Wednesday, 28 October 2015

On Intifadas and a cast of thousands

Oy. Veys. Meer (There's no exact translation for this - look it up).

What may or may not be the long-expected Third Intifada is in full swing in Israel. At the same time, I managed to do my wrist in and was stuck in a cast for a month. But more on that later.

I always had a feeling I'd be here when (more) shit kicked off. After moving to Israel last summer, when the sirens were blaring and rockets were bloody everywhere (6am on a Saturday morning? Fuck you double, Hamas), there's always one more thing to adapt to in Israel. Yes, it is a bit terrifying, and I now have to wear a backpack (to prevent being stabbed from behind) when going outside, and really remain focused on my surroundings any time I step outside, but surely this will all die down once the world can see what's happening...

...Because it simply has to eventually. You know, back in England, I would do my very best to ignore virtually any discussion about Israel and remain apolitical in public, because people so often got it wrong. Non-Jews and Jews alike would utter the most horrendous, ill-informed and often outright ridiculous things, to me or in my presence. But more than that - there was just no point in wasting my breath in convincing them otherwise. It was like telling a smoker that it's a bad habit - would the smoker in question react and decide to quit, right there and then, because someone had told them the truth? Nope - because, with both addiction and long-held beliefs, it's really rather difficult to change peoples' attitudes.

You know, for starters, here's a tidbit of information that most people outside of Israel are clueless about: not all Arabs are Muslim; not all Muslims are Arab; not all Palestinians are Muslim; not all Israelis are Jews; not all Jews are Israelis. These are all incredibly important distinctions to make, and they often get massively conflated and/or oversimplified by people who try and put their ill-informed two cents in to the discussion, when they really shouldn't.

When I began my teaching carEer, having just moved back from Israel (what a culture shock that was, let me tell you) - a lot of the staff - yes, staff - the people educating children - had never met a Jew before. The pupils, living very near a charedi enclave in London, couldn't understand why I didn't look like the ones they'd seen before. One particularly enlightened soul on the staff (who actually happened to be very out and proud, and would spit histrionic feathers if anyone even used the 'g' word in any intangible way anywhere around the school), after forcing me to publicly declare that I wouldn't be partaking in a teacher's strike (I don't even think my union was striking, for the record) denounced me, frothing at the mouth, 'If you don't strike, you'll bring another Holocaust onto your people'. That's an actual quote. He wouldn't take it back (the prick), and the Head refused to discipline him. And none of this was out of the ordinary in my two years there. Here's the link to the article I wrote the second I left. And it doesn't even cover everything.

That's just one of the myriad of examples of antisemitism I've grown up alongside. In that one school alone, I'd get attacked by everyone and anyone - the kids (physical violence) and the staff ('nuff said above). And I remained polite, only ever fighting back when things got very, VERY bad (my job was on the line, and it really served no purpose, anyway, because the school, right up to the idiotic headteacher, were overwhelmingly ignorant, bar a couple of people, of  'Israelites', as she called me), usually refusing to engage in arguments or correct their frankly idiotic claims. My very first trip to Israel took place during the horrific and distressing Gaza pullout of 2005; I was later living there during the Mavi Marmara incident, and permanently made the move to Israel during the sirens and rockets last year, so I think I've got a bit of grounding and might know a bit of what I'm talking about more than someone who hasn't seen any of it with their own eyes, or even been to Israel/the West Bank/Gaza, for that matter.

Anyway. For years, I would sit and simmer and stew in my own growing rage at the idiocy and bias of it all: of the media (the BBC are particularly hateful, to my British dismay. After a Palestinian stabbed and murdered two men walking through the Old City, severely injuring the wife of one and also stabbing their two year old kid (!!!), the BBC's headline ran: 'Palestinian shot by police; two Israelis dead'. What the actual fuck? And this is just ONE incident of media bias - just look at this. There are hundreds if not thousands more examples), of the twisting of the truth (Palestinian and Arab news agencies fluctuate between promoting videos of the best way to kill Jews, celebrating terrorists as heroes <just as they did on 9/11 and have done ever since, with disgusting regularity> and denying the attacks <or 'actions', as they call them, distancing themselves from culpability, as if changing the language of it changes the fact that they've just murdered an innocent person> ever happened, and broadcasting as news that Israel kill 'innocent' Palestinians, and plant knives on them to pretend there was a stabbing attack. Which never really explains the seriously wounded person bleeding out right over there>, before posting vile videos, like this one, or faking Israeli aggression and brutality, which again is nothing new at all, as seen here, or just being open and baying for Jewish blood, like here,) and more and more...unfortunately, I could go on forever.

The point is, I would internally rage and question how none of these charmers I seemed to encounter everywhere could understand or were willing to see even a shred of the truth. Noone is perfect in this situation, and I'm not pretending Israel is either. Of course it's not. But especially when there are such clear parallels between, for example, the disgusting and public murder of Lee Rigby on a London street, and what's happening virtually every day here in Israel, the world's silence is deafening. It astounds me that, especially after the world remained silent during the Holocaust, there is still a different rule for Jews. Especially now we're self-determining. Damn straight.

