Letter 3, Israel, September 3, 2012

People shopping at Shuk Mahane Yehuda


My first month here in Israel has flown by…

Where does the time go when you are first getting to a place and feeling the reverberations of one’s own voluntary displacement? Not sure yet, but in the meantime I am keeping up with the news. Unfortunately, I have been far too removed from the American media, always glancing over CNN and going straight to Aljazeera, Ynet news, and Haaretz.  It is funny, but I prefer to get my news about America through these Middle Eastern venues. Are they more reliable? Maybe, maybe not, but at least they are different and less committed to the sensationalism that has been so damaging to our country. Think about it. This phenomenon is so powerful it has deemed our President a potentially illegitimate Christian, citizen, and an ardent Communist.  These unrelenting stories, hell-bent on obstructing any political gains for the Democratic Party, have played on short memories and portrayed him as a president responsible for four horrible years of economic hardship and heartbreaking socialist manipulations of American society. Smear campaigns hardly consistent with the real candidate’s record.

I could dissect these sentiments so as to come to Obama’s defense. Yet I only have the energy to do so when I feel his agenda, let alone the legitimacy of future presidencies is completely undermined by blatant ignorance and disrespect.  After all, I made the conscious decision to spend this year abroad and to mail in my vote, rather than canvas East Coast neighborhoods and partake in what I hope to be Obama’s reelection. I am a disillusioned supporter, yet I blame our problems on our country’s societal ignorance and misguided values rather than the man himself.  He has undoubtedly become a far more complicated political figure, but I trust him. Whether one casts their vote for him with blind faith or with unrelenting confidence, he or she is making the conscious decision that the other side has seemingly gone off the deep end.

After watching segments of the Republican convention and Jon Stewart’s political satire last week, my interest in the election has been reignited.  This mainly has to do with Clint Eastwood’s tirade. To me, it was an episode one might see when an elderly man is conversing with himself in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.  It was in no way shape or form a legitimate display of ideological fortitude. It is exactly the type of sensationalism that turned the Presidency into a pawn, subject to the malfeasances of reality TV and the ignorance it produces. Furthermore, the speeches were angry, distorted, and at times, contained downright fallacies. It is infuriating that in the end, despite fact checkers, and analytical media, Romney received standing ovations and millions of dollars in donations, all while Hurricane Isaac raged and New Orleans sank for the second time in a ten-year span.

Yet again, I apologize. For my interests demanded a genuine reaction to the convention but not a comprehensive dissection of what this event truly was and what it highlights about the demographics of our country. That reality is far too scary, and, like other people my age, I often times prefer loud music and beers to an in depth analysis of our society’s regional fragmentation. The Democrats have their shot at grandiose political statements in a few days and I hope their convention gets more coverage, brings in more funding, and that their speeches are far more coherent. Americans need to know that the country has to change its ways. That doesn’t mean change the policies of the last four years, it means continue with the corrective orientation of the current government and continue to work toward altering the misguided platforms of the post Carter administrations. Like you said in a recent email, you hope “this can all be a means to an end.” I hope you are right…

As for Mandani’s book and my neck of the woods, a recent Aljazeera news piece reported that 2011 was the best year yet for America’s arms sales abroad. Saudi Arabia alone purchased close to 34 billion dollars worth of U.S. weaponry. So, as America’s wounded economy and societal fissures demand stabilization, our country’s political aftershocks have ways of being felt throughout the Middle East.  Currently, the daily online newspapers let me choose between Israel’s supposedly imminent war with Iran, the civil war in Syria, the revolutionary government in Egypt, and the arming of the Gulf Arab states against the Iranians.  It is like one of our many games of Risk, only in this version you need a few doctorate degrees and at least five languages under your belt before you can even fathom placing your troops in the Middle East. It is better to just stay in Kamchatka or the Ukraine…

As for war with Iran, nothing is more saddening and scary to think about. Israeli’s are bracing themselves for a war they feel, if not know, they cannot win. And yet they know Iran’s nuclear bomb cannot come into being. They know that their country will have to try and stop it, and that such an effort could only be weeks away. Such talk of war was going on when I was here two years ago, only now when I talk to Israelis they project an extremely worrisome display of consternation and a supposed “preparedness” for the unimaginable. It is as if no one can get into the mind of Benjamin Netenyahu. Now, the leader that they themselves are responsible for is playing with their lives. Due to his impersonal secrecy, they can only take his bluffs toward the U.S. and Europe as imminent truths.

Such fatalism seems to be having disastrous effects on Israelis as they go about their everyday lives. Again, my conversations are still fairly limited by school and other commitments, but my general observations are as follows. Living here is hard. So many of the people I talk to detest the worsening of their economy and they feel trapped within borders they themselves no longer know how to define. For example, are Israeli citizens on Israeli soil committing the settler violence in the West Bank? Or are they renegade terrorists, perpetrating racist crimes in an occupied territory that most Israelis wish to simply ignore and leave forever?

So here I am, having left one struggling country for another. It is like the Woody Allen joke about the man whose brother thinks he is a chicken. He should probably turn his brother over to the authorities… but he needs the eggs. That is how I feel about Israel so far. It is a hard time to be in the country but this place never fails to challenge an individual’s beliefs. What happens in America in the next few months will reverberate around the world. The same goes for Israel, and I am glad I am here trying to understand it all on an entirely different level. With everything going on the way it is, our letter will provide many outlets. This cheers me up and I look forward to reading your next Baltimore installment.

My best to the West,


(To Read More About David’s Adventures in Israel, Visit His blog)


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