neck. He, like every person I meet when I go there invited me to sit and chat. He has an old book, Hebron Sefer. His family rescued 24 Jewish families from a terrorist attack. They were given citizenship. The book chroniclalized this and has the names of these Jewish families in it. I told him Hebron is the saddest place for me and I feel differently there, more than anywhere else in Israel. I did not share my story with him. Instead, I listened to his story because it felt very right.

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I have a friend in Hebron who runs a hostel and he is always inviting me to visit. He also wants me to take a tour. He is Palestinian. I also have friends who invite me for Shabbat in Hebron. I have been avoiding another visit there. I don’t ever want to cry like that again.

I can sense it coming. I know I am supposed to go back. I know I should meet my Palestinian friend. I know I should listen to what he has to say. I know I should spend another Shabbat there. I know I should go to Friday night service at Machpelah. I remember last time it was cold, windy and rainy. I was freezing and my body was shivering. I was so happy though because the sound of Jews singing their guts out in this place where we had no shelter from the cruel elements gave me strength. The PA won’t let us put anything but plastic above our heads and it is a miserable substitute for a non-existent roof.

I am not ready to see the IDF standing in Kiryat Arba staggered every so many yards apart. I am not ready to feel the tension that is so thick in the air, it suffocates me. I am not ready to put myself in that headspace. I am not ready for my heart to hurt.

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But I’m going to do it anyway.

I will deliberately continue to put myself in uncomfortable situations.

I will keep choosing to be with people who are different than me.

I will not stop spending time with people who have different opinions than me.

I will not stop listening to them.

I will not shun otherness.

I will not avoid difference.

I will not let fear dictate my choices.

 

You know what else I will not do?

I won’t let social media tell me about Hebron.

I won’t let an Op ED tell me about Hebron.

I won’t let a meme tell me about Hebron.

I won’t let Wikipedia tell me about Hebron.

I go there myself. I have my own experience.

It’s mine.

Hebron is mine. It’s been mine for over 4,000 years and I will not shy away from it because we gave it away. Hebron is not a possession. Rather, I belong to Hebron. Herod was our king, not theirs. He built Macpelah and don’t you and your guards ever forget that, ok?

Please dear Palestinians, at a minimum- do not forget you converted our rectangular, epic Herodian, Judean structure into a Saladin era mosque.

It’s cool though, right? Cause peace…

When I wrote the first draft of this blog, this ^ paragraph was not in it. The piece read rather soulfully. Then I began to ponder the way I felt inside Macpelah and it dug up old feelings. So I edited it…

Sometimes I think peace is possible in Judea & Samaria and the West Bank.

Sometimes I think peace is possible in Jerusalem.

Sometimes I think peace is possible in Gaza.

(Go on laugh, yeah it was funny, eh?)

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But I do not think peace is possible in Hebron.

This is because Hebron is not like anything else in the Oslo agreement.

It is very different indeed and it is the worst part of it.

It is not like the rest of J&S/WB.

It is H1 and H2.

80% is controlled by the PA (in reality it is more like 90%) and 20% is controlled by Israel (in reality it is more like 10%).

 

Hebron is everything.

Hebron is the beginning of us.

Hebron is the most important place on earth to me.

I love it more than the Temple Mount.

I love it more than the Kotel.

I love it more than the whole of Israel.

I don’t know how to handle how much I feel about this place.

And this is why I have avoided going for a year.

I am afraid of my heart and how Hebron makes me feel.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bedouins Teaching me About Coffee and to “make careful”

Journal entry May 1, 2017

Today was unplanned and that is my preference living here in this land.

Magic cannot happen if you plan out your life too much. One must leave space for the extraordinary to occur naturally.

I went to the Old City in search of coffee.

I am a coffee connoisseur and even a coffee asshole.

I decided that my next project here would be to write about the coffee culture in this land.

I am amazed at the vast differences that exist in coffee composition, presentation, brewing and aesthetic within this land.

The Arab villages have different ways unto themselves as to a particular coffee experience.

I had the good fortune of having Bedouin coffee without going to the desert this afternoon.

I stumbled upon a shop and they sold brass antique carafes used to make coffee.

I wanted one, an authentic one, not a new one. Little did I know, I was entering an entire village through a family- a large Bedouin family that also has residence in the Old City.

I made a new friend, Yoseph.

Yoseph- “Each piece in this shop was either in my family or belonged to someone my family knew. My father can tell you about them.”

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He showed me several and explained their detail and function.

We began our conversation in Hebrew and switched to half English, half Hebrew.

