Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

'Heart-drain' diary: The option of leaving Israel

It was 2:00 AM when we arrived at St. Pancras station. 2:00 AM London time is 4:00 AM Tel Aviv time, and we were certainly still on Tel Aviv time. In a way, we were still in Tel Aviv altogether, or perhaps somewhere in between the two – in the cold sky over Bulgaria or Slovakia. The soul is said to be chasing the body when it is taken away by a jet plane. It only catches up with it several days later.

We stepped into a cab and were surprised by how roomy it was, as well as by the fact that it was driven by a lady, an uncommon sight around our own neighborhood. The air outside the cab was chilly and smelled of large trees and fried food, inside was a unique, inimitable, London cab smell. We were in an environment entirely foreign to us yet felt instantly very much at home. For an Ashkenazi Israeli, Europe will always be a home of sorts. The soul of our nation apparently hasn’t yet caught up with Zionism. It is still on its way from the grassy knolls of our grandparents’ homelands, baffled to behold us flying the other direction in Easy Jet planes.

Our longing for Europe’s mix of the familiar and the exotic grows, the more hopeless Israel’s situation becomes. The rise of fascism, the growing disregard for human rights, the gradual disappearance of our freedom of speech, all of these cause concerned young Israelis, whether Ashkenazi or otherwise, to reconsider their future on the soil of the Holy Land and look west.

Israel is losing its educated, concerned young generation to other countries, ironically: mostly to Germany. The new emigrants (let’s call them “newgoers”) are different from emigrants of decades past, termed “Descenders” in Zionist lingo, which views Israel as elevated above the rest of the world. While the descenders of the ’70s and ’80s were motivated for the most part by economic factors, the newgoers are often driven by a dread of Israeli politics and a sense that they no longer belong in Israel. It is a sense that our government gladly reinforces, mainly via supporting legislation that delegitimizes dissent.

By deliberately alienating this public, Netanyahu’s government is causing what I term a “heart-drain.” Israelis who hold a point of view that isn’t entirely tribal, who empathize with those living under the occupation or others wronged by state-sanctioned prejudice and intolerance, Israelis who take an interest in opening difficult historical questions for discussion, are encouraged to leave. If I had a penny for every time I was told to “just pack up and go,” I could buy my own flat in Pimlico.

The cab brought us the the home of the first exile, a friend who is completing his MA in London. His program is to conclude at the end of the year, but he told us he intends to stay out of Israel for another half a dozen years at least. Currently he is staying in a stately college campus in central London. The campus is made up of a single structure which encloses a serene courtyard. Its grand dining room is vaulted by a high, arched ceiling, beneath which a full English breakfast is served to students for the price of an Israeli popsicle. Its bulletin boards advertise an upcoming production of Macbeth, Its windows overlook a stately park, complete with enormous oaks and well tended paths. All in all the place looks like Epcot Center’s Hogwarts pavilion, and I mean that in a good way.

How, I thought, could I console myself for not living this guy’s life? Not only does he reside in such a graceful, calm environment, but he remains an activist by writing, informing, educating and organizing. It is likely that from from his London location, this man is making more of a difference than I do back home, while building a future for himself, somewhere that has an actual future.

The only answer I could find to my question is London itself. I deeply dislike it. It’s too big and too impersonal for my taste. Would I really want to live in a place like that? Nah, I much prefer home, with its abundance of light and excellent salads.

Then, however, came Amsterdam. There we stayed with two friends who are also on a study program, but their neighborhood is filled with Israelis already living and working in the Netherlands “for real.” I love Amsterdam and wouldn’t at all mind living there, despite the fact they never serve you tap water at restaurants and get mad when you ask for it.

I noticed that our Amsterdamer friends light candles on Friday night, something very few young Tel Avivians would do. Life among the gentiles seems to have strengthened their bond with Judaism, recovering some of the harm done to it by the unhealthy politics of the Israeli theocracy. I also noticed that their Israeli neighbors kept popping over for coffee without calling in advance. This sense of community reminded me of Israel in its more socialist incarnation. Prior to the extreme commercialization and Americanization that our society began to experience in the ’90s, such things were commonplace.

Life in the Dutch diaspora seemed so charming and attractive, that I soon began to seek flaws in it. There was no other way to feel at peace with the return ticket folded into my passport. I became critical of our hosts for not hanging out with locals, but then learned that their community is in fact diverse and international, and not at all confined to Hebrew speakers. I reminded myself that Dutch cuisine was disagreeably focused on deep-frying, but after several meals cooked at home, several others consumed at great Indonesian restaurants, and a couple of nice cones of fries, was forced to forsake this thought.

