Monday, 8 September 2008

Having had such a gap...

it was hard to start again.. But then I did. And it was ok!

  1. Religious tolerance DOES exist in Israel! I saw it myself! And was humbled! Ok, think I am done with exclamation marks now, perhaps for the year and will explain the episode. I got onto a sherut to Tel Aviv and there's a guy with a black hat sitting in the aisle seat, next to an empty seat. There is one other seat at the back which I really really don't fancy. Squished up and sweaty in the back of a sherut or next to the frummer? Well, actually, I didn't even consider sitting next to him. Being a bolshy and increasingly assertive Israeli, I told him that I think he needs to move. Must make a mental note to develop the old "inner voice/outer voice" thing.. Anyway, seeing as he is also an Israeli, perhaps an even more authentic one than me, says, "No, I don't". Hmm thinks I, and then say, "well, can I sit here?". "Betach sheken" (of course) says he. So I sit down next to him and then try and back track on what I realise might have been offence. "I just wanted to be sensitive.." I begin to mutter. So far so good..
Then enter stage irreligious woman from the opposite seat. Of course I know she is irreligious because I judge people according to their clothing. Bad, bad person I know. She asks Mr Black Hat if he'd like to swap seats. He isn't bothered, but does and us girlies sit together. So, after months of searching, I really found it! Religous tolerance in this holy state! It kind of makes up for the girl in one of my ulpan classes who said something like, " I feel so different to other Jews here, we should all feel closer. When I am on the bus through Me'ah She'arim [ultra othordox area] I feel different to the people who live there. They look at me like I am different."

I think I was alone in wanting to pull her hair and shout "YOU ARE!!!!". Oops.. let more exclamation marks in. Sorry. Won't do it again..

Truthfully, it was an useful episode because it reminded me about how my expectations of people can be wrong! I form opinions not based on how they actually behave, but how I presume they behave. I still often find myself thinking or talking about how religious attitudes are so significant here in the way people behave towards each other. And I am still only talking about Jews and Jews, I haven't even got to the 'Jews and Others' matter. And don't worry, I'm not going to do it. Well, not for a while anyway. During this year, one of the biggest learning curves has been on different ways that people express their Judaism. A large component of Diaspora Jewry is about being different from people, about being "other". Here, where most people reside amongst other people of their race, the starting point is completely different. Everyone is Jewish. Ok, I know it's not everyone, but most Jewish children go to schools with other Jewish children, they don't grow up with the feeling that they are different/special/picked on/wierd because you are Jewish. Incidently, when I was 5, I though that everything that was different about me was because I was Jewish, eg being a vegetarian and spelling things differently (i.e. wrong) It took my mother ages to convince me that 'visit' had two 'i's, and that I didn't have authority to spell it differently because of my Jewish-ness.

Anyway, I digress.. children here don't have that sometimes horrid, unbearable and painful experience of being different because they are Jewish, as so many people, particularly boys in England, do. The delineations are drawn differently, or to put it another way, nasty kids find other reasons to pick on children; origin, looks... But this all means that Israeli Jews don't necessarily have any common ground about their Jewish-ness. They find English "kippa in the pocket" types very odd because you are either religious or you are not. When I taught in London, I met a child who said, "I'm Jewish but I live in Israel". This does sound ultra Zionist, and I quite agree with the idea as it happens, but she (strangely) simply equated Israeli and Jew.

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit now. Suffice to say, I was glad that I had the opportunity to be reminded that it's way too easy to be judgemental.

Ok, now a brief number 2 and 3:

2. This is going back a bit, but as the stress is mounting, I'd like to remind myself about it. I got into University! This was a fairly complex procedure involving seemingly endless forms and phone calls to people to explain what the hell I was supposed to be doing, endless attempts at trying to meet people during their opening hours, endless opportunities where I had to pull myself together and not give in to the nerves, endless psyching myself up to the challenge of a Masters in Hebrew, not to mention* passing the Gimmel exam [3rd level in Hebrew Language school] in order to get in. The mounting stress now is that now that I have convinced those in charge/proved my worth, I actually have to do it. Conversations, reading children's books.. these are all easy compared to understanding lectures in Hebrew. I know that I am giving it a go, that I can do it and all the other sorts of rallying cries to use in order to keep psyching myself up but I am, basically, really nervous!

But I got in, have got the letter to prove it and everything. And this is a good thing.

[for the detalists among you, I am starting a Masters in Hebrew University, in Jerusalem, in Jewish Education, in November, in Hebrew.]

3. It is, really, nice to be back in Israel.

* Not to mention?? What sort of ridiculous phrase is that? Not to mention something that I am about to mention?? I hate these phrases. Honestly, I only left it in so I could rant about it a bit, perhaps even find some fellow phrase fascists.

"Honestly" is another one.. next time someone uses it, try replacing the word with "I'm about to lie here".. for example:

"Honestly, I only left it in so I could rant a bit"
[I'm going to lie here] I only left it in so I could rant a bit.

See, what actually happened is that I re-read what I wrote before pressing the publish button, and realised that I had used the heinous word, and then rather than changing it, I thought I could rally some support for the cause!

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