Monday, January 10, 2011

Israeliving (Part 1 of ?): All is Opinion?

“Remember: All is Opinion”—Marcus Aurelius

[“Israeliving” is a term I just came up with, for the purpose of this series of articles. Little did I know that this actually is a name of a business… There is absolutely no connection between “Israeliving” in this article and the touring company called “Israeliving”]

Three weeks after hopping over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean for my annual visit, and really not much has been posted. Much less than I originally intended, that is. Why? I can’t really tell. Before I arrived, I was thinking about going for daily trips to all sorts of places, take notes, photographs, and share; but something, I guess, happened along the way and so I found myself spending 95% of the time not more than 10 kilometres from my family’s house in Ramat-Gan, a suburb of Tel-Aviv.

Still, I did get a lot done.

The “private distribution” phase of my Get Lucky Tour Blog has been finalized, ordered, and the books are currently making their way neatly wrapped in a huge box to Hadar’s place in Kirkland, WA—where they will be stored until I sign, dedicate & mail them out on January 23. Thanks to all those who participated!

Also, the books are now up for general sale; take a look at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/isaac_s for more information. If you’re one of those who will be receiving their copy at the end of the month, please be kind enough and post a review (an honest one, please—especially if it’s positive). Thanks.

Looking back over the last three weeks, since I arrived here, and trying to reflect on what it is that made me stay at home most of the time rather than (re-)explore the country, I can think of two reasons.

The first reason was very simple to get at: I really am tired of traveling, moving around. It is hard for me to admit but I feel that, recently, I have been traveling way, way too much and I crave the feeling of being stationary. As I am writing these lines, I can’t wait to the moment when I will already be in an apartment of my own, in Vancouver’s downtown area, sipping a cup of coffee while overlooking the city (and when the coffee’s done… Well… That’s what guitars are for). You couldn’t pay me enough to make me hop on a plane now to, say, London for a city trip. Can’t see a suitcase or a backpack anymore. Want to rest.

I never thought that I can possibly run out of wanderlust, as I have always considered travel being my #1 passion. Time for some balance.

The second reason is a bit more involved and it is, indeed, the reason I decided to write this post. It has to do with my home country.

Disclaimer

Look at this blog’s title: “The Way I See It”. Whatever is written here reflects my opinion, about a very broad subject. Generalizations will take place, although I realize that exceptions to the rule usually exist—all over the place.

Background

Other than April 2006, when I came here for 3 days for my best friend’s wedding, I have been visiting Israel once a year—every year—for the past eight years; those visits used to be short at the beginning (up to two weeks), and grew longer as years went by. Things change from one year to another; in general, I can say that—

  • I became generally happier and more concerned with my personal space. Not surprising, considering the fact that I have the privilege of living in one of the best countries to live in on this planet; and
  • Life, for the common people in Israel, became harder.

These, combined, make me worried. My entire family lives here, and so do most of my closest friends. Also, for the last few months, I was actually considering making what’s called in Hebrew Alliyah—that is, coming back to this sunny country for good; it is worrying to find out that, for the time being, I simply cannot allow myself to even consider doing it. In other words: I always knew that coming back would mean a great deal of sacrifice, but as time goes by, I realize that that sacrifice is simply too much to take.

One way to go about it would be to simply give up, shut up and go on with my life. Another way would be to write about it. Who knows, maybe if enough people read it, some time, somewhere, some things would change…

… But I wouldn’t hold my breath. To understand why, lets talk about the first trait of Israeliving—the valuation (or, to be precise, the lack thereof) of foreigners’ opinions, about Israeliving, by the locals.

You Don’t Live Here, So Please… Shut the F**k Up

To start, here’s an observation: Israelis are very opinionated people. Ask an Israeli a question about anything, and you’ll get an answer. Ask an Israeli to find fault in something, and he will—typically, regardless of whether he has any firm foundation upon which to base his opinion. Admitting ignorance is considered a sin here, and refraining from sounding an opinion is often perceived as a sign of cowardice and ignorance.