Moreover: Buying ingredients for three rounds of homemade pizzas at the “Albert Heijn” Supermarket, complete with prosciutto and artichokes for toppings and a bottle of Italian wine, cost what the wine alone would have cost back home. No demonstrations were held in Holland last Saturday night, when international “occupy” day brought thousands to the streets of Tel Aviv and to a score other cities around the globe. Holland maintains enough of a just economic system, that no anguish needs be expressed. Even the slums on Amsterdam’s outskirts looked good, and trust me, we went far afield in search of some familiar decrepitude.

We came back to heated arguments full of blame and inacceptence (within 24 hours of landing, someone already called me an “anti-Semite”), to heat and humidity, to MK Michael Ben-Ari’s greeting to the Palestinians on Nakba Day, wishing upon them “Many more Nakbas,” to tales of police brutality on Saturday’s demonstration, to an activist friend – a Hebrew poet deeply invested in local struggles – who met me on Tel Aviv’s promenade and told me: “I’ve been to Berlin, man, I couldn’t believe it, and it turns out I can work from there. I’m going to make it happen. I get a feeling that our last protest action was our swan song. We’re headed for a change.”

Extremism, police brutality and dreams of faraway lands are common the world over, but not everywhere is there an occupation and not everywhere is democracy crumbling. Not every nation state was born as a dream which turned into a nightmare. Though not everyone sees this, this place is a nightmare, where countless individuals are imprisoned without trial, where children are abducted by armed soldiers in the dead of night, where enormous concrete walls engulf villages and towns to maintain fear and humiliation, where multitudes bow to propaganda as if taken over by body snatchers, repeat racist slogans and blindly support violence.

A better life awaits us out on another continent, one where many of us have more tangible roots there than on our native Canaanite soil. A growing number of “deviant Israelis” (myself not included) hold European passports and almost all of us possess linguistic skills that allow swift integration. We may make good newgoers some day.

Yes, but our leaving would hand Netanyahu and his chums such a victory, and besides, we’ll probably always remain on Israel time. Our people were once nomadic, but my bet is that we’ve lost the touch. Our attempt at domestication has left us like like the crow in the old fable, who tried to sing like a nightingale and failed, then no longer remembered how to caw like a crow. An eternal jetlag awaits us if we leave, as well as an undying longing for that land of bright light.

—————————————

Read Haggai Matar’s response to this post here

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. noam

      i can relate with large parts of this very much, the only thing that i must add is that unfortunately there is much anti-semitism within liberal circles in europe i could imagine being part of. i have experienced this time after time while living for 1.5 years in austria and germany.
      i’m not talking about being anti-occupation or critical of israel, even anti-israel – i’m talking about complete ignorance about the conflict combined with demonizing of israelis, often of jews. also what is often called “anti-zionist” is pretty astonishing in germany – the descendants of the persecutors tagging those whoe fled from their ancestors “fascists”. the term “zionism”, maybe partly the fault of israel, is skewed and extremely distorted from a historical perspective. being anti-present-day israel is one thing, denouncing zionism as a uniquely illegitimate, evil 20th century national movement is another.

      after years of palestinian propaganda being the only “moral” thing to believe, many leftists cannot morally distinguish between the nakba and the holocaust (which many call by now the palestinian “shoah”, no less). few people would be honest about this, but tolerance towards mind-boggling anti-semitism is widely tolerated, especially when coming from immigrants. this in itself is deeply racist and patronizing – to have solidarity and not expect equally ethical standards from them.

      let me be clear – i’m a leftist, i support real palestinian statehood and have no tolerance for israeli racism or the settlement enterprise. i’m not against criticism of israel, and i don’t denounce people who i disagree with as anti-semites when they aren’t. but -

      as much as i hate to admit it, and as much as it’s not popular among my circles, the much debated “new anti-semitism” is very real. even if the critics of it are often manipulative jerks, it IS based on more than what many israeli leftists would like to believe.
      being married to a non-jewish european, the thought of constantly confronting it if we emigrate there disturbs me almost as much as staying in this possibly hell-bent country.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Shelly

