Jun 10, 2011

I Don't Hate Israel(is)

Circa 2008, I planted a tree in Israel. I forget the type, but it's the kind that
doesn't fully bear fruit until the generation of the grandchildren. Why?
I believe in Israel, and I believe in continuity.

My last post, Only in Israel, really resulted in quite the ruckus from my readership and some strangers. People said I was speaking lashon hara about Israel and Israelis and even Jews! I really don't like writing these "in defense of myself" posts, but the things people have said to me rub me in a really, really wrong way. Some things people said:
Stop talking loshon hara about Israel and it's [sic] people or leave the country. You should feel lucky that you're even here.
"Its" people are largely Jewish. I'm Jewish. I'm proud to be Jewish. In fact, I'm that person back in the U.S. fighting for Israel education and Hebrew language education, if I'm not mistaken. I'm the person in the U.S. defending the right of Israel and Israelis -- Jews for the most part -- to exist. Sure, I'm luck that I'm here, but you should be, too. 
These [the things I wrote in my post] are just blatant lies. You should have titled your post "why can't Israelis have class like me"
Class? What does "class" have to do with anything? It doesn't take class to let a woman with a stroller by or to not knock over an elderly person on the sidewalk. It also doesn't take "class" to give someone room to breathe, let alone stand, while attempting to connect with HaShem at the Kotel.

And to the comment that "With all due respect, you are writing about your somewhat limited experiences in Jerusalem," I've spent my fair share of time in Israel. December 2008-January 2009, I was here for 10 days. Another 10 days in November-December 2009, followed by another 10 days in November-December 2010. And now, here I am, here for three weeks in Jerusalem proper.  Aside from my first trip (which was Birthright), I've stayed in an apartment in Nachlaot, walked the streets of Jerusalem, sat at coffee shops and wasted time, and eaten at the restaurants and hole-in-the-walls that everyone else does.

That's 30 days before now, plus another 21 after this trip. It might not be consistent, but I know Jerusalem, and I know Israelis. Two of my best friends are Israelis, and they're moving back to Israel this month and I'm sad to see them go because they are my emotional rock much of the time.

I love Jerusalem, and I love Israel. I've been to so many places, including Ramat Shlomo and Ramat Beth Shemesh, Caesaria, Tel Aviv, the Golan, Chevron and so on. I love this country more than anything in the world, but the horror of that moment at the Kotel that sent me reeling and into the doors of an ambulance -- the psychological trauma of it -- sent me reeling.

Everyone, that was a personal post about a personal experience. I didn't want to go into the sordid details of the experience, but maybe I should, so you all understand the gravity of the situation. But it was *that* traumatizing. I didn't leave my apartment for a good day and a half after it. It could have happened anywhere in the world, but it happened in Israel, it's a result of circumstance.

I've been to dozens of concerts in the US, concerts of crowding and pushing and mosh pits, and nothing prepared me for what I experienced at the Kotel.

I love the frankness and chutzpah of Israelis. I love how Israelis can be harsh and giving in the same moment. I love how the same people will ask you for tzedakah over and over again, hoping to help groups of needy young Israelis. I love the attempts by Israel to have the Gap and American Apparel (it closed) and other "American" stores. I love the style of Israeli women in long flowing dresses and multi-colored scarves that dance around their dark eyes. I love the food, the smells, the color of everything and everyone. I love the children bouncing in payot and the scream of sellers in the shuk. I love how I don't feel the need to wear makeup here, and I don't spend hours getting ready everyday. I like how I can sit in my apartment, doing work or wasting time and how I feel completely at peace and at home without even trying.

