Israel is a weird place. Sit down, my children, and let me tell you the weird story of Israel and race, Israel and colour, Israel and my sandy reflection.
I am a descendant of Eastern European Religious Jews, who escaped their countries after seeing the horrors of Pogroms, in which entire Jewish villages were attacked by enraged anti-Semitic locals and then wiped out. Well, after being raped and looted, of course, you gotta have some rape and looting before you wipe families out — it’s just good manners.
I am a woman, a Jew, a none believer (an atheist to some, blasphemer to others – hi there). But in this country, with my blue eyes, my white skin, my long and Russian sounding last name – I am part of the elite. The ones who have it easy.
What am I not? I am not an Arab, not a Muslim, not a Palestinian, not a black-Jewish person (yes, there are many which are both, go Wiki “Jewish Ethiopians,” as an example, my little Wiki-worms). I am not A Jew from an African or Middle-Eastern decent, who, let me tell you, did not have it easy here (and still don’t). And I’m definitely not a African Refugee or foreign labour.
In the United States, it’s easy knowing if you’re black or white (in most cases). But in Israel it’s a whole different ball game, which I call lovingly – “what the hell am I supposed to be?” Am I the oppressor, or am I the oppressed? Women are still treated horribly here, with every 1 our of 3 getting sexually attacked, and half my family suffered through the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust – but are we, European Jews, alone in our trauma? it might surprise you as it did me at first – but the answer is no, hell no.
If my last statement offends you — I dare you to read on. But you can also go and make some nice warm tea instead. I won’t judge (yes I will, but you’ll have tea on your side).
With time (and re-education, since our Israeli education system teaches nothing of this) I became aware of the heartbreaking hardship that many Middle-Eastern Jews went through – a traumatic running away from a home under attack. Children leaving parents behind to go to the promised land. Families leaving their wealth and good name behind only to be accepted to Israel with a cold DDT shower (look it up).
The African, black-Jews, well… Those who weren’t lucky enough to be the few who were flown here, had to walk large parts of their journey over, running away from ruined homes, some from war zones. Their family members dying on the way here. let that sink it for a moment… Walking miles over miles in deserts. And when they got here, they were shoved by our government into dysfunctional, poor areas of Israel, letting them lag behind until the gap became bigger and bigger, socially and financially.
(I have to make a note here, that the Russian immigrants who came to Israel after the USSR collapsed did not have it even close to easy, but at least most were given a chance by the government to fit in and were given grants. The government wanted them because they were advanced, they were technological, and yes, they were “white.” However, they were treated, and still do, with a lot of Racism.)
As for Israeli Arabs and Palestinians… I am an avid graphic novel and comics fan, and I have Finally read Joe Sacco’s “Palestine.” which was first printed in 92 if I’m not mistaken (too lazy to Google it up in the middle of my rant, yup). It describes in, well, graphic details what was and to many parts still is the life of a Palestinian. And let me tell you, I have always thought of them with a mix of guilt and anger (suicide bombers anyone?), but after reading his unabiding description of their lives, their rain drenched homes, the torture that is Israeli investigation methods… I have never felt worse about being an Israeli. Especially one who believes herself to be a humanist.
The thought that just my existence as a Jew in this land, that by doing nothing and not asking questions and finding out what is actually going on I contribute to the continuation of this terrible state, of people leaving in shambles, some with little electricity to none and a war zone state of mind – is so heavy on my shoulders it has brought on this ranty and in need of an editor post. It has brought on this need to express how honestly confused and shocked I am.
(I’m not going to get into the discussion about Sacco’s journalistic methods and one-sidedness at the moment. As a journalist, I am not blind to when another storyteller is holding with all his might to the end of the pole when he know a big juicy fish is waiting for him on the other side. )
Israel is a weird place, especially to the small part of us who attempt to be socially aware. Am I the oppressor? yes. Am I the oppressed? Yes and no, but in any case, I believe that having ancestors that suffered (and suffered they did) is not a free ticked to shutting my eyes and having a clean concious in relation to what is happening under my nose, under the rug, in the underbelly of Israel and Palestine.
Who I am changes on the outside, by the eyes and heart of the one that’s looking. I can’t change that. But I can remember that when I look at someone else, I should always try to see them as they see themselves. I think it’s called respect, but I see it as brotherhood, because when you’ve been here for a while, a part of you changes and becomes the colour of sand, and we all have that common grain.
Don’t let that last paragraph fool you, I’m not a dreamer. I don’t think positive change is on it’s way, at least not for this stricken area. But I guess this post in not about final change, it’s about acknowledgement and new reflections. I recommend you go look into your own blind spot, you never know what sort of epiphanies await you. They might not be pretty, but beauty, colour… they’re only skin deep anyway.