Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why they hate the Jews

David sent us this short video for Israel lovers on why Israel is so great. It struck me that inasmuch as it is an attempt to rebut "Israelophobia" by showing all the good things about Israel, it is really just showing what the Judeophobes already see and answer with their conspiracy theories and blood libels, because they resent a success that does not seem available to all.

If you are one of those who gets tired of the "look how smart and successful" Jews are promotions, maybe you can fall in love with the little things. Here's a little list making the rounds of Israel lovers on the web
Loving Israel is in the details

By Joel Chasnoff · April 14, 2010

NEW YORK (JTA) -- In honor of Israel’s 62nd birthday, I’ll forgo the expected Op-Ed about Israeli government corruption, the Bibi-Obama drama, or the Israeli Rabbinate’s stranglehold on marriage and divorce.

Instead, I offer this love letter to Israel: "Top 10 tiny details about Israel that make it the most wonderful country on earth."

10. Egged Bus #394: The midnight ride from Tel Aviv to Eilat. The trip begins in the gray-stucco slums of south Tel Aviv. Two hours later, you’re rolling through the desert beneath a blanket of stars. You crack open the window. The desert smells dry and ancient, like an attic. At dawn, you pull into Eilat as the city comes to life.

9. The way Israelis refuse to cross the street on a red light. Drivers blare their horns the instant the light turns green. Yet pedestrians refuse to cross the street until the sign turns green. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon at 3:00 a.m., the streets bare and not a car in sight.

8. The Jewish soul of even the most secular Israelis. I served in the Israeli Army with kibbutz kids who were so anti-religious that they never even had a bar-mitzvah. But on Friday nights, as the brigade sung the Sabbath Kiddush en masse, I could see my secular comrades mouthing the words.

7. Flush handles on Israeli toilets. Almost all Israeli toilets, both public and in homes, have two flush handles -- one for “light” loads, and one for heavy ones. This saves Israel’s most precious natural resource: water. And it’s genius.

6. Drop-dead gorgeous Israeli soldiers. The men are hunky, the women beautiful. Try not to drool as you watch them strut down Ben Yehudah Street in their olive-green uniforms, M-16s slung across their backs. It’s not so much their physical beauty that charms us as what they embody: Jewish power.

5. Shuk Ha-Carmel on Friday afternoons. So many things about Israel drive me mad. The bureaucracy is crippling. Government offices operate when they want, for as long (or short) as they want, usually something like 8 a.m. until noon Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Thursday. Each week, another group goes on strike -- schoolteachers, garbage men, postal workers, phone operators, cable guys, bus drivers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, airport baggage guys, and the old men in blue jumpsuits who walk the streets of Tel Aviv stabbing pieces of trash with meter-long spears have all struck in the past year -- so the country never runs at full power.

The Knesset, Israel’s 15-party parliament, is trapped in a state of perpetual gridlock. And yet, when I step into the Carmel Market and hear the shopkeepers barking their wares, smell the mixture of frying lamb, goat cheese, and human sweat, and watch the people line up to buy flowers for Shabbat, I remember why I love Israel so much. It’s the excitement of the place, but also the Middle Easterness of it -- the barking, the bargaining, the haggling that’s at once friendly and brutal. At pushcarts and stalls, middle-aged men with gold chains and raspy cigarette voices sell mangoes, lemons, whole and quarter chickens, cow lungs, cow tongues, cow testicles, sheep brains, 50-plus varieties of fish, calculators, knockoff Nikes, carnations, sponges, girdles, batteries, and men’s and ladies’ underwear.

Friday afternoons, with only a couple of hours until sundown, the peddlers shout their last-minute pre-Sabbath bargains: “Tangerines, 1 shekel, 1 shekel!” “Pita, hummus, chickpeas-- yallah! Shabbat, Shabbat!” Whenever I walk through the souk, I think about all those American diplomats who call Israel the America of the Middle East. If those diplomats really want to understand Israel, they should leave their fancy Jerusalem hotels and take a stroll through the Carmel Market.

4. Chocolate milk in a sack. Half a liter of Kibbutz Yotvateh chocolate milk sealed in a palm-sized plastic bag that you rip open with your teeth and then squeeze, causing the milk to shoot into your mouth in a way that makes you feel like you’re drinking straight from the udder of a chocolate cow. Need I say more?

3. The incredible bond between Israelis. Maybe it’s a remnant of shtetl life in Europe, or perhaps it has something to do with living so close to your enemy. Whatever the reason, Israelis act as if everyone is everyone else’s next-door neighbor. The first time I experienced this unique bond was the week I arrived in Israel to begin my army service. I was driving to Tel Aviv in a rental car when a guy pulled up next to me at a stoplight and beeped his horn. “Hey, achi!” he called. “My girlfriend’s thirsty. You got water?” Beside me, on the passenger seat, was a bottle of water. But it was half empty.

I held up the bottle. “It’s already open,” I said.

“No problem,” he replied, and stuck out his hand.

A week later, I was at my girlfriend, Dorit’s, family’s apartment with her parents. It was dinnertime and we had ordered pizza. Finally, after two hours, the pizza guy showed up on his motor scooter. He was disheveled and sopped with sweat. “I got lost,” he whimpered.

“So come inside! Sit!” said Dorit’s mother, Tzionah. “Coffee or tea?”

“Coffee,” said the pizza guy. “Milk and two sugars.”

While Tzionah made the coffee, Dorit’s father, Menashe, opened the pizza box. “Please take.” He offered a slice. The pizza guy waved him off. “Nu! You’re offending me!” said Menashe. “What’s your name?"