      …not every nation born as a dream turns into a nightmare. I drift into your lovely writing and come to an abrupt stop. Israel is a big disappointment yes, but not a nightmare. There are no more dream nations. “The American Dream” died a long time ago. Yes, pizza is cheaper. But guns and murder are rampant, health insurance for 40 million is absent, racism, despite the election of Obama, is alive and well. Another dream bites the dust.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Interesting point, Noam. So basically you’re saying that our two options are staying and accepting being called “antisemites” (in case this also happens to you) or leaving and accepting being mistreated by antisemites.
      .
      I have spent five years of my life in Europe, working as a traveling musician, and have not encountered antisemitism more than thrice: Once a Moroccan immigrant spat at me, once a British lorry driver expressed a deep dislike of Jews in my ears, and once a Dane spoke of Haredim in much the same way that many secular Israelis do. He complained about them being “smelly”.
      .
      I later lived in the states for three years. Often when I told I’m Israeli, I was congratulated for hating Arabs (they just assumed I did) and for having probably killed several of them. It was at about that time, the time of the Second Intifada, that the European left adopted the Palestinian issue in the ways you describe and I am told that in many cases the boundaries between reasonable criticism and hatred have become blurred. I haven’t seen this first hand, and my recent trip to Europe produced no such experiences.
      .
      I’ll take you at your word, though, and conclude that in Israel/Palestine, Europe and the U.S. alike, people are prone to misunderstand complex problems and adopt hateful views. I truly believe all humans are created equal in that sense. Europeans have proven their capacity to be the most murderously hateful of any civilization in world history. I don’t hold them in higher regard, but I think that at this point in history, the phenomena you speak of is not state sponsored and omnipresent over there, whereas here is it.

      Reply to Comment
    4. caden

      The idea that Jews are going to be Ok in Europe after the euro falls apart flies in the face of 2000 years of history. But, good luck with that.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Branko

      Unfortunately, it comes down to a question that was destined to riddle this country from its inception – you are forced to choose between Jewishness of the country and the level of democracy. Heart drain described is made out of people that cannot be in peace with the society of declining democratic values (when the starting point wasn’t so great to begin with, but at least there was hope to push it in the right direction) even if it comes at expense of living in a Jewish country.

      At some point you get to realize that you are trying to change the society in a direction in which majority of the people living in it do not want to go – I firmly believe that a country in which Jewish and Palestinian citizens have equal rights, where a Palestinian (or Druze or Samaritan or anything) prime minister is not unimaginable, where religion is confined to houses of prayer (as Herzl has imagined it) and has no effect on the public sphere and where all are equal in the eyes of the law, Jews and non Jews alike, that country is a place where a majority of today’s Jewish population would not want to live. This is one of the reasons, together with the economic hardships and hope to spare my kids from growing up in a society in which occupation is, at best, ignored or, in a worse case, something you are encouraged to participate in, like i did, I am lifting my anchor this summer, after 20 years of living here.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Shelly, a nightmare is a personal matter. We each have our own nightmare. I grew up learning about the horror of the Holocaust, so my own personal nightmare is fascism, and it’s coming true before my eyes.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mitchell Cohen

      The grass always seems greener on the other side, until the manure hits the fan….

      Reply to Comment
    8. Well, the manure’s hit the fan here. So what is your suggestion?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Sigh. Such a sad article that so beautifully expresses how my husband and I feel.
      But I have left my life in one country 18 years ago to come here, and I don’t think I have it in me to do it again. I can’t leave our families, I can’t bear the thought of feeling anchorless, unrooted, of taking my children from their home and cousins and grandparents. So I rant and rave and dream of another place.
      Branko – you also said it so well: the majority of Jewish Israelis just don’t want what I want. Where are you going? And good luck.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Yuval, a really beautiful, brilliant piece. I sympathize w/everything you say except one thing – I hate the fucking light in this country. It’s so harsh. If I was going to leave the country, the first reason would be the rise of fascism, sure, but the second would be this fucking light.

      Reply to Comment
    11. BOOZ

      Yuval :

      Coming back to your pronouncement :

      “Europeans have proven their capacity to be the most murderously hateful of any civilization in world history. I don’t hold them in higher regard, but I think that at this point in history, the phenomena you speak of is not state sponsored and omnipresent over there”

      The phenomena may be not state-sponsored, but anti-zionism bordering on anti-semitism is a very fashionable item in radical leftist culture here (France) and I would say dominant in the terms put forth by Antonio Gramsci.

      Sadly enough, I feel estranged to the local radical Left I once regarded as family.

      Reply to Comment
    12. noam

      yuval, i don’t totally understand the urgency of your question. things here are getting worse, no doubt. but the occupation started long before we were all born – the sky didn’t fall yesterday and it won’t tomorrow. all we can do, those of us who stay, is struggle to change this place. it’s not impossible. there are scenarios in which the occupation can end. even peace can be achieved. if the situation escalates THAT much, we (leftists) will be able to seek asylum abroad. we’re not there yet.

      what answer are you looking for, yuval? should we leave, yes or no? i can’t get to the bottom of this question. it seems to me like you’re writing to privileged members of a thin elite of wealthy, academic ashkenazi jews which hold extra passports and/or PhDs. there isn’t really a wider audience with which you can debate this question. it’s not an option for most people. i’m sure you know emigrating is hard. people have children, friends, family, aging single parents. even if all is pink as it seems to you and the benefits are there, one can hardly underestimate the challenges. not everybody has great language skills, and english isn’t enough in most of the world. not everybody can afford it. and certainly most people can’t get anything more than a standard tourist visa for the EU, not to mention the US.

      your article is interesting. it’s food for thought. but are you really expecting a clear cut, certain answer when asking “what’s your suggestion?”

