Monday, July 8, 2019

Israel, Day 1: first impressions and identity complications

I am spending the next week in Israel on a program that introduces IR scholars (and others) to this country.  I have been referring to it as an information operation which is a fancy term for propaganda (not quite but close enough except for IO pedants).

People seem surprised that this is my first trip since I come from a Jewish family. I tend to put it that my parents are Jewish, but I am not.  That I don’t believe anything I was taught in Hebrew School (akin to Sunday school) except the stuff about the Holocaust,  of course, identity is not just what I say it is, so the white supremacists in North America would like for me to leave (or die) even if I don’t believe.  So, it should be no surprise that this scholar of ethnic politics is already having complicated feelings.  I am thinking of my father as he would have paid for me to go to Israel as it would have made me more Jewish (so he hoped).  That I waited to do this trip until after he died reflects the complicated three sided relationship (him, me, Judaism) we had.

My identity kicked in as soon as got on the plane, as I have rarely been surrounded by so many Jews outside of synagogues and summer camp.  These Jews had no respect for the standard rules, like don’t stand in the aisles during food service or get out of the way when someone is sick (which happened in the first 30 minutes).  My seatmate told me this happens (the aisle crowding, not the sickness) on all flights to Israel.  I knew the Orthodox Jews needed space to pray, I didn’t know that folks had to socialize and kibbitz.

My identity really got to do some backflips as our dinner speaker was a woman who used to be in the Knesset (parliament).  She basically gave the pitch for non-religious Zionism. She made assertions that pushed all kinds of identity buttons: asserting stuff about all Jews whether they are religious or not, about self determination (which activated ethnic conflict scholar Steve), and so on.  It was a really good articulation of that point of view.  

What else said I learn today?

  • The eastern Mediterranean is warmer than the western.  I liked the Barcelona beach just fine, but the water today was warm, nice waves, and, alas, a decent supply of medusas—jellyfish.  No naked people here unlike Barcelona.
  • Far more expensive: 48 shekels for a mojito? No thanks!  This program will have enough free booze no overpaying for me.
  • I felt like my grandmother was here as the waiters gave me dirty looks at lunch for not clearing my plate and not accepting the free coffee.
  • I think the Israeli camp counselors way back in the day lied, as the drivers here know how to brake
  • I should have brought my laptop as I didn’t get hassled on the way here and blogging on my iPad is not fun
  • Jaffa
  • Jaffa is pretty and old—references in the bible as where Jonah and/or his whale were docked
A very full day awaits us tomorrow... no more freelancing.

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