It takes people to conflict.

In a total understatement, there’s been a lot going on in Israel lately. People say it’s the start of the third intifada (again), while other people call for the third intifada.

Stabbings, shootings, stonings, molotov cocktails. Lynch mobs.

And the beat plays on: the same media headlines, the same talkbacks, the same Facebook statuses. The same quotes from the same politicians. The same calls to action from the same leaders. The same nonaction after the same calls to action from the same leaders.

This, after coming off a week of ranting and raving that everything in America stays the same, that gun rage carries on, that no one cares. Obama’s post-Oregon shooting speech could be translated into Hebrew.

In dealing with frustration and anger that we find ourselves yet again in the midst of the ‘beginning of the third intifada, question mark’, I wonder aloud at this thought: why do people – people on the Jewish/Israeli side of the spectrum – continue to refer to the Palestinian and Israeli-Arab men and women and teenagers (if we call our 18 year old victims teens, then so are some of these) who commit acts of knife-wielding terror, animals?

What’s animalistic about making a conscious decision to make a fatal political statement about your life place/politics/anger/zeal? Animals don’t make those kinds of choices – people do. That’s what makes us people. The committers of these acts are people. Men and women. People who live a different reality to you, to us, to whoever. That doesn’t make them animals. It makes them people, in a very true way.

People shot point blank at mother and father driving with their children in the backseat. People stab other people in the middle of busy roads and outside office buildings. People throw stones – when did you last see an animal throwing stones?

People find guns and shoot them at other people who are not living the same reality as they are. People of all stripes – some of them share our reality and some don’t.

And so we are people too, even if we think other people don’t agree. We are people who make choices about how to handle and interpret and act on our reality. Everyone involved in this conflict is a person.

It takes people to choose to conflict. It takes people to choose to not conflict.

Fanning hatred on the 9th of Av.

Can someone explain to me how publishing an article about which Israeli demographic hates which other Israeli demographic is supposed to be appropriate for Tisha B’Av?

Why so negative, Ynet? Why stir the pot of hatred and conflict and darkness?

As a Jew who studied for years and years about Jewish history, as a student who spent the last few years studying conflict management, and as a mother for just over one year… I take offense at Ynet’s skewed survey and the publishing of its superficial results – so incredibly anti what the next 25 hours are about.

And if they want to make it sound like it’s something only observantly religious folks care about, their own survey proves them wrong.

The fact is, a day that is set aside in Judaism for mourning our own destruction, due to our own hatred of own people, is something the entire Jewish world – secular, religious, purple or green – should acknowledge.

This is the easiest day in the Jewish calendar to secular-ify. Teachings of tolerance, peace, treating others the way we would want to be treated…

Really? Does that not speak to you, Ynet?

It’s a shame there isn’t more outreach, programming and news related to the positive effects that are possible from the core causes for our mourning on Tisha B’Av.

In three years.

In the last three years, give or take, I’ve gotten married, visited my husband’s home country located across the world, moved to the suburbs, got pregnant, completed the coursework for my Masters degree, gave birth to a son, grown three years older, three years wiser and three years happier.

What have you done in the last three years?

What has Gilad Shalit done?

Israeli Consulate hosting a Twitter Q&A session.

And now, for something new and different.

So… here in Israel, we are more computers than people. And I know I was a bit snobbish when I wrote about the Israeli elections campaigns using internet tech and themes from their American counterparts. But this actually tops all that for real:

The Israeli Consulate has its own Twitter account and will be fielding Q&A today from 1pm-3pm Eastern Standard Time. The consulate also has two blogs, Israel Politik and IsRealli, as well as a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, and MySpace profile.

I suppose it’s logical; Israel is a country that needs more PR than most others. But it might also be nice to have seen the American government hold Q&A sessions on Twitter or sending down-to-earth updates on blog posts or YouTube videos.

Anyway, if you want to know more about the Twitter event, here’s the consulate’s blog post about it:

Tomorrow, 30 December, from 1-3PM EST,  David Saranga, Consul of Media and Public Affairs in New York, will answer your questions about the situation in Israel and Gaza in a “Citizens’ Press Conference.”

You can submit your question by directing it to our Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/IsraelConsulate . We will do our best to answer through Twitter.  If an answer requires more than the 140 character limit, we will respond on Twitter with a link to an answer posted in this blog.

We hope you will be able to join us–tell your friends!!

I hope it turns out worthwhile.