We talked about Arabs, Jews, Christians and Muslims. He likes being Bedouin and believes they are the most peaceful with everyone. I tend to agree after today.

They have horses and sheep. They have a large tent for hospitality in Beer Sheva. He showed me pictures of their vast compound. It was colorful and lovely. I very much want to visit.

He took me upstairs and showed me old Bedouin collapsible tables with brass plates, tapestries and stunning lamps.

I told him the last time I was in the Old City, in the Arab quarter- I was stuck for two hours. A man made my daughter and I tea, talked to us, took as all around showing us antique dresses and changing the price many times. He was touchy feely and my daughter was appalled. I wanted to leave and things got weird…-

Yoseph was understanding and said this:

“ I feel with my heart, not my eyes or my head. If my heart feels love I make careful with the person. If my heart does not feel love I do not make careful with the person.”

We bartered and then I purchased the 4,500-shekel carafe for 1,500 shekels.

He gave me a gift. He wanted me to select a pashmina and I did. He told me he wanted me to see how Bedouins wrap their heads and so I let him.

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I told him I wanted the tiny cups to go with my carafe and he asked if I wanted old or new? Of course I wanted old. He did not have antique ones so he said he would take me himself to find them. We left the shop and wondered the Old City together the rest of the day.

We ended up getting new ones because I wanted the old ones to be extra special and I wanted plenty of time to explore. I wanted plain white porcelain, but then he showed me some that had a Bedouin pattern. I told him I like plain and simple in all things- never fancy. But when he explained to me the story of the pattern how very Bedouin it was indeed – I said I wanted those instead.

Yoseph- “ No, you want the white, get the white.

Me- “No, you just told me a lovely story and now they are sentimental.”

Yoseph- “ No, it is not what you like, I don’t care really.”

Me- “I want the ones with the special Bedouin story, I have changed my mind.”

In Yoseph’s shop he has a photo album of their village, his family, the horses, the tents and their coffee. He showed me pictures of how they make it. It was fascinating. I noticed the coffee beans were white.

Me- “Lavan? How, where, when can I get some?”

Yoseph- “Yes, Lavan (white), we grow them in the North. If you come to visit you can have some. It is not bitter it is smooth and it is not like Turkish coffee. It has no sugar, but it does have cardamom.”

Me- “I love coffee and I want to explore all the coffee in the land. I have a blog and I want to write about the cultures of the coffee experiences here. I want to come spend the night at the Bedouin village and take pictures too.”

He took me to buy what he said was “the best coffee in the Old City.” I could smell it and he was right. I bought a ¼ a kilo for 8 shekels. This blew my mind as I have been spending 75 shekels on a half a kilo.

 

Two weeks ago I was in Bethlehem and I bought their coffee. Yes, each village has it’s own coffee. Same phenomenon- ¼ a kilo for 9 shekels. WTF have I been paying so much for coffee??? Live and learn…

Then Yoseph asked if I smoked sheesha. Of course I do.

We remained in the Arab quarter, which isn’t saying much since the majority of the Old City is Arab. The Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters are all Arabs.

I have never liked the Old City because it is too condensed, too many tourists, too many bodies walking closely together on the narrow streets.

Suddenly I decided I liked it very much. It is a different world, a different era, a different feeling altogether. It is ancient Israel, it is Medieval Israel, It is Greco Roman Israel, It is Ottoman Israel, It is British Israel, and it is a fairy tale and a history lesson.

I could try and live here for a year just for kicks…

The places to smoke sheesha are many and they are all lined up with men, only men. We went behind an establishment, pulled a couple of chairs around the corner and smoked. I remarked to Yoseph that in the U.S. men and women could be friends and go out in public together because no one cares. Here, men and women do not do that. I told him how awkward it was for me to see only men smoking and that I was the only woman.

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He told me funny stories about women and the culture, the economy, housing in particular and how he swims every day at the YMCA.

Yoseph- “You have a husband?”

Me- “No.”

Yoseph- “A boyfriend?”

Me- “Yes”

Yoseph- “Where is he?”’

Me- “He doesn’t live here. I had an Israeli boyfriend here, but he turned out to be selfish and not right for me. It’s still rather complicated between us…”

Yoseph- “Where is he, America?”

Me- “No.”

Yoseph- “He is hard headed, he probably has another girlfriend. Men lie.”

Me- “He doesn’t have a girlfriend and even if he did, there is nothing I can do about it. Why worry about what I cannot control?”

Yoseph- “Why would he let you live here and when does he come see you?”

Me- “It’s complicated.”