      Reply to Comment
    13. Booz, I believe you, and yet I still think it’s easier to avoid certain idiots in the radical left than an entire nation that lost its moral backbone. My friends in London and Amsterdam reported no disharmony in their contact with Europeans, while I am treated with disdain daily by Israelis who regard me as a “traitor” for my (not really that radical) opinions.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Thanks Yuval, we are still living with the remnants of the War on Terror, which brought Geert Wilders to power. But now that our government has collapsed, things are beginning to look better.
      And although Amsterdam is not Holland, there is plenty of solidarity going on in the country. It’s certainly not the worst place to be at this moment in time.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Noam, I’m here, just like you, and I’m working for change, like you. I hold no foreign passport nor a PhD, and I have a family here that I love, but if you want a proof that things really have changed, listen to my very Zionist, politically moderate, Israel born mother, who recently told me: “You should go abroad with Ruthie and find a place where we can join you.” She never would have said anything like this in the past, and her statement reflects words my Great grandfather said to his son, my grandfather, when sending him to Palestine in 1939. So no, I don’t think it’s 1939 here yet, and may never be, but positive change seems less and less likely to take root in the foreseeable future. Should we really accept living in a perpetual 1936?

      Reply to Comment
    16. amy

      During the awful George W Bush years many of us looked north…to Canada and while we are certainly far south of perfection here in the States, at least we have a leader who is articulate and seems to possess some vision. So things feel a little better. Enough, that we can look forward a bit more. But, perspective is a wonderful thing and sometimes a little distance helps. I am currently taking a “temple timeout” for this very reason although I know that Judiasm is just a part of who I am, and I will return to it in some form some day- for right now though, distance is needed. Take care of yourself first. Clarity will follow. Good luck to all of you…and thanks for your writing. My husband and I are hoping to visit some of the sites you wrote about during your border excursions when we travel there this summer. But we are wimpy (and American) so we’ll try out the tame ones first!

      Reply to Comment
    17. Peter

      How sad.

      I can’t help but be reminded that this was, in a fashion, the way the exodus of whites from South Africa began. The first to emigrate with a purpose weren’t the the ones who left in the wake of the Emergency to have a nice house in Perth, but were the ones who left for West London and LA in the Verwoerd years, unable and unwilling to stomach an ever heavier Apartheid.

      In that light, Noam, the question is less of asylum and Israel actively cracking down on leftists but rather a simple recognition that the Israeli left may be tilling barren soil. If the right has so successfully salted the land, how can a fulfilling life be led? What honour is there in screaming into a vacuum? Sometimes, perhaps, leaving and just opting out for the sake of your own sanity and happiness is the last decent option left.

      Reply to Comment
    18. noam

      yuval, i understand your metaphor, but it’s also not 1936 yet (reminder: the nürnberger gesetze were enacted in 1935). hysteria doesn’t help, it tires you. i think you’re underestimating booz’s experience. i’m not so sure being rejected in the european left is so much easier than being accepted in the israeli left. this is a lonely position to be in. between the “patish and sadan” as we say. and right-wing maniaks everywhere use this “traitor” rhetoric towards leftists. i for one was never called an antisemite in israel, and i argue a lot. i have been called nasty things in europe, and i was trying to keep a low profile. so it’s also basically very much about personal experience and chance.

      as i said, things are looking bad. worse than before. i don’t need the “proof” of your mom’s comment. this year my late father also toyed with the idea of leaving. i wish i could say we can only go up from here, but i’m not sure of that.

      however, there is no “correct” choice at the moment between staying and leaving. plus, the huge, vast majority of us can’t just leave. i hope you don’t mind me asking, but if neither you nor ruthie hold foreign passports and/or are majoring in medicine – how could you technically leave?

      Reply to Comment
    19. The same way my grandparents came here. Anyway, I just can’t accept the threat you bring up as a reason to stay here. There are other reasons, but the fear of being called names by Europeans isn’t one of them. As I mentioned before, I have spent five years of my life in Europe, and found such incidents to be extraordinarily rare.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Tamar

      Thank you for your signature honesty. Your digital pen is mightier than swords, propaganda, human-designated holy sites, and murderous words, policies, and actions. Stay, go, visit, revisit. The choice(s) are yours, as you know. “Wherever you go, there you are” (Pogo). Keep journeying, journaling, and sharing.