We all have good days, and we all have bad days. There are, without a doubt, days when Israelis hate being Israelis. There are, without a doubt, days when I hate being in New Jersey, let alone the United States. But the reverse is true, too. Having a frustrated confusing experience in a land that you love with all of your heart can be heartbreaking, and for me, writing is therapeutic. It's like the child who sees his father as completely infallible, perfect, and in one quick moment something small makes him realize we're all human and nothing is meant to be held upon a pedestal, because the moment it is, it surely will begin to fall. Respect, love, and admiration are healthy -- but not without an understanding that all things in this world are imperfect. If they were perfect, then we wouldn't have such a heavy load to carry, Mashiach would come, and HaShem would be satisfied. Clearly, that's not the case.

As one commenter argued,
It's a wonderful country, but if you think we have nothing to work on, then _you_ can leave. E"Y is for people who want to grow, not for those who want to remain stagnant. (Mike)
Amen, amen.
And for those of you who doubt my sincerity or love of Israel, just look at my past posts on Israel. I write about Israel, Israelis, terror, and my desire to make aliyah all the time. 

19 comments:

Erika-Chaya said...

Great post. I didn't think you needed to defend yourself or your post, but since you did, this was a GREAT way to do it. I hope the rest of your time in Israel is a wonderful experience!!

Ima2seven said...

If someone went to the park and my children (or siblings) were there and behaved horribly, I would much prefer to hear about it privately then to read about it on line.

There is a part of many of us that feel that way about Israelis or a gathering of Jews anywhere - as family members. We are upset to read publicly about their shameful behavior. Everyone is human, but we are embarrassed when our Jewish 'family' misbehaves.

Having said that, you wrote about your own personal experience on your own blog. I didn't enjoy the feelings I had when I read your post. But I certainly wasn't upset at you for writing them, or thinking you did something wrong.

I hope between now and when you leave our "family" leaves you with enough positive experiences to make the trauma a distant memory.

MokumAlef said...

Oh c'mon people - lighten up! Whatever happened to the notion of satire! Ever read Ephraim Kishon's short stories???? Many will have had similar experiences. And you know what - just because it's ours these things are said with love and tongue-in-cheek. Do they warrant improvement - possibly. But that's what makes Israel Israel and we all love it for it. Things one wouldn't put up with elsewhere become charming, in my experience. Shabbat shalom y'all!

Suburban Sweetheart said...

People are so darn touchy - and frankly, this "NEVER SAY A BAD WORD ABOUT ISRAEL" attitude that accuses anyone with a complaint of being a self-hating Jew? Is a dangerous, close-minded, stagnant state of being. No matter how much we love something or someone, there will always be flaws, room for improvement - I love my mom more than anyone in the world, but I could write a post or two on the things that drive me up a wall about her. Am I an ungrateful, mother-hating spawn? No. I'm just realistic. And yes, I just compared my mother to Israel. YOU GET THE POINT.

chicagocarless.com said...

Chicagoans say the same things when newcomers here complain about the weather. Small-minded idiots. Everyone is allowed a critical voice. And you know what--the complainers will still read your blog anyway :-)

VickiB said...

If loving Israel involves sunshiney posts where nothing is wrong and everything Israel is right through a tinny hasbara mouthpiece, I don't want to be a part of that kind of love.

Just like real people, Israel has beautiful attributes and terrible flaws, and real love is learning that criticism does not mean hate.


Good original post.

Sophia said...

I've no idea how anybody could have found anything wrong with your post!! Inspite of the mild criticism, I felt your post was nevertheless an expression of love and affection for Israel and its uniqueness. If other people didn't get it, just ignore them, Chavi :)

Anonymous said...

Do you think that it is coincidence that last week's Torah portion had to do with Miryam speaking loshon hara and this week the meraglim speaking loshon hara about Eretz Yisroel? Just sayin.
The poster who says you've been here a limited time is right. You've been here a week here and a week there.

Bracha said...

I don't think loving Israel means "sunshiny posts where nothing is ever wrong." But I do think it means making an effort not to give people fodder for bashing Israel or reasons for not visiting or making aliyah themselves. The part of your original post that bothered me was the last line about wanting to "pick up and go back to Teaneck." If every Jew in Israel would view "going back to Teaneck (or wherever!)" as an option when things get a little rough, where would our little country be?

