From the first couple hours I spent at the Israeli Presidential Conference on Wednesday, throughout the end of my attendance today, I had a nagging thought I couldn’t shake.
Someone was missing.
But this week, it wasn’t just that there seemed to be no Israeli-Arab speakers – I could barely pick out any Israeli-Arab attendees.
Here, at an international discourse on tomorrow, Israel’s tomorrow, hosted by the man whose name makes-or-breaks the Peres Center for Peace, the outsiders were not even inside the building.
Actually, last year we did get an intro to Peres’ Ma’anTech efforts. And this year, a couple hi tech/media panelists mentioned hiring in Ramallah as well as Israel.
And plenty of speakers – including former world leaders and, oddly, Sharon Stone – had what to say about Israel trying harder for peace with the Palestinians.
But where were the Israeli-Arab perspectives on tomorrow? Were they invited? Where were the Israeli-Arab attendees, so that we could take some of the high-level intellectual stagetalk and apply it to building connections with the people who could have sat with us in the audience?
Before the morning plenary started, I sat down behind an Israeli woman who writes for a social change blog and we got to talking. She mentioned this was her first time at the conference. I asked her how it was going.
“I find it all very… high level,” she said. “Where’s the tachlis?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I gotta admit… this whole thing seems to be catered to American/Anglo tastes.”
It was the other half of the nagging feeling I had had since the start. The taste for intellectual discourse on a weekday, for rubbing shoulders with high level politicians, former world leaders, celebrities and of course, the Israeli president – it all felt a bit university AIPAC road trip for me. American Jews tend to find this stuff dazzling.
Where was the tachlis?
Where were the Israeli Arabs?
Where are we Israelis headed tomorrow, if we’re not at all focused on the missing demographic today?
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