      Reply to Comment
    21. noam

      sorry for constantly clinging to technicalities, but i don’t know how your grandparents came here ages ago – gaining residence in the EU today is almost impossible. unless you’re not married to a citizen or get a high position by state-owned universities.

      the threat of antisemitism is definitely not THE reason to stay. staying with your family, your language, not experiencing hardships of migration, and the hope of improving your own home are reasons. don’t get me wrong – i also see the many benefits of europe, and i might end up there. however, for political people especially, the situation in the left can leave you feeling deeply estranged. it can be hard. those were some of my experiences in 2009-10. apparently it wasn’t your experience a decade before that.

      let’s agree to slightly disagree, yuval. i still like your writing :)

      Reply to Comment
    22. Nir

      Beautifully written, Yuval.
      Although I’ve just recently returned – by choice – from a wonderful several-year-long stretch in the U.S., I already find myself, with increased frequency, pondering “lifting anchor,” as Branko writes above, and returning westwards. Israeli politics and discourse, already actively hostile to liberal democratic views, are threatening to become only more uncongenial and even persecutory. And the thought of raising my child in this frightening cultural-political environment is what troubles me more than anything else.
      The thing with history though, is that it does not follows a preordained design and knows no necessities. It just happens, and we – being in the middle of it – are never in a position to make a call about where things are *necessarily* headed. Therefore, because I cannot tell whether we are on the edge of a cliff or just beginning to bounce back (with Netanyahu and his yahoos as the last belch of this country’s era of theocratic nationalism), and because I am at home with out guttural cawing, I’ve decided to hang back and wait, at least until things become positively unbearable. In other words, following George W’s sterling example, I’ve decided to go with my gut. It seems that you’ve decided to do the same.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Yuval, You write so lyrically about a heartbreaking situation! The oasis of hope in Israel is the one I was lucky to work in when I made aliyah in 1988: high-tech. As a new middle-aged immigrant, it seemed to me there were two countries here already, even without counting the territories: high-tech and the others. The young entrepreneurs who will make Israel a place you may want to return to are still building their fortunes, just like the Rockefellers, the Carnegies, (the Robber Barons) and the Kings and Queens of former European empires did in previous centuries. A historical perspective does not make a decision to stay or go any easier, but in the end it’s completely personal and in many cases, not final.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Uriel

      I’m an israeli lefty, living in the uk for the past 9 years. Married to a “goya” + 1.
      To those here who talk about the antisemitism in the european left, I can only say that I have never felt any kind of antisemitism personally, and I definitely mingle with the local lefty crowd!
      I would also add, that I bert you that it is much harder to be an Arab living in the E.U than a jewish israeli.
      Personally, I do not think that there is a place where everything is 100%, so rather than looking for the best place to live in, I prefer deciding by what places I do not want to live in. israel belongs to that list,

      Reply to Comment
    25. Shelly

      Among the many attractive lures for leaving this country is living in an easier place, and one that you don’t particularly care about. In other words, as an American-Israeli, if someone goes on a killing rampage somewhere in the U.S., I don’t feel that it reflects on me as an American – as much as I feel that equally horrendous acts, such as the Wall, reflect on me as an Israeli. As a veteran of the sixties in the U.S., a time of intense creativity as well as intense violence, assassinations, Viet Nam, and the like, there was a popular bumper sticker that said “America, Love it or Leave it.”
      Very few people left.

      Reply to Comment
    26. I’d change places with any of you Israeli citizens who wanted to become UK citizens instead. It’s difficult to explain why. I can see the ugly underside of Israel extremely clearly. But there are things about Israel which resonate deeply with me. First, I absolutely love the language; second, I think I could probably just about cope with the demands of ‘becoming a Jew’; third, having learned the language and ‘become a Jew’, I could proceed to delve into the various highly esoteric things that interest me; and fourth, I think I can see why the political dynamics of Israel work the way they do, and even, dare I say it, I can see how they could be changed, though I would need to call on a rather large range of theoretical and historical disciplines to explain this.