Yoseph- “Do you want to marry him?”

Me- “No, I am divorced and do not want to marry again.”

Yoseph- “What about children?”

Me- “I have one daughter and that is all I could have. I am happy with her.”

We talked about birth, health, babies and relationships a bit longer.

I smoked until I felt queasy because I had not eaten yet that day.

We walked back to the shop and his cousin made me mint tea.

His cousin told me I am family now and that I must come back to visit often.

Yoseph gave me another gift. He made lovely earrings and told me to select a pair. I told him I don’t wear earrings, but bracelets. He only makes earrings and so I selected an onyx pair with silver. He was so happy for me to have them. He wanted to keep giving me gifts. But I told him the best gift was that his cousin told me I am family. I explained that I have no family here. Yoseph’s father is 95 years old and the family is huge- nothing I can comprehend. He told me that next time instead of making my heart happy they will make my tummy happy too. They want to feed me. I like this idea very much. I want my tummy to be happy.

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I have met so many strangers here and I have spent afternoons in the company of strangers many times. They all want us to be life long friends- both Arabs and Jews I meet.

I have not kept in touch with the people I meet on this journey. Most if not all of them are one time friends- or to put it in Fight Club language- they are “single serving friends.”

I think this time is different. I think I want to be taken in by a Bedouin family.

Yoseph told me we would drive to their village, even though they keep a home in the Old City. I told him I would have to bring a friend because he is a stranger and I do not ride anywhere with strangers.

This surprised Yoseph. He told me I could bring anyone I wanted.

Then he said this:

“If you are with me, you are in my house. Right now we are walking down the street, but because you are with me, you will be treated as though you are in my house. You are family and if I say you are with me, no one will do anything to you. I am allowed to do anything I think I should to protect you. No one can or would hurt you because our culture understands that I am allowed to harm them in anyway if they try to hurt you. Do you understand this? I will never let anyone hurt you and it is because it is as if you are always in my house if you are by my side. It is the exact same thing- just like being in my house. You understand this?”

I nodded and smiled.

Yoseph guessed my age. Everyone in this country asks me my age. For fuck sake, really… He guessed it the first time. He cousin guessed it later on without knowing.

They kept remarking on my being older. I didn’t know how I felt about this. His cousin has five children and now I am number six. I like this very much.

They wanted me to stay longer, but I said I had to walk my dog. I showed them a picture of my pug, Fig. They have real dogs to watch their sheep- my dog is not a real dog.

I hope to return next week, but without purchasing anything. I hope to go to the village, eat a meal, be part of the family and sleep in their tent.

My favorite part of the day was when Yoseph said:

“If my heart feels love I make careful with the person. If my heart does not feel love I do not make careful with the person.”

I am going to make careful with these persons.

 

 

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THANKS BANKSY, and F**k You Too With Love

I am not a Hasbaraite.

Hasbara means to explain in Hebrew.

I am not a peace activist.

I am an arts advocate.

I bring people and art together.

I aim to depoliticize conflict by humanizing those who are different from ourselves.

Banksy is masterful at brining people and art together.

I went to Bethlehem this past week to see the Banksy hotel museum. Its aim is to discuss the wall. There is a wall that separates the Palestinian territories from Israel proper located in their West Bank and our Judea and Samaria.

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The installation was slick, sexy and a pop culture masterpiece. The space is whimsical and not to be taken too seriously. He even spray-painted over the brand name of the grand piano that sits in the hotel lobby.

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The upstairs gallery has changing exhibitions featuring Arab Palestinian and Arab Israeli artists. This is not advertised, but I know the difference between an Arab Palestinian and an Arab Israeli.

An Arab can be a Palestinian Israeli, but an Arab cannot be an Israeli Palestinian. Banksy does not realize the difference and does not address this issue…

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The permanent installation is a powerful exploit of the conflict. It walks the viewer

through the trajectory of the wall.

It is the most brilliant propaganda piece I have ever seen.

I was very uncomfortable, but that is part of what my line of work requires of me.

I deliberately go out of my way to make myself uncomfortable.

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How else will I experience otherness and learn to be empathetic if I do not expose myself to the very things that disturb me?

I listened to audio clips, watched videos and saw artifacts from the First and Second Intifada. I saw statistics from Operation Protective Edge and of course there is Gaza.

I have walked through many exhibitions about the Shoah. Holocaust museums are abundant in the U.S., Canada and Europe. This was similar only it actually exists in the physical space of the Nakba, which is catastrophe in Arabic.