Anonymous said...

I think anonymous poster is a bit harsh. What you should do just to make things clear is show your rabbi the things you are posting about your experience in Israel. Then it will be clear if it is allowed or not.

Chaviva said...

Man alive are my readers bi-polar. Of course, by that I mean there are those of you who see the purpose of the post and my feelings as valid expressions of an experience, and then there are those of you who think I'm doing a major disservice -- even lashon hara -- to the Jewish people.

Sigh.

I'm not going to show this to a rabbi. Plenty of rabbis read my blog, and not a one of them has reprimanded me. You win some, you lose some. It is what it is.

I can't imagine what's going to happen when I write my next post, or maybe I won't. It's about HaShem being absent during Shavuot at the Kotel. So ... who knows.

Just curious said...

Did you go back to the Kotel? Motzei Shabbos? I think I might have seen you. If that was you, (hard to recognize people from occasional blog-pictures) I hope you had a better experience this time :) Certainly it was quieter than Shavuot.

Anonymous said...

If you are going to talk about Hashem being absent during Shavuout at the Kotel then it is time for you to pack your bags and head to Teaneck. What chutzpah you have.

Hashem is testing you and you are failing.

Before you consider writing such an article remember that at 120 you will have to explain to your Creator why you wrote such a thing, and not only that, why you published it. You know what, now that I think about it, please write it.

What does it say about you that you have to write about negative experiences. It is okay to write controversially sometimes but not if it means talking about Israel and Jews. Maybe it's time for you to head home.

Chaviva said...

I did! You should have said hello :)

It was much more relaxing and peaceful. I felt HaShem there, which was a relief. After studying some Pirkei Avot during Shabbos, I was worried I was being seriously tested/reprimanded ...

Chaviva said...

@Anonymous Your thoughts about me are so brazen. Why can you not share your name? You are so willing to call me out and suggest I leave Eretz Yisrael ... yet you aren't willing to put a name to your comments.

What does that say about you?

DLP said...

Chaviva, I don't think you have to defend your love of Israel, but since you did...


All I can ask is: OMG. What's up with all the ANONYMOUS haters?


First -- who says you have to live in Israel or have visited Israel a 100 times -- or for that matter, visited Israel at all to have love for Israel?

I always say that it's hard to be in Israel and it's hard NOT be in Israel... And you can love Israel and NOT love EVERYTHING about it.

As for all of the comments about "Loshon Hara" -- when it comes to loshon hara, there are 3 who are at fault -- the speaker for saying it, the listener for not curbing the speaker's speech, and the topic of the "loshon hara" for acting in a way or giving just cause that creates the opportunity for the speaker to speak this way....

When it comes to Israel, I choose to take the good with the bad -- and hope for more good and less bad.... But let's not delude ourselves into thinking that Israelis have created a eutopian society that is the State of Israel...

Chana said...

I can't believe people have been so touchy. Your criticisms are mild and within the realm of respectful discourse

mother in israel said...

A few of the things you mentioedn in the first post are harmless cultural differences or require simple adjustment, like the showers. But I don't have any problem with your posting your negative experiences. I'm really sorry that you had them and I hope the rest of your visit is better.
I'm not sure it's fair to say that you "know" Jerusalem when you have been in Israel for a total of 50 days as a tourist, even if you rented an apartment for some of that time.

DLP said...

@mother in israel...

I disagree with your suggestion that 50 days may not be enough time to "know" Jerusalem. There's an old Israeli saying that goes "yarad lo ha'asimon" -- sometimes it takes a while, and sometimes it only takes that a short time, but either way, it happens in an instant -- and that "aha" moment lasts forever.

Chaviva isn't suggesting that she gets what it's like to actually live in Israel. Her assessment of knowing Jerusalem is neither unfair nor innacurate.

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