A true face of Jerusalem: the hospital waiting room.

Today I spent quite a bit of time in a Jerusalem hospital waiting room; no emergency, I just needed an x-ray. In the past few months, I’ve actually frequented Jerusalem hospital waiting rooms and have been fascinated by the faces I see and the languages I hear.

I think the true face of any city is its hospital waiting room. Conflict or none, from Belfast to Beirut, do people have much of a choice but to face each other in this neutral, undisputed territory?

Honestly, I’m not sure about those two cities, but in Jerusalem, the waiting room hosts a rainbow of Charedi Jews to secular Jews, Ashkenaz to Mizrachi, French, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, international students and diplomats, religious and secular Arabs. You hear Hebrew spoken in so many accents, you wonder if it’s actually the same language.

Today I observed a couple of Arab women walk in with a small boy; one of the women was religious and one was not. The boy was young, maybe three, and clearly uncomfortable being there. He whined the way any child, no matter skin color nor religion, whines… The women accompanying him – the secular one seeming to be his mother – tried to hush him but to no avail.

Out of nowhere, an elderly woman came to him and started coaxing him Arabic-accented Hebrew to relax. She pulled from her bag the currency of which all children of every nation speak: crunchy snacks. She carefully poured the crackers into a cup for the boy and offered them to him: “Kach et ze, chamud. Ze b’seder. Tochel.”

Finally, the boy reached for the cup, and a chorus of Arabic flew from his mother and her companion: “Say thank you! Thank you! Shukran! Say shukran!” The older woman, who I realized was Mizrachi, spoke softly to the boy: “Yofee… Tochel, yeled tov. Tagid todah. To-dah. Tagid todah…”

This chorus of shukrans and todahs was not stopping, and soon I found that the Arab women were telling the boy to “Tagid todah,” while the Jewish woman was encouraging him to say “shukran!”

Language, faces, hospitals, kids, snacks. All undisputed territory when they work together.

Ignorance is momentary bliss.

There’s only so much I can ignore the news here when things take a turn for terrible. At a certain point, it smacks you in the face and then maybe you’re tearing up at your desk with the paper on-screen or you’re cringing at the hourly news on your way home.

I’m not at that point yet. I’ll start paying closer attention soon. For now – to ignorance, and beyond.

For an alternative means of defense.

It’s some sort of rite of passage that olim go through; the idea of “becoming more Israeli.” In this case, I don’t mean wearing flowy skirts or forgetting grammatically-correct English.

I mean the process of becoming overly defensive and jumping to attack at any flare of doubt or wrongness – the process of becoming more accusatory, more hot-tempered, more impatient… more ‘Israeli’.

You arrive here with the belief that in order to survive, you have to push your way to the front. You have to claw your way to getting what you want. It’s an image of Israel we Anglo olim carry with us from our youth to our first visit to Misrad Hapnim, and really, through the rest of our Israeli lives.

And the more time goes by, the more I see that supposed-Israeli beast rise out of me. My Hebrew flows better in anger and my voice becomes loud and my eyes dim to any kind of patient truth I might normally seek out.

It’s very disappointing and I’m saddened by my reliance on that ‘Israeliness’ that has developed. If we only conform to the stereotypes we’ve always perceived, how are relations going to change among Israelis? How are we going to achieve understanding and tolerance in this country?

I don’t like that part of me and I want to work on toning it; as a conflict management student and as a generally empathetic and tolerant person, I feel that I can retain that image while living an Israeli life.

And I invite any other Israeli – or potential oleh – to try the same.

Playing the PeaceMaker… from your desktop.

Not sure I’ve ever mentioned this ‘out loud’ here before, but I maintain a second blog called Better Than Misery which covers my journey as a mediation student.

The latest post I wrote is actually relevant both here and there, so I thought I’d bring some attention to it here:

PeaceMaker

Yesterday, Haaretz newspaper did a promo of the new PeaceMaker Game released by the Peres Center for Peace. It was included in the (left-wing) paper and is being sold from the game’s website for $19.95.

The motto of the game is: “Play the news. Solve the puzzle.” That’s pretty much what it’s about: solving a strategic puzzle, essentially getting your ratings – as a world leader (of your choice) – to be 100% good with both the Palestinians and Israelis. That sounds politics to me, not really conflict resolution. More of a short term thing and a game centered around displaying the hardships of a world leader embroiled in conflict.

Read the rest…