      Reply to Comment
    27. By the way, there’s a rather nice Pollyanna Frank song about this, called “Escape will always fail”, from her 1990 album, Ain Livchor:

      I hear the next war coming
      Awake all night-time, smell the blood
      The omens always tell me
      I try to listen, can’t decide …
      I rule out paranoia
      Too simple, there must be a way
      To sympathise with danger
      And to know it’s here to stay
      But you can’t go far knowing
      It will make you strong and pale
      It’ll beat you up and give you nothing
      And let you live only if you dare
      Cross the swamps and bring your sorrow
      It will hang on like a tail
      Even drama queens and heroes know it
      Escape will always fail
      Escape will always fail
      Escape will always fail ….

      The next war tries to like us
      But it’s impossible I guess
      To sympathise with victims
      Of our own arrogance and strength
      I know the next war’s coming
      And in my daydreams it strikes hard
      And all the voices say
      You know now, we’re your shelter
      You’ve come back
      You’ve come back
      You’ve come back …
      But you can’t go far knowing
      It will make you strong and pale
      It’ll beat you up and give you nothing
      And let you live only if you dare
      Cross the swamps and bring your sorrow
      It will hang on like a tail
      Even drama queens and heroes know it
      Escape will always fail
      Escape will always fail
      Escape will always fail ….

      Reply to Comment
    28. Sinjim

      It’s amazing to watch a bunch of Israeli Jews, in all their vast privilege, whine about Israel’s policies as if they are the biggest victims. Someone in Israel called you an anti-Semite and now you want to leave? Get some fucking perspective.
      .
      More than that, it’s despicable that you all contemplate escaping this situation and abandoning your victims, the Palestinians. You who serve in the occupation army, harass mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters at checkpoints, invade villages in the dead of night to arrest sleeping children, you who enforce a siege on one of the most densely populated locations on the planet where most of the inhabitants are children, where you waged a war that killed 1400 people in 3 weeks, you want to leave and escape the policies that led to this? Fuck you.
      .
      The whining in these comments is the most sickening display I’ve ever seen on this website. You all can leave whenever you want. What about the Palestinians, who are trapped in the murderous web of your country’s policies? Trapped by the laws that each and everyone of you enforced when you were in the army?
      .
      If you have even one ounce of humanity in you, you know you owe a debt to your victims. You know that the worst thing you can do is leave the government in the hands of the likes of Livni, Mofaz, Barak, Netanyahu, and all the other scumbags who infest your halls of power. If you do leave, then let me say with all of my angry and hopeless Palestinian heart, I hope wherever you escape to offers no refuge from the “nightmare” you thought you were leaving behind.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Alon

      Europe has a long history of left wing Jewish organizations, notably the (anti-Zionist) Jewish Labour Bund, which had hundreds of thousands of members internationally until WWII.

      There’s both a desire and a need among many progressive left wing Jews in the diaspora and in Israel for the creation of some sort of critical left-wing grass-roots organization. An organization which can link the struggles against neo-liberalism with that of occupation, and organize material resistance. I do not mean to imply that it should take the form of a political party necessarily. It should be a creative, horizontally-organized project discussed in round-table sessions, and from there we can see where it can go!

      Reply to Comment
    30. Sinjim, in a single comment you blame me and my likes for all the harm your people ever suffered (without knowing anything of my personal history)and plead with us to stick around as If We are the key to undoing all the harm your people ever suffered. I did mention that my fear of handing Netanyahu a victory is my main reason for staying, so why do I deserve a “fuck you”?
      .
      It’s true that i didn’t mention forsaking our Palestinian brethren on this soil as an issue, but nor did I say one word of my own family, which I would be forsaking here. I advise you to avoid swearing and start reading between the lines.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Kolumn9

      Look, this is all a personal choice. Given that you speak good English you should consider the US or Canada or Australia for your exile. Europe is somewhat unsettled economically and politically at the moment, and there are some echoes of the past there. The West/Muslim culture clash is also likely to heat up there and it might be too familiar to you, because despite all pretenses to the contrary there too there is a large body of people that believe in their exclusive claim to the land. You are going to find very little of that in the New World as these are are all immigrant countries. You can find your little corner of joy, forget Israel and assimilate into normal society. Take up baseball, hockey, or aussie rules football, have some kids that know nothing about Israel or Jews or Arabs, and live quietly ignoring the extremely dull local politics on offer. There are many Israelis living normal, quiet lives in all these countries.
      .

      It is all a personal choice. I don’t think you will be happy in Israel. The nature of the place runs contrary to how you see the world.

      .