I don’t know much about today’s kids, but in earlier times (say, when I was a kid), we were raised to challenge; to compete; to have an opinion. Granted, some of us did more useful things with it than others, but in general, we Israelis aren’t entirely into blind conformism and utter ignorance—at least not visibly.

That, for itself, isn’t much of a problem. Obviously it is OK to have differing opinions; pure conformism would bring society absolutely nowhere. The problem begins, however, when people lose the ability to clearly express opinions and—more importantly—listen. And it is exactly that—the ability to listen—that seems to have all but completely vanished.

What exactly caused listening to vanish is perhaps a topic for an in-depth social analysis and who am I to delve into it: yet, I doubt there is a sane Israeli out there that would not agree that people listen less today than, say, 20 years ago. The lack of proper, sane, constructive dialogue appears everywhere—schools, television shows, sporting events, politics, you name it.

I remember a few times in the past viewing clips (on YouTube; I don’t watch TV) of American and Canadian talk-shows that were considered controversial and very rude (usually following a link in Google News or something), and simply laughing at the North American conceptualization of “rude dialogue”—Hell, I said, That’s like a relatively calm evening on Israel’s “Channel 2”.

In the Israeli dialogue—especially the dialogue concerning politics, the security situation, economy and other global matters—one technique that is often conducted by the typical Israeli is the categorization of your opinion based on a whole range of circumstances, in an endless attempt to delegitimize it. Note the distinction here: invalidating your argument means proving that you’re wrong, while delegitimizing your argument means “proving” to you that you are not really in the position to voice any argument in the first place.

A clear example is this: any opinion voiced by Arab-Israeli members of parliament, about the security situation, is, 99% of the time, bound to fall on deaf ears due to the speaker being Arab-Israeli. Arab-Israelis are stereotyped to be anti-Israeli and that very stereotype is used by so many Israelis as an excuse to avoid dealing with the actual argument due to it being illegitimate in the first place.

The very same type of stereotyping and categorization is often exhibited when the arguer is not an Israeli, and the argument presents criticism (either constructive or not) over the country’s “state of affairs”. Israelis are extremely intolerant towards foreigners voicing opinions about Israel’s politics / economy / security (and similar issues); in Israeli eyes, such criticism is viewed as “meddling”, and the categorization of the argument as “meddling” is used as an excuse to completely disregard the argument as an illegitimate one altogether.

Why? Well, to be completely honest, I can see a grain of reason in it. We’re talking about people who, up until 1948, served as the punching bag of the world by being kicked out from one place to another. Even after the country’s establishment, international politics were never too friendly towards Israel, to say the least—not very surprising, considering the ongoing trend by international politics of kissing the asses of whoever controls the flow of oil. (Well, that’s a topic for another discussion)

But that’s not the worst. Even more than Israelis despise and disregard criticism from outsiders, the contempt and disregard are exponentially higher when the criticism comes from former Israelis, that is—Israelis who emigrated to other countries and settled there. That includes myself, of course. Even Yitzhak Rabin, who wasn’t known as an extremely hawkish individual (to say the least), called such people “Fall-out of Wimps” (נפולת של נמושות), back in 1976.

The opinions of Israelis who had enough with the craziness of living here, and decided to settle elsewhere, are highly disregarded here. The rationalization behind it is this: Israelis who emigrated elsewhere took the “easy way out”, and those who took the “easy way out” have no moral right to voice any sort of criticism on Israelis’ behaviour, or its politics and such.

Note: what’s challenged here is former Israelis’ moral right to voice an opinion, rather than their legal right to actually vote; the latter is irrelevant anyway as, contrary to many other nations in the world, Israeli citizens are forbidden to vote from abroad except in certain circumstances (such as diplomats).

Interesting, huh?

Well, I think it is.

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In the next article, I’ll write about my view of Israeli politics. Stay tuned.

Isaac

2 comments:

dee said...

great to read you again: all that silence wasn't really israelis, was it? :-)) daria

Isaac said...

No dee, it wasn't... I think I simply can't take the noise anymore. I'm keeping quiet in an attempt to restore my peace of mind...