Last night, we went to visit my father’s Israeli first cousin who my brother and I have never met. He’s something like 75, religious, lives in a ‘gated’ community (that’s to say, a gate closes off the road on Shabbat so cars won’t go through). Needless to say I donned my more modest-wear for this one.
Anyway, he asked what I am studying (I think he was suprised that went back to university for a second degree at all). I said, “gesher,” which is something like mediation (literally, bridge) in Hebrew.
“No, with a gimmel. Gesher. Between… secular and religious. Arab and Jew.”
Oops. We got into a whole discussion (which was more like him and his wife lecturing) about how there is no possibility for bridges – certainly not between Arabs and Jews (“And why should there be? So we can marry into them and lose ourselves?”) and not even so much between secular and religious, either.
And then the wife said, “Eh, they (secular Israeli kids) go to America to try and earn money. It’s all about leaving Israel to make money. But when they are here, do they work? No, they expect the government to hand everything out to them.”
…I find that fascinating since right now, those secular ones are saying the same thing about Charedis.
So, maybe that’s where a mediator should start – with bridging stereotypes.
I don’t even think there are any literal bridges in Israel.