Yesterday, the first night of Hanukkah in 2012 (or I should say the 24th of Kislev, 5773 – when in Rome…), I celebrated the Israeli way, which means no presents, no Hanukkah Bush and certainly no Hanukkah Harry. The “real” Jewish celebrations of holidays in Israel are different, and I would like to argue that my unique and Diasporic ways are no less Jewish just because they have been Americanized or include other cultural traditions; however, that argument is not really important to me today, as irritating as it can be.
Yesterday, on the first night of Hanukkah, Hamas – an offshoot of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood and the main military and governmental authority in Gaza, celebrated 25 years of existence (founded during the First Intifada in 1987). Some really important leader named Khaled Meshal arrives in he Gaza Strip for the first time in 45 years, since his exile, and claims that he will one day be the president of Palestine, which will include the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and ALL of what is now present day Israel. He says in a moving speech, that Palestinians will never recognize the existence of Israel, so the battle marches on…
Meanwhile, in a little wine bar off a quaint and picturesque, albeit cat piss infested, alleyway in Jaffa, an American (me), a Jordanian, a Pakistani, an Israeli, and finally, a French gather for some drinks as a way to get to know each other. We are all around the same age and in Tel Aviv, Israel in this day in time because we all wanted to study conflict resolution and mediation, specifically the Arab-Israeli conflict. In New York, I would gather with my friends, who were for the most part multinational, multicultural, and always open to discussion of the touchiest topics, on a regular basis. I never really paid too much attention to the different nationalities or ethnic groups I was surrounded by. But here in Israel, I’m so much more aware of it, and not in a judgmental way. On the contrary, I’m very excited to be apart of the dialogue for the first time in my life, a dialogue that is bigger than what I will wear to a New Years party, what my salary is, where my apartment is located, etc. etc.
Anyways, there was nothing extraordinary about a handful of women getting together for wine. We discussed the usual things – dudes, clothes, missing our homes, all that stuff. We also touched upon being in Israel during the most recent Palestinian-Israeli violent escalation a few weeks ago. We all agreed that in a small yet monumental way, we were glad to be here to witness it. The reality of this side of it became real to us, because we are living on this side of it. I’m thrilled to have this experience, and despite my initial reservations of going back to school, I’m really happy to be here now despite the scary and uncertain future of this sometimes hopeless conflict.
Meanwhile, back at the Knesset… Netanyahu gears towards the Israeli elections by “ensuring” the security of Israel with more settlement housing plans in the E1 district near Jerusalem and the West Bank, thereby irritating and playing tit for tat games with the peace process and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas and the PA celebrate (together with Gazans and Hamas) the PA upgrade to a non-member observer state status at the United Nations – which by the way, is in direct violation of the 1993 Oslo Accords. The growing list of international ambassadors in Tel Aviv are being summoned back to their respective countries in order to apply pressure to the right-wing settlement policies of Netanyahu’s politics. In Gaza, Hamas celebrates its quarter birthday along with its most recent “victory” over Israel. A unified Palestinian entity does not seem so far off anymore. For Israel, it’s not quite clear if this direction is good or bad.
In the meantime, I’ll keep talking about it all, despite the reservations I have regarding knowing absolutely nothing about this whole balagan (chaos – the origins may be Hebrew or may be Russian) and despite a whole slew of people telling me (Israelis and Americans, mostly) I know nothing about what it’s really like to live here and separately, yet intertwined, be Jewish. We all have our opinions, we all have our narratives that we cling on to closely and cuddle with late at night, because God forbid someone convinces us that what we believe in is wrong. The internal struggle is so much more complicated than the external one. And even though this region has not had many miraculous events occur recently, we still hope that maybe someday oil for one day will magically last for eight. Either way I’ll keep eating potato latkes with applesauce instead of sour cream.