I’m finally back in Palestine. The other side of the wall. And I feel relieved, as if I’m back home. Life here in Palestine is real. It wasn’t that the places I saw in Israel were disappointing or uninteresting, but that the place seems like it doesn’t exist in the world. The occupation is out of sight, out of mind. The people seem out of place. It’s not that their unfriendly, but they are going about their daily lives as if nothing was happening a mere 28 miles away. In Israel, the occupation can be ignored. Here, it is a part of everyday life. So what I experienced seemed like a dream; an odd disconnect from reality.
As a Jew, I didn’t at all like a part of this country. But I’m supposed to, right? It’s my homeland, they say. Why was this country created? As a safe place for Jews. But do I feel safe? No. When I see eighteen year old men carrying machine guns on the street or pushing their way onto a busy bus I don’t feel safe. And the soldiers are everywhere. I can’t count on one hand how many times a soldier sat next to me on the bus. Maybe to Israeli citizens, this is comforting; a reminder of their protection. But to me, they were a constant reminder of the occupation. The only remnant connecting the two worlds. And I certainly didn’t feel at home.
I went to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. It was interesting and informative, describing how Jews in different countries lived after the Great Revolt in 70 CE. Then as I approached the end of the exhibit, it rapidly turned into propaganda. The end was entitled Return: Ingathering of the Exiles. It referred to the current state of Israel being born. Exile? Am I in exile? I was born in the United States and no one has kicked me out. Mourid Barghouti, a Palestinian poet, was in Cairo when the 1967 war ended. He was born in Ramallah. He was not allowed to go back for thirty years. That is exile. I have never experienced exile, and yet this museum is telling me I am. There is no mention about how the state itself was created, but rather that this people in “exile” for 2000 years were finally allowed to come back. They gave you some choose your own adventure stories. The one I read said:
When most North African Jews decide to immigrate to Israel, your family moves to France. As you grow up, you must decide whether to immigrate to the new state of Israel or integrate into France.
I press the “integrate into France” button. It tells me that I have a prosperous life, and my grandchildren become great contributors to French society, but that I soon find out my family has lost touch with the Jewish way of life.
I press the “immigrate to Israel” button. It tells me almost the exact same as the other choice, but the ending proclaimed: You are not just immigrating, you are home.
And I suddenly wish I had not given my thirty sheckels to this place. I walked out feeling at odds with my identity. What kind of Jew is the Israeli government trying to cultivate? They want them to be blind. There are some that act out, but just as in America, the media makes sure these people are in the periphery. What is Jewish about this state? The Jews I know are my family and members of temple I grew up with. They don’t apply hateful principles to their life. I am one Jew that Israel will never manage to blind. I walk with my eyes open.