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I took it all in. I was nervous, my stomach hurt. I was upset that yet another tool had been manufactured as a political weapon against the one and only Jewish state of Israel.

I was upset that if the entire Nakba were a lie it would not have survived this long.

I knew there was truth in it.

I was upset that Banksy keeps the conflict going.

I was upset that my Zionist friends in the diaspora keep the conflict going.

I was upset that Banksy put beautiful and soulful art with no agenda upstairs in the same place as this exhibition of doom and gloom.

Yet he did this methodically, strategically and without flaw in his execution.

Perhaps Shepherd Ferry would like to create a similar themed museum in Israel?

How does this help bring peace to the suffering people of the Palestinian territories? It doesn’t. It opens the wound and pours salt in it; then gasoline with a lighted match.

Thanks Banksy, thanks for doing this.

Thanks for making me feel like a piece of shit for the role my government has played in keeping this wall up, which separates our people.

Thanks for showing me that this wall is a promise to never have coexistence.

A thanks for showing me that Oslo was a failure.

Thanks for showing me that in 1967 we should have given residency to all Arabs and put them on a path towards citizenship. ( Of course you wouldn’t have this pretty museum then, eh?)

Thanks for showing me all the times Israel fucked up.

Thanks for showing me how much the Palestinians never did to fight the British Mandate in order to secure a state for themselves long before our return from our infamous 2,000 year exile.

So I really am a European colonialist, eh? Yes, my great grandparents were from France and Germany. Yes, I was born in the U.S. Yes, I understand that a person born in Bethlehem is stateless and I am not.

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So where do we go from here Banksy? What have you left us with? What good is it to show us the wall?

Despite your efforts in illuminating this tragic plight; I for one would like to see the wall destroyed. I would like to see them given citizenship after all this time. I would like to see integration, not segregation. But you have now made that even harder. You have added to the noise and you have skillfully planted a seed in the heart of every human who walks through the Walled museum hotel.

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The seed is not a seed of hope. It is a seed of despair.

Am I denying the artifacts you placed in the museum? No I am not. Am I in denial about the well-documented Five Broken Cameras? No I am not.

I want every Israeli to go see your masterpiece of despair. I want us to own every good deed that has gone undocumented, every error that has been meticulously documented and all the unsaid deeds that will never be mentioned on either side of the wall.

I have no problem with self-inventory, taking responsibility and being confrontational. I know the truth is ugly and it hurts, but guess what Banksy?

I am not of afraid of your museum. I am not afraid of Breaking the Silence and B’Tselem. I am not afraid of facts, names and dates. I am a Jew. I get it already…

I accept all of it, every inch of your museum.

I will continue to return and subject myself to the discomfort and each time I will experience a new take-away. I will continue to listen to my Palestinian brothers and sisters. I will continue to seek out their artists and their beauty. I will continue to show them as human beings who live in this land.

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I will continue to hold out my hand to them and open myself up to anything and everything that comes into my path as I live my life here in this land. I will continue to visit the other side of the wall and I will never stop being human.

The wall is in the psyche of every Israeli and every Palestinian. The wall was built to protect us from terrorism. The wall was built to keep them inside. The wall was built to ensure we would never cohabitate. Yet now, so many want this and the wall is still there, reminding us that it must come down.

You literally just made the wall stronger than it was before. Thanks Banksy.

Yes, it is art- and each individual must interpret it for himself and herself. Each person will be affected differently by this exhibition. I for one am thanking you for making me more determined than ever before.

You see, my people are not going anywhere. The Palestinians are not leaving. I will swallow it, I will be the bigger person and I will lead by example.

I will keep chiseling away at the wall within my own heart and maybe my fellow Israelis and Palestinians will choose to tear down the wall in their heart too.

 

 

 

 

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THERE IS SUCH A THING AS PALESTINE AND I WAS STANDING IN IT TODAY

There is such a thing as Palestine and I was standing in it today.

Technically speaking there is not a country called Palestine. However there is a peoplehood who identify as Palestinian Arabs. They live in what is technically called the Palestinian Authority territories.

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They are not going anywhere.

Neither are the Israelis.

We are both here and the world needs to get over it.

In a court of law, truth is not a defense.

Regardless what the world believes about this region, we live the reality on the ground and we know the truth. We here in Israel do not require anyone’s permission to live the truth. Therefore, our truth is not a defense, but living here is.

Today I went to a place called Rawabi. It is a beautiful and affluent community built by Palestinian Arabs and Qatar money. Even though this is an amazing paradise in the West Bank (We Jews call it Judea and Samaria), it is uninhabited. I did not see one single resident or car while I was there.

