Vignettes from life under conflict

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#1

In a seminar about the impact of military service on Israeli society, deeply debating whether the IDF is an Israeli army or a Jewish one, and whether it or its government are to blame for its mistakes.

The first incoming rocket siren sounds. We sit in the basement shelter a little sheepishly as 9-year-old ballerinas cry in confusion around us.

#2

Going to bed prepared to head to the shelter in the middle of the night: sandals by the door, only one latch locked, wearing clothes, and leaving the window open to hear the siren better.

Wondering what preparations Gaza families make before going to sleep.

#3

In Jerusalem when the second siren sounds. My office laughs nervously as we rush into the safe room.

A catch: there’s a big window in the room. The seconds are ticking away as two scrawny people try to pull the blast shield closed. Someone suggests giving up but others protest, the window is Gaza-facing. The biggest, burliest person reaches over and yanks it closed. A distant boom is heard — it impacted a kilometer away in Bethlehem. We go back to work, giggling nervously and incredibly thankful knowing we get 90 seconds of warning. Residents in the south and children in the Strip get no warning, they just die suddenly.

#4

Walking in the shopping areas of Tel Aviv while showing some unfortunately-timed tourists around our neighborhood. Always keeping an eye on which building looks the best to find cover if the siren goes off.

#5

Watching Twitter reports from Jerusalem about a bus bombing in Tel Aviv. Tweet appears: bus was five minutes walk from my apartment.

#6

Texts and emails from friends around the world checking on me. Having to tell them oddly that actually we don’t think about it much and life feels pretty safe. Oddly.

Questions about American individualism in Israel

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Individualism seems to me to link changing worldviews among both Israeli and American Jews born after 1967. (These thoughts prompted by Tom Segev’s essays on the Americanization of Israel.)

Much ado is made about American Jews’ declining collective identity. The reciprocal rise in individualism is cited as a shonde by some and—  although I’ve yet to hear someone triumph it per se, I find myself regarding the trend with little surprise and possibly even hope. I link individualism to human and civil rights; both collective and individual, but collective rarely at the expense of the individual, if you can see the connection. Much of my past seven years of work and advocacy have been spent following the effects and promises of a new individualist motivation on our North American Jewish community.

So it hadn’t occured to me until reading Segev that this shift could be happening in Israel among the same generation precisely because globalization, significant ties and “shared values” from America were a driving force. Of course the two would be similar — they share the same origins. We all know about the decline of the kibbutzim, but did we ever consider the American-Israeli “special relationship” as a notable cause?

Segev points to consumerism. Netanyahu’s market liberalization policies has been his singature imports from America. Segev opines that the former is a significant contribution to individualist values here. With American-style consumerism comes the commercial focus on personal needs at odds with previous generations steeped in kibbutz-socialist collectivism and ethnic nationalist unity.

Before I pause my thoughts here for the day, the questions in my mind are these: Is Netanyahu’s contribution to individualism undermining his own attempts to bolster nationalist identity and policy? Are young Israelis — at least the non-haredi, but including young Palestinian citizens — feeling any similar effects to values and identity as their American peers? And does what will that do to the coming haredi-secular clash in the next generation? (Assuming, as I think we must, that the issue will not be addessed in the near future.)