Well, you get the picture. Now, however, that I'm in Israel, I'm surrounded by a country who understands and encounters the same situations, even if their reactions to these aren't always aligned with mine. I actually feel better here, oddly enough - yes, attacks happen way more frequently (average 3x per day), but they're put down quicker. Terrorism is recognised for what is is, and everyone is used to living on a high state of alert, which is much more than can be said for London. For all those lefty liberals, all those apologists and more - just wait, this wave is coming your way too. And, when it does, I'll be expecting the exact same shameful treatment and excuses which you'd previously directed at Israel ('But they're settlers', 'It's not terrorism, it's resistance', 'They had it coming to them') applied to your country when it happens. And it looks like it will be very soon indeed. Please don't think I'm referring here to the refugee crisis (another despicable story which really should have been handled better), but those home-grown citizens you've been excusing who are just biding their time, or the young 'uns I used to see radicalised before my eyes, and who that same stupid Head refused to report, or those who are clearly being open about their intentions towards any 'infidels' - and it's a very loose and inclusive definition, let me tell you, that essentially comes down to - if you're not with us, you're against us, and even if you're with us, it's only for a matter of time. Just look at Jihadi John.

That's another point - has noone ever considered that, with the Syrian refugees, Arab countries could have done more to help their brothers and sisters? Saudi Arabia has 3 million air conditioned tents, just sitting empty, and yet they won't take any refugees. How about the others? All that oil, that shared language and culture, and not one refugee allowed across any Muslim state? I'm not surprised - they haven't helped the Palestinians out either. In fact, it seems that Palestinians are pretty hated by the Arab states.

Please don't think this is my attempt to solve the current Intifada - have you noticed I've not offered any solutions? Because it's such a fucked up, complex and deep-rooted conflict, powered in part by intangible extras such as social media, historical prejudices and religion, meaning that I have no idea, or too many ideas, none of which would establish a long lasting resolution. No - my point is this: if you don't know your shit, you can't possibly comment, try as you might.

Long story short. After seeing yet another round of vitriol from people back in Blighty (again, Jews and non-Jews, if that matters to you), I decided to call it like I sees it for the first time in my life, spurting the news of new stabbing attacks, inciting videos and more as it came in all over my Facebook page, just to convey the sense of how all-pervading it is.

I'm not ashamed. Israel is my homeland. I waited long enough to be here, took more than my fair share of disgusting antisemitic abuse to get here, from all across the spectrum, and I firmly believe that if you know fuck all about a situation, haven't been in the place you're assuming all knowledge of, can't even tell the difference between a Jew and Israeli, or a Palestinian, an Arab Israeli, a Bedouin, a Circassian (or didn't know any of those people existed) and god knows what else, you better keep your goddamn mouth shut.

Anyway. In personal news.

Since making aliya over a year ago, I've had the pleasure of enjoying Israel's wonderful medical system. I've been on antibiotics eight times; had three trips to the emergency room (for a dog bite, an interesting bronchitis/laryngitis combo and my latest incident); one operation; two ultrasounds; five sets of blood tests; a visit to an orthopede (orthopedian? Orthopedician? Orthopediatrician? Orthopeatrist?? I swear I've never known this word in English) and other stuff.

Perhaps, as has just occurred to me, it could be the decades of rage spilling out from within, now it's got a release, which has caused me to fall ill time and time again. Or, having spoken to other olim, it would seem that it takes time getting used to all the germs et al in this here land. After the hives (pictured) and random heavy and unexpected nosebleeds, it seems there might have been an allergic reaction to...something, not to mention several tops ruined.

I had a bit of a silly accident on my bike, going flying headfirst onto a downhill slope.  At first, I just thought there were a few bloody bruises and nasty cuts (knees, chin, hands, elbow...), but then I feel a stinging pain emanating from my wrist. It was pretty tender, but then again, I had just body-smashed a pavement. 

After a few hours and some swelling, I thought it was maybe best to get it checked out at the emergency centre. Terem is amazing, as is most of the healthcare in Israel. It operates smoothly, with a bit of a wait (not like A&E's 8-hour whoppers!), with dedicated specialists for everything under the sun. I am always so impressed whenever I (unfortunately) have the pleasure of ending up there.

Following the X-rays and meeting with the hand-specialist, I was sent to get wrapped up. 
You know, I really think this is a case of 'be careful what you wish for' - even if it is 15 years later. Throughout secondary school, I would have done anything to have been in a cast - it would mean leaving class and school early to avoid stampedes, and getting out of PE, with added opportunities for random attacks of imagined pain which I could then excuse myself for. 

Casts are so uncomfortable and HEAVY. Try any of the following activities, using just one hand: 
  • Sleeping normally
  • washing your hands
  • getting dressed - including doing buttons, hooks and zips, 
  • trying to close a wallet, 
  • showering and washing your hair 
  • washing up 
and that's just a very basic list.

Now, thankfully de-casted, having got all that Intifada stuff off my chest, I've had a series of thoughts:

Be careful what you wish for, don;t take anyone or anything for granted, and, perhaps most importantly - be safe, because anything can and will change in an instant. And it's often beyond your control.