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There was an enormous Palestinian flag, a stunning sculpture garden and landscape.

There is no refugee camp in Rawabi. It is for the rich, elite and privileged Palestinians. These are the ones you will never read about. There are also, but not limited to, American Palestinians. These are allegedly their vacation homes.

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(Qatar flag)

As I drove through J&S I noticed all of the construction in what the world calls the West Bank. I was laughing to myself because the building is via the Palestinian Arabs. It is not the PA though (Palestinian Authority). To be clear, they are broke, but this is private money I observed.

Interesting… never thought of the term Palestinian settlements before. I wonder if Palestinian settlements are an obstacle to peace in the Middle East?

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After this most instructive excursion, I went to Ramallah. I saw the Mukataa, which is the fortress that protects Mahmoud Abbas. Leaders often need fortresses to protect them from their own people. (Yes I know there are other reasons for a Mukataa.)

I saw Arafat’s mausoleum. I saw beautiful neighborhoods in Ramallah and of course the refugee camps. There are amazing restaurants and it is quite frankly a lovely Arab city.

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As I made my way home back to Jerusalem where I live, I couldn’t help but gaze out the window longingly. I asked my host what would happen if he and I got a bunch of individuals together; Arab and Jew, Israeli and Palestinian and we bought a piece of land here in J&S (West bank). What if we hired our own private developer to build us our own neighborhood (settlement)? Why can’t there be a normal community that is not segregated? Why can’t we just create our own subdivision here in J&S and live together? Who is really going to stop us?

Presently we live across the street from each other. The way J&S (West bank) is structured you have Palestinian Arab communities on one side and across the street which they share is the Israeli side. So yes, there is some interaction, but not the way you would have a natural exchange if we were integrated into the same neighborhood.

My friend told me that depending where it is, the PA would never agree to allowing me to buy land and build if they discover I am Israeli and a Jew. Likewise the reverse is true. The Israelis would not sell to my friend when they discover he is a Palestinian Arab.

I really love living here. It is a wonderful and magical place. It is more diverse than anyone could imagine, yet there is one thing that annoys me- the segregation.

This is good old-fashioned racism on its face. There is no other word for it.

I am done discussing the “occupation,” the “settlements,” one state versus two state… it is old, the world is late with it and we here have outgrown these boring and unproductive circle jerk arguments.

Here in Israel and in the PA territories, we know what is really going on. No one is going to say it out-loud though. That’s fine I suppose…

I wonder if I would be labeled as a peace activist if my Israeli and Palestinian Arab friends attempted to go forward with this real-estate venture? How stupid, me a peace activist…

For crying out loud, we just want to be normal, we just want to live where we want to live, go where we want to go, talk to and hang out with whomever we chose.

Yet, our governments do not allow this. Or do they?

To be fair, I know for a fact that Israelis and the government itself have tried desperately to create opportunities for both sides to be together.

I remember during Sukkot how the mayor of Efrat invited people from the neighboring Palestinian village to join them. They did so, and of course they would because that is normal human behavior. Yet the PA was waiting to arrest them upon their return.

I wonder if Israelis are ever arrested for attending a dinner or a party at a Palestinian Arab’s house? Nope, never heard of it… although they would caution us for our safety, but that is the only context I can think of.

In the U.S. we went through the process of desegregation. In the 1970’s we implemented forced busing in order to put blacks and whites together in the classroom. This did not work well because it was ‘forced.’

When you are talking about bringing two different peoplehoods together, it must occur naturally and willfully. There must be a reason for both sides to want to make the choice to be together.

I also remember affirmative action in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This was of course more aggressive and it inadvertently caused reverse racism against whites.

People were not hired for jobs based on their qualifications, but on the color of their skin.

Eventually though, Americans got through these growing pains and it gave birth to a new generation of African Americans who would go to university, acquire jobs and become a part of the work force, thus contributing to American society.

When it comes to race relations it takes both sides to work together. Yet what if one side does not want to do this? It would appear that the side that is stronger, better equipped with resources and more socially advanced should be in a leadership role and thus lead by example. Yet what if said entity is too caught up in the distraction of say- 40,000 NGO’s who meddle in the day-to-day affairs here? What if said entity is preoccupied with the UN, the EU and the US to have the profound realization that this solution can only come from within, not externally?

The answer is clear.

This solution will come through bottom up leadership. The days of top down leadership are over… for now.

We the people are living the peace you think does not exist.

To be blunt, I am completely finished with reporting to social media the events of my day. The conversations I have with people who actually live here are in fact actual moments that take place in real time.