“Oren,” said the delivery guy.

“Oren. I insist. Eat.”

And I’ll be damned if Oren the pizza guy didn’t sit down at the kitchen table and eat the pizza he’d just delivered. As we ate, I thought about all those porno movies where the lonely housewife invites the pizza boy inside and seduces him on the kitchen table. In the Israeli version of the story, the pizza boy doesn’t make love to the housewife. Instead, he sits down with the family and eats pizza.

2. Dropping off a passenger at Ben-Gurion Airport. You pull up to the Departure door, hug your loved ones goodbye, and watch them walk into the terminal. Then you inhale a breath of sweet Israeli air, look up at the cloudless Tel Aviv sky, and think, “They have to leave...but I get to stay in Israel.”

1. ____________________________________________ . I leave this one up to you. What do you love most about Israel? E-mail me and I’ll post your responses on the blog page of my Web site.
Do you have to be a Jew to live in a nation like this? I see no reason to think so. But it would require seeing through a lot of the anti-national ideology of our times and start modeling your own life on others you admire.


Anonymous said...

I’ll add one to the list. As a young person with no car, I liked being able to stick out my hand and flag down a ride with little effort. Soldiers are always hitch-hiking from post to home and back and, at least when I was there earlier in the decade, a young person could generally rely on the kindness of strangers. Even deep in the upper Galilee on the first anniversary of 9/11. In some ways this was leaching off of a collective goodwill for the young people serving in the IDF. People were always very friendly though and I found these small gestures to be inspiring signs of a people willing to lend a hand to their countrymen (or, in my case, a bumbling foreigner).

There were other little things about the country I loved, some from Chasnoff’s list and some from my own. There were also things that continue to trouble me. The political inequality in the territories is horribly depressing. Some people who enjoy full rights of Israeli citizenship can live in a government subsidized housing complex on a hill overlooking a city where none of the residents enjoy the same rights. I think I understand the Israeli arguments, but still many aspects of the settlement system are grating and unjustifiable in a self-respecting democracy.

I could name other things, but the point I want to make is that admiration for the small things in Israeli life can exist side-by-side with disappointment over the way the country has handled some of its major political challenges. There are Israel haters out there and these folks won’t cut the country any slack. There are also quite a few people who hold mixed views. Joel’s list can pull at the heartstrings a little and I did enjoy reading it. People with mixed views know that major problems exist though, and these can’t be shrugged of by suggesting it’s simply a resentment of success.


covenant said...


I think perhaps that "resentment of success" is a claim that might be criticized for being a tautology that tells us little new. What is resentment, in any shape or form, but antagonism towards those we imagine (rightly or wrongly, rationally or irrationally) to have succeeded at our expense?

I wonder how you think Israel could have dealt differently with the fact it has had to occupy, in self-defense, the territories of people whose political kingpins have proven time and again an unwillingness to accept, as a long-term fact, the existence of a specifically Jewish state? (Why you think Israel should give citizenship to people in lands it occupies, militarily, but does not wish to incorporate is unclear - has that ever happened anywhere in history? Why hold Israel to such an unreal standard just because many refuse to come to terms with the facts of Israel's military success in 1967 and accept accordingly appropriate terms of peace?) No doubt it is a tragedy in the modern world to see a people without a functioning state of their own, but what could Israel have done to avoid the present self-destructive impasse that Palestinian politics/religion creates? Perhaps it would be a good idea if Israeli citizenship were on offer to those Palestinians who work with Israel to undermine the terrorist and warrior factions in the territories but beyond that what can we propose?

Anonymous said...

I was referring specifically to the settlement system in the West Bank. I don’t think Israeli citizenship should be extended to Palestinians in the territories. But having these Jewish-only enclaves where Israeli citizens live beside occupied Arabs is perverse. And I’m not referring to some apartment buildings on French Hill that will be part of Israel in any plausible agreement with the Palestinians. I’m talking about places like Hebron. There are two separate legal regimes that apply to the different groups in the same territory. Like I said, democracies shouldn’t do this.

Israel has enemies. That doesn’t mean they get a clean slate to do whatever they like. My expectation of what they could do differently is simple: don’t fund and support the settlements.


truepeers said...

There are two separate legal regimes that apply to the different groups in the same territory. Like I said, democracies shouldn’t do this.

-Well, Canada still claims to be a democracy and we are installing a separate legal regime for aboriginals with all kinds of economic rights atached; but i grant that i don't think this serves democracy (I'm not against helping poor aboriginals, though I am against institutionalizing tribal government and property). At least Israel still tends to presume that a border between two states will one day separate the settlers and Palestinians.

Anyway, there may be an argument against some of the settlements, but the fact they are subsidized seems to me besides the point. They are subsidized because Israel sees them in its national self interest (and that's what needs to be contested, if you disagree) so Israel is not unlike any other state in subsidizing what it wishes to see build. And besides the construction and operation of the settlements has provided economic benefits to the Palestinians too, at least until recently when the PA banned Palestinians from taking jobs there, in order to look sufficiently pure-minded to European public opinion.

It seems to me an argument against the settlements, from people who are otherwise supporters of Israel, needs to make the case that they are not providing Israel with defensible borders or are beyond any future possible border. I'm no expert on this but I read that the settlements constitute less than two percent of the West Bank and are located according to military imperatives to insure a defensible border.

The other question you might consider is why should the West Bank be Jew free when Israel is home to many non-Jews? Why should we presume that any future Palestinian state must be Jew free?