Yes I read Hadassah Magazine. My Bubby made me a life member. And boy what a life I’ve had! Tanta Roslyn made sure I got my magazine — and boy what a Tanta she was! Feisty, hardworking, opinionated matriarchs. Well at least I’ve got some of those characteristics down.
So I’m reading the Feb/March issue of Hadassah Magazine and who do I come across? That’s right — Gil Troy. Gil and I went through the movement together. That’s right The Zionist Youth Movement. We went to Camp Tel Yehudah, Young Judaea Year Course, and sat on our separate but equal executive boards in our local chapters. Gil is a brilliant scholar, a professor of history at McGill University in Montreal –me, well that’s for you to judge I guess.
So Gil wote a Commentary titled Courage Under Fire. He tells us about a shopkeeper in Jerusalem who knocked down a Palestinian teenager who was stabbing an old Jewish man in the head. He tells us that the shopkeeper is heroic — all the moreso because he does not rejoice in his actions and he appreciates that the Palestinian woman that he knocked down: was a kid.
Gil goes on to say:
Palestinian culture’s insane incitement…They even encourage their children-like these teens-to turn murdersome.
Reading this I remember our satirical singing on Year Course field trips “I belong to a terrorist youth or-ga-ni-za-tion…I want to be a Beiari, I want to set my country free, I want to go on Aliyah, I want to bust up Shomriya (the leftist, peace-loving youth movement) I want to slit an Arab’s throat, I want to fight for shtei gadot (to claim both sides of the Jordan River), we reveled in the parody on Beitar the right-wing, revisionist youth movement’s propaganda. But it wasn’t such a far stretch. Here’s the Beitar Anthem straight:
So when Baruch Goldstein perpetrated the 1994 Purim Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in the city of Hebron, killing 29 Palestinian Muslim worshippers and wounding another 125 and a few days later bumper stickers appeared on cars stating: “We are all Baruch Goldstein?” Was that Jewish culture? Was that Israeli culture. When Goldstein’s gravesite became a pilgrimage site for Jewish extremists (later removed by order of Israeli courts) was that Jewish Culture? Israeli Culture? I’m Jewish and I’m Israel — and that is not my culture.
I love Gil’s ultimate message about keeping our moral center, and not surrendering our humanity. But at the core lies the challenge not to generalize and indict Palestinian Culture as a whole.
The other day Becky and I woke up in the middle of the night — so i read a draft chapter of my book to her. In that chapter I make fun — among other things, of the Israeli Secret Service Agents with their reflective sunglasses — that don’t allow you to see their eyes. Becky was furious at me, she felt like I was adding fuel to the fire of the stereotype of faceless, merciless Israeli’s who occupy and oppress — rather than a satirical barb she saw it as an indictment. That wasn’t my intention nor was that my intepretation — I mean jeez louise, in Israel we call a black, hard backed brief-case: “A James Bond Bag.” But reading Gil’s commentary I see why Becky is so Hypervigilant. In this trauma filled reality we tend toward sweeping generalizations in order to establish our own place in the reality.
So maybe I’ll edit that chapter and maybe I won’t, but I will forever think of Becky and her concerns when writing about my homeland.
As for our humanity — I continue my Trauma Pinball Comparisons — Israel, Palestine-Northern Ireland, Inner City Boston.
My work has taught me that it is possible to pinpoint the moment that a young person gives up hope The roots of violence are not a mystery and are not in culture per se. Violence, on the other hand is no accident (Deborah Prothrow-Stith). Billy Mitchell, a former Northern Irish, Loyalist Paramilitary put it best when he said:
“Someone didn’t fly over Northern Ireland and drop some sort of loony gas; and suddenly people woke up one morning as killers. We didn’t go to bed one night as ordinary family men and wake up as killers. Conditions were created in this country whereby people have done things they shouldn’t have done.”
Gil, we all do things we shouldn’t, every society and culture has its moments of inhumanity, cruelty, and brutality — but most cultures are also heterogeneous with music, art, food, literature, sports, history, dance — I’m not quite sure if anyone is actually winning in the morality department right now — I just wish the killing would stop. I wish that culture was all about the Zaatar, all about the sulha, but it’s about many things at once. Lets keep our eye on the spectrum of possibility — that’s where change happens.
Gil’s last paragraph: “The terrorists see…” I don’t know what they see, or understand. I wish I did — but all my work with trauma has taught me that presumption is not the key to transcending violence; presumption is the key to lock out hope..
As for Gil and I — we can work it out!