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Friday, June 22, 2012

On Fear and Complacency

             For my last blog from Israel I wanted to write about the French tourists who dominate the beaches of Tel Aviv (as well as other beaches), and how their presence there constantly reminded me of my shock and despair when a month before our wedding the man I ended up marrying forty-eight years ago cheated on me with a French tourist who he had met on the beach.  But I never got to write that blog. Like other things I write about, the story is part of my memoir War Widow, which my followers can read once the book will be published.          
            Since I was approached by some of my readers who were waiting for my promised blog on my conversations in Israel about the political situation there, I chose to write about the complacency I detected there, in spite of the regression in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the growing likelihood of another Palestinian uprising if meaningful negotiations are not resumed.      
           I sensed that complacency everywhere: in social gatherings, on the beaches, in cafes and restaurants, in concert halls, and in the theatre.  Most of my friends agreed with me. Others who live elsewhere referred to Tel Aviv as another state that is removed from the Israeli reality. But when during supper in a charming Tel Aviv restaurant I discussed with my cousin the apparent contentment I sensed, she got terribly upset.        
         “How can you talk about complacency,” she asked me angrily, “when we send out children to the military, worrying to death during their service?”    
         “How can you talk about complacency when everything we read in the daily newspapers affects us? Aside from the headlines about the Euro crisis, there is hardly an issue that does not distress us, whether it is Iran, Egypt, or Syria. The uncertainty about whether Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, what kind of governments will emerge in Egypt or Syria and how those governments are going to relate to us causes me extreme anxiety, and I am not alone.”    
           I proceeded with an analysis of Iran’s rationality, and the Egyptian military which will not give up its privileges by permitting the Muslim Brotherhood to reign, regardless of the elections results there. And in any event it is not in Egypt’s interest to abrogate the Camp Davis peace accord it had signed with Israel in 1979, and certainly it is not in the interest of any leadership there to instigate Israel. Syria is a different story though, with an unknown outcome after the fall of Assad.        
        “Your analysis is based on expertise, and most of us here are not experts,” my cousin said.”
“Do you read reports about settlers’ behavior in the territories, and some of the things that are going on in the checkpoints, in your name?” I asked her?    
        “I do not want to read anything that upsets me,” she replied. “Life here can be stressful enough.”             
          Therein lies the complacency I detected, I thought. It begins with fear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coffee by the Sea Shore

           As a day of rest the Sabbath is a family day in Israel for the religious and the secular alike. For the latter segment of the population, in summertime, Saturday is a day when people take trips, spend the day in country clubs or on the beach. These activities are not different from what people do in some other parts of the world. But not too many big cities are located on the sea shore like Tel Aviv is. Here, the beach’s sand and the city’s old ports are dotted with cafes and restaurants that are busy with diners from morning till the small hours of the night. Many of these patrons are couples, others are groups of friends. Loneliness does not appear to exist there.
          Until he left for New York last Thursday, my husband and I were one of those couples who enjoyed eating breakfast in the open air in those restaurants on our way back to our hotel from the daily walks we took by the sea shore.
           I always stay behind after my husband leaves, relishing my days by myself in Tel Aviv, seeing childhood friends and more of my family, and enjoying the theatre in my native tongue which he doesn’t speak. Alone, I end my daily morning walks by the sea shore drinking an ice coffee in one of those restaurants facing the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike a regular weekday, it is hard to find an empty table on Saturday in any of them.
           This past Saturday I was lucky to find a bar-seat facing the water. On my right a young couple was giggling while having breakfast, on my left a young man was reading a book while drinking freshly squeezed orange juice. He could have been lonely, but not bored. Alone, I was enjoying the sweetness and the chill of my iced coffee, breathing the scent of summer and delighting in the clear turquoise water in front of me. Suddenly I felt a pang. Not because I was alone or lonely, but because the moment brought back to my days of widowhood, when I spent my Saturdays alone on the beach. Sometimes I stopped for a bite in a restaurant on my way home late in the afternoon, other times I ate at home the food I had cooked for me the previous day.
        I could have spent those Saturdays with family and friends. But I preferred going to the beach by myself, enjoying my privacy and my sense of independence. I enjoyed even more the sweet telephone calls I received on those Sabbath afternoons from my famous married lover, who wanted to find how my beach days were, or whether I had eaten. Sometimes he would whisper on the telephone, instructing me to call his home, and he would pretend he had an emergency and come over to see me. Those were the things one did for forbidden love, which I escaped when I left my country more than four decades ago.
        Yesterday afternoon I visited my fallen husband’s grave in a military cemetery near Tel Aviv. There was no one around; only I and the hundreds, and hundreds of graves. Alone in the cemetery, there too I cherished my solitude. This time, however, the quiet was roaring.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

From the Golan Heights

              The simple act of sitting with my American husband in a magnificent spot on the Golan Heights, captured by Israel forty-five years ago in the 1967 Six Day War, in a battle in which my first husband was fatally injured, stirs deep emotions in me. It blends my past and present into a complex mix, with which my blog readers are familiar.
             Whenever I used to travel in and around the Golan Heights, particularly at night, looking at the flickering lights reflecting from the Israeli settlements on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, I was captured by its beauty, often moved to tears. That was even before Israel seized the impressive mountains, from which the Syrians habitually shelled those settlements bellow. I experienced the same emotions whenever I heard the song about the Golan Hills, written by the poet Rachel Bluwstein, who lived in Kibbutz Kineret, also on shores of the Galilee Sea.            
          For me, ever since the Six Day War and continuing until today, these breathtaking views as well as the song have assumed an added meaning beside the sight of the mountains and the words of the song, which coincidentally is being broadcast on the radio as I proofread this blog post.
Though Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981, whether or not it should return this strategic land to Syria for a secured peace agreement with that northern Arab neighbor has been part of the Israeli national dialogue since 1967.
As one who has embraced the “land for peace” formula for the purpose of safeguarding Israel both as a Jewish and a democratic State, I believe Israel should relinquish most of the land it captured. A peace treaty that would result should end all Arab territorial and historical claims against Israel.The current situation in the Arab world may pose both opportunity and risk as far a peace making is concerned. With regard to Syria and its present state, the likelihood of a peace treaty is far in the future, for Israel cannot sign an agreement with an unstable and insecure partner.
        I agree that it is in Israel’s interest to negotiate peace with Syria once its post Assad government is stabilized (like many others, I believe it’s only a matter of time till Assad’s government falls). I assume, too, that no Syrian government will accept less than what the Egyptians accepted when they signed their peace agreement with Israel in 1979, that is, getting back all the land they had lost in the 1967 war. But sitting where I am, breathing the clean air, smelling the floral fragrances emanating from the fields that surround me and looking at what Israel has built in lieu if the desolation that had existed here when the area was in the hands on the Syrians, I vacillate.