Yet people on Facebook who live on the other side of the world tell me that I am wrong. How can a real life experience be right or wrong? This is not an opinion issue- it is simply me sharing a moment of my life.

How can strangers lecture someone while sitting in the cushy diaspora with their handheld device be an expert on my life or Israeli life?

Do I quit sharing these amazing moments that happen to me?

Do I stop documenting the people and places I meet and listen to?

Do I cease to tell the world the truth about what is actually happening here on the ground?

People believe what they want. Willful ignorance is the new truth.

The conflict is not only a giant ATM machine where numerous entities profit, but the conflict here is also perpetuated by racism.

Arabs hate Jews and Jews do not trust the Arabs, therefore they have become bigoted. We have hate propaganda and reverse propaganda. For some Israelis it is a softer side of bigotry, for others it is open and unabashed. However many shades of bigotry there are, someone has to confront it.

It may as well be me since I give not one fuck.

Throughout my life I have learned that the secret to dealing with racism is a personal inventory, not an institutional one.

Deep inside every human being there is a tiny inner racist. That little inner racist must be kept in check at all times. If not then we ignore it and go into denial. This is where racism takes hold- in the silence of our apathy.

If every time I wrote about my Israeli Palestinian friends and the Jewish Arab experiences- I could substitute these words with ‘whites’ and ‘blacks.’ Maybe this would bring the issue home more clearly?

Am I a kumbaya type person? No, hell no. Am I a bleeding heart? Nope.

What am I then?

I am a pragmatist.

I am a realist.

If what you are doing isn’t working, that means you are suppose to do something else instead.

I am an innovator.

I do not do things the way the rest of you do them and I never will.

This is why I get results that other people do not get.

I am divergent.

I develop in different directions.

I interpret all matters differently.

I use unfamiliar premises as bases for inference.

I avoid common limiting assumptions in making deductions.

 

Does this mean I am a better human? No.

Does this mean I am smarter? No.

I am just a person, an everyday human being.

I am a Jew.

I am just confronting that tiny inner racist and holding it accountable.

I cannot make any of you do this.

I can only hold myself to my own standard of care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Are Not Listening

We are not listening. Rather, we are reading; and all of our reading has made us deaf.

The Arab Jewish dialogue is an ancient one indeed.

Throughout our tumultuous history in this land we have always come together as clans and tribal people to speak of issues that concern us both.

Today in a world of technology, the conversation is not limited between clan families and tribes. The conversation is a huge cacophony of hundreds of voices that participate simultaneously on social media. Each one is talking and vying for a space on the international stage of Facebook. All of these voices compete to be heard in the noisiest platform that has ever existed.

Is anyone actually being heard?

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Do I really know my neighbor because I read an Op-Ed about them written by a person who has done a ton of reading?

Do I really understand the Palestinian Arab voice if I draw my conclusions based on what the Times of Israel bloggers say?

Am I truly grasping the inner voice of a Palestinian Arab if I obsessively read my Facebook newsfeed all day?

The answer is no and here is why:

It is illogical to presume that I- an American, Israeli Jew comprehend fully the inner thoughts and feelings of a person who has lived their entire live in the Middle East, speaking Arabic- a language I do not know.

It is equally illogical for any Palestinian Arab to believe that they have me figured out. How could they possibly understand who I am and what I want by reading their Facebook newsfeed? Does the collective Jewish community speak for me as a separate, unique entity? No.

Would you go on a date with a person you only read about through the expression of someone else’s words and not their own?

No, you wouldn’t.

Would you date a person you learned about through a biased third party without actually having a dialogue with the person you are suppose to go out with on a date? No, you wouldn’t.

This is what we are all doing right now. We are talking about talking amongst people whom we do not literally talk with.

We are discussing the possibilities of living together here in this land- i.e. dating a peoplehood without actually going on a first date.

Oh, but you say you know them because they stab us; they have suicide bombers, glorified and compensated shahids- thus they are known by their actions. OK, what about the millions who do not do this?

Oh, that’s right, they agree with it, because they look the other way.

They eat the candy that is passed out to them after the successful murdering of our own. Yes of course, the media tells us this and so it is reasonable to apply our distain for them broadly.

We have collectively decided that our leadership can spoon feed us what to think, feel and believe about our neighbors.

I have never liked the idea of someone drawing conclusions about me without actually experiencing me for him or herself. This means sitting down and having an actual dialogue with me.