      Reply to Comment
    32. Sinjim

      The “fuck you” did take away from my point, correct, and if I rewrote the comment, I’d leave it out.
      .
      But yes, I blame any Israelis who serve or have served in the Israeli army for the plight of the Palestinian people. They are guilty of having participated — of their own free will — in a criminal and racist enterprise and thus owe their Palestinian victims an enormous debt. If they run away, then they’re defaulting and thus abandoning the people from whose suffering they’ve benefitted so much.
      .
      I’m stating a fact here, not pleading with anyone.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Okay, Sinjim, I won’t be defensive. I see your point and I share your view to a great extant. I would like to frame it differently, however. It’s not about a debt. I haven’t served in the IDF and I don’t know how my debt calculates when you subtract my activism from the tax money I paid over the years, which support the occupation. It’s about simple human responsibility. As long as I feel that my actions on this soil actually better things, I’ll do my best to cope with the difficulties and stay.
      .
      This post was written out of a sense of despair. I feel that we have come to the point in which we’re all banging our heads against a wall (indeed the wall), to no avail. Comparisons to America in its Bush years don’t hold water in my eyes, because the U.S. has a constitution and a far deeper rooted democratic tradition. The U.S. isn’t (officially) an ethnocracy, which Israel is. Ethnocracies stand little chance to improve, and while this one does show ample willingness to change, it is to change in the wrong direction. but I guess hope is always there at the bottom of Pandora’s box. We’ll give it all the shots it deserves.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Günter

      @Kolumn9:

      Sorry, but you are completely ill-informed about Europe. Europe is not one country, that is, it is economically and politically and societally very diverse. And the is certainly no “West/Muslim culture clash”at least not more than somewhere else in the West. In the US and elsewhere there are as many critical up to hostile opinions towards Islam (see Yuval’s experience in the US…). But that’s not so much the point.

      It is very interesting to read some accounts of Israeli views on this matter. From my experience of a non-Jewish European there are some issues of “demonizing of israelis”, but fortunately only to a limited extend. People’s opinion is in general critical of Israel due to the non-constructive policies towards Palestinians it has been following in recent decades. And the issue of the conflict is indeed complex. So given that not everybody wants to become an expert on the issue, but just perceives the unjustice etc. done in region (under which Palestinians are mostly seen to suffer most), the certainly not correct, but somehow “pragmatic”/ straightforward opinion taken by some is to look at Israelis as a homogenous group. And it may happen, that (left) Israeli emigrants (which share a very similar view as the Europeans holding this opinion) actually might be faced with such critical opinions. Ironically. But then, just explain them your views on the matter and they will be silenced by the immense astonishment about the varieties of Israels (they never could think of) and they will love you, I guarantee you!

      P.S. Yuval: a really nicely written piece!

      Reply to Comment
    35. Amit

      What is stopping Yuval from not taking the plane back to TLV ?
      If things are so bad, he can always stay in Holland as an illegal immigrant (or claim assylum).

      Reply to Comment
    36. caden

      The reason Jews in the diaspora are relatively safe s BECAUSE Israel exists. Not in spite of it. And Yuval, if Israel falls your just a statele3ss Jew, Good luck with that.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Kolumn9

      @Gunter, I stand by what I said about Europe. You may choose to ignore the situation if you want, but a brief overview of polls, public discourse and election results in Western Europe would prove you wrong. It is also predictably only going to get more harsh over time.
      .

      @Yuval, if you do choose to move to Europe just remember to wear some kind of symbol at all times that ensures that people know that you are the right kind of Israeli.

      Reply to Comment
    38. GEORG

      as they say in French “si tous les dégoutés s’en vont, il y a que les dégoutants qui restent” / “when all the disgusted leave, only the disgusting remain”

      Reply to Comment
    39. Piotr Berman

      here the grass is greener
      http://www.expemag.com/V0/medias/mongolie/groupe_.JPG
      than here
      http://www.expemag.com/V0/medias/mongolie/chameau_.JPG

      Sometimes it feels that your society is in the middle of the rising tide of evil. Yet even as the tide rises, one can prepare the ground for the ebb and fall. It is true that in isolation, an ethnocracy has a little chance to improve, but to paraphrase Trotsky, can you build Zionism in one country only? For years, I observed a “Ha’aretzian paradigm” of leftists arguing that what the right wing does (meaning, to the right of Meretz), the country will not get away with. And they were proven wrong, again and again. And the “Ha’aretzian left” lost all popularity.

      Hence the change of climate that will revive less ethnocratic thinking and a perspective of peace has to start abroad. In the anticipation of that change, I perceive huge anti-European hostility in Israel, at least in articles and talkbacks of Ynet and JPost (so a lot of that is American, I guess). But this is one of the contradiction that Israel has to finesse: if Europe turns against Israel, where is the nearest ally?

      And right now EU is only started to talk, the joint statement of all 27 foreign ministers.