People have stereotypes about Israelis, Americans, Jews, women, specific age groups, socioeconomic status, level of education- the list goes on and on in order to produce what we all think will give us an accurate snap shot into the soul of another human being. It would be easy for a person to look at my trappings and superficial background in order to deduce an opinion of what kind of person I am.

Yet if you ask an individual who knows me in real life and has spent time in a relationship with me- I know that their opinions and even extrapolations based on their real life experiences with me will be more accurate. However, it is my ability to speak for myself that ultimately represents me to the world- not what others say.

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Here is what is missing from the Arab Jewish conversation:

Presence.

One can feel another human being’s energy by being in their presence. One can experience their vibe, that indescribable feeling that only comes from sitting in the same room next to that person.

A connection is made in those moments when you are in close proximity to the individual you are listening to.

Presence is how we achieve human engagement. Social media interaction is a bad imposter for this. The human substitute only measures ‘usage’ in a thread.

Language.

There is a language barrier at times here in this country.

When that happens, that language failure requires the individual to become creative in an instant. They have to dig deeply to convey their sentiment and this creates an urgent desire. When your grammar beings to fall apart, you have to reach inside yourself and project outwards what you are thinking and feeling.

Language in these moments of cultural difference must be understood through unique context and felt by listening not with ears, but with an openness of two souls connecting on the most basic human level.

Listening.

We think we know so much about each other, yet the longer I am here listening to the other side, I realize I do not know them at all.

I know their history, I know a great deal about the Palestinian leadership, but I do not know the average Palestinian Arab on the street.

Why should I even try to listen? Because when I do, I realize that they are each an individual with their own perspective made up of of their own perception of reality. Each individual has had his or her own fair share of unique experiences here both good and bad.

Yesterday I saw a post by a Palestinian Arab; a real life friend of mine on Facebook. I got upset because I interpreted it as anti-Israel. I asked about it and indeed, I misunderstood.

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There is no substitute for being in person.

Presence.

Language.

Listening.

Perhaps my job is to listen in order to demonstrate that there are Jews who will judge the individual on personal merit and not collective behavior nor the media and reverse propaganda of an entire peoplehood.

I do not like that the world has done this to my people.

The world is gullible and will believe anything. Humans accept what they are told. This has been weaponized by the media against Israel.

Therefore, why should I perpetuate the same behavior and do it to the other side?

This blog is nothing compared to my short posts about daily life here in Israel. I get more out of the human experience in a 20 minute cab ride with a random Arab- or coffee with a Palestinian Arab friend, than all the blogs, Op-Ed’s, Facebook posts, media articles and rants combine.

Lastly,

My naysayers tell me I am wasting my time listening to Arab Palestinians.

I believe I am the bigger person.

I believe once you start being the bigger person, it is permanent.

It is not a la carte. You do not pick and choose when to be the bigger person. It is a lifelong commitment and a burden.

Someone has to be the bigger person.

Israel is the bigger person.

Cut through the noise and listen to one of them.

Get off your newsfeed.

It will blow your mind.

Presence.

Language.

Listen.

 

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BETHLEHEM: STREAM OF CONCIOUSNESS- My personal diary entry for November 24, 2016

Bethlehem- Stream of Consciousness

My personal diary entry for November 24, 2016.

(This post has not been edited on purpose)

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I met my colleague (and after today, my friend) in Gush Etzion. It is a lovely community as are all of the developed settlements.

The bus driver played Michael Jackson the entire way there.

Unsaid friend (If I mention their name it will put them at risk) first showed me Bet Jala

Who the fuck writes this text as historic tourist attraction material?

http://www.beitjala-city.org/index.php/en/beit-jala-city/the-occupation/background

This is in area C. I felt safe and the energy was chill, it was good.

Jews patronize the restaurants and it feels normal.

 

Then we went to Bethlehem.

The energy was different.

Even though it has a strong Xtian community (Lies work both ways, social media says the PA kicked the Xtains out- I was there, it’s not true.) Duh, the Xtians are the privileged ones in Pali society. They create all the tourism dollars. It looked like a massive Xmas fest. (Xmas is in a few weeks)

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The graffiti is in all PA territories. Each one tells the story of a terrorist/martyr.

There are mosques, but they are empty. If 17,000 people are in one section of the city and there are 3 mosques in a 1 km radius, and only 1,000 people- say 300 attend each mosque, then the number of observant Muslims is staggeringly low.

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Bethlehem thus is rather secular. I saw tons of women without hijabs. Easily as many with…

There is business, commerce, dinning, shopping. Although I saw no cafes, hmm?

No parks, no green space, only one museum and it was Xtian.

On one hand you have UNRWA refugee camps and on another you have people living in grand houses. The Palis who earn a handsome income do so because they have work permits for Jlem. The cost of living is a fraction of what it costs in Bethlehem. Essentially, the person who has the luxury of earning an Israeli salary yet has the low cost of living as a benefit of being Pali- is experiencing personal gain.

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There is no “normalization” in this scenario. However, such a privileged person would not want to upset either side because they require a perfect balance in order for their economic advantage to work.

So many Europeans own land and real estate in Bethlehem. The Italians, the Germans, it was unreal. And when the UN and UNRWA hire for positions, many are European- not Pali. So who is the real occupier? I say Europe based on my observation. The conflict is an ATM for everyone. Everyone except the Palis.

They are the losers in this game of chess. They are the ultimate pawns that will never be made the queen.

I noticed a change in the energy in Bethlehem. It felt different than Beit Jala.

Since BJ is in area C it is under the PA – but with IDF oversight and Israel controls construction, permits, etc. It is very secure and Jews and Arabs interact freely.

Yet in Bethlehem, there is not one Jew. Interesting that I didn’t see the traditional graffiti of hate propaganda in BJ, but of course Bethlehem is a notorious and deeply PA place.

I suddenly felt out of place- even though Bethlehem is a very Xtian city. The celebration of painted murals of terrorists is inescapable. There is not one square inch of concrete not dedicate to the hate against us Jews.

 

It was illegal for me to be there as an Israeli citizen.

I know I was taking a risk, but justified that I had minimized it since I was with a Pali who was a resident and citizen of Bethlehem.

When we went to the restaurant, the server not only didn’t look at me, but also never acknowledged me or asked me a question. My friend ordered for us and of course spoke entirely in Arabic- even though English is everyone’s second language. There is no use of Hebrew at all there…

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When I returned to Jerusalem last night, I felt the energy change. I felt like I was home. I felt like I had just spent 10 hours somewhere else in the Middle East, far, far away… I love how I am treated in Israel.

The Middle East is an inherently sexist place. Israel has its own version of it though and it is unique only to Israel.

In Bethlehem, I felt like I was beneath everyone (not because I am Jewish or even Israeli, but because of my gender).

In Israel the sexism is posited differently. I am treated well as a woman, I am treated like royalty. Men will stop what they are doing to help me, assist me with anything even when I am too proud to ask.

They want to take care of us. At first I didn’t like it – I am only accustom to asserting MY will. Then my girlfriend once said –
“This is a sexist country and you are going to love it.”

She knows I am a post-modern, Camille Paglia feminist.

Yet much to my surprise, she was right.

I am happy to be around real men.

Hyper masculinity has been merged with the sensitivity of the Jewish soul.

The years of military, the years of the international community hating on us has somehow bred an interesting species of the Jewish male here.

They have this inherent sense of responsibility for us.

I am every man’s sister or daughter.

Accept for when I’m not…

 

There is a directness that has zero nuances, which I find refreshing.

Women might be put off or even hurt by this, but it saves much time.

I suppose my Americaness is well suited for the aggression Israeli men possess- in fact my Americaness can harness their energy and feed my own sense of who I am as a woman.

I do what I want.

I say what I want.

I think what I want.

I act.

I resist.

I deny.

I return.

This is permissible here- but you have to own it.

A woman’s dignity commands respect. Nothing else does.

You will earn this respect if you conduct yourself accordingly.

 

I am surrounded by women whose faces are literally painted on.

The amount of liquid eyeliner and false eyelashes is so numbing.

I am surrounded by a copy, of a copy, of a copy, of a copy.

I will stick with my nude look; my face, my skin doesn’t need to be plastered and suffocated. My eyes should be seen and not camouflaged.

Tinted moisturizer has and always will be my best friend.

A coat of lip gloss and I’m good to go.

Three to four inch spiked heels surround me.

I laugh to myself. I remember my days at Saks Fifth Avenue as a resident artist.

Standing on the marble floor for 8 hours each day and looking like I came out of a can… processed and perfect.

Today I am not relying on any crutch. A man can see my soul through my eyes now.

I don’t have to hide, manipulate or become. I can just be.

I smile now- it is new for me, yet I do not recall making this a conscious choice- it happens all the time without me being aware.

They can see my heart every time I smile.

 

Every man in Israel is my brother and my father.

I respect them and they respect me.

I do not need a man.

Israel was never about that.

I belong to all of them and they belong to me.

Not in a sexual context, but something much deeper.

 

Jewish women need to talk about these things.

I am here.

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