      Reply to Comment
    40. GEORG

      @caden “The reason Jews in the diaspora are relatively safe s BECAUSE Israel exists. Not in spite of it”
      this is a cliché and an utterly delusional one at that: Jews in the diaspora are being (unduly) criticised / held accountable / targeted because of Israeli policies towards the oPt.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Kolumn9

      @Georg, what was the reason before Israel’s existence?

      Reply to Comment
    42. Amy

      While it’s true that comparisons between Israel and America (or even South Africa) are not terribly relevant- the point was more about the leadership. It seems to matter more than I had realized. At the risk of incurring the wrath; I think the question of better leadership applies to the Palestinians as well. It seems to be a matter of great relevance in just about every corner of the globe at the moment. Even a place with more deeply rooted democratic traditions can get totally twisted out of shape by bad leadership.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Ruth

      This is a fascinating discussion which gets to the heart of what I love and hate about 972mag. I have to say that as a person that chose to immigrate to Israel in order to fight to make it better, it’s hard and sad for me to read about leftist sabras who are ready to toss in the towel and go to prosciutto land, although I can identify with the experience of despair. I try to aim more for the אף על פי כן school of thought regarding despair but we’ll see how I fare over the coming years.
      Anyways the main thing I actually wanted to say is that I work in education with Diaspora Jews, including British and Dutch Jews, and I’m not sure how Israeli emigrants fare in their first years in their new European homes but many of our European chanichim speak of regular encounters with anti-semitism. In particular it seems like the Dutch Jewish community with its massive Holocaust survivor population has a particularly complex and difficult relationship to its own long-term future in Holland, despite the lovely welfare state they enjoy. I understand that a very large number of Jewish families will never buy a home in Holland, they may buy a second home in Israel, but in Holland they always rent. So even if it seems to Israeli eyes like this idyllic contra to our middle eastern madness, choosing Europe is ultimately choosing to reencounter some very old insecurities which life in messed-up Israel still offers an alternative to.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Hct

      Holland over the UK? Where are you gonna get fish and chips and a battered burger in Holland? All they have is tourists smoking spliffs. London is much better, theres the 24 hour jewish salt beef bagel shop for a start!

      Reply to Comment
    45. So we need to stay in Israel because it keeps us safe? That doesn’t really make sense, given the number of Jews killed violently in Israel over the last 64 years versus the number of Jews killed in the diaspora.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Sinjim

      Yuval, I agree with much of what you wrote, but the conversation in the comments here is incredibly privileged and whiny. Especially given the fact that Palestinians do not have the luxury of escaping this hellhole that Israel has created on the one hand, and the fact that under occupation they are undertaking deeply principled resistance at great personal cost (most recently the Karameh hunger strike) on the other. If Palestinians haven’t given up, how on Earth can self-identified Israeli sympathizers justify doing just that?

      Reply to Comment
    47. sh

      I loved this big-hearted piece because it gives voice to despair that is felt but not discussed. Shelley and Sinjim represent the horns of the dilemma well. You’re living in a country you love that gives your money to people who don’t represent your views, for activities you see as reprehensible. That includes, as just one example out of many, depriving people dominated by your government of basic essentials like water. It doesn’t get more essential than water. At home, you open the blinds of a morning, the light that Larry doesn’t like and I love floods the place and outside you see sprinklers watering not only your neighbor’s grass and flowers but, without a care in the world, also the stone path into their building, the sidewalk and forgetfully, sometimes even the road. And when you turn on your computer and check facebook, good people living in walled-in Bethlehem are telling you that for two months every summer, their taps are dry. You squirm to find a position you can feel vaguely at ease in and you can’t. Everything you do makes you think about the people who can’t, everywhere you go you wonder what was there before, every Jewish festival you used to enjoy reminds you of the people who are locked in because of it.
      .
      Shelley talks about how much easier on the conscience it can be to live in a place you don’t particularly like or feel a connection to. Being a pariah in a place you’re connected to is worse than being one in a place in which you half expect it.
      .
      Sinjim, I’m glad you said what you did. It made me think again about the normalization/anti-normalization debate and how much pain governs discourse.
      .
      I visited visited South Africa over a decade before apartheid fell. I can’t describe how hopelessly entrenched it seemed at the time. A friend’s mother was part of a committee of rather old-looking ladies I realize were probably younger than I am now, who went to Soweto weekly to help women without resources to plant and nurture vegetables in the dirt around the crowded huts. This enabled them to feed themselves and their children and helped empower them. I went with them on one of their trips and came out shocked but encouraged at the way they continued with their wacky project regardless of obstacles and their dimensions, a bit like worker ants. That’s what those who stay will have to do.- Palestinians surely toy with thoughts similar to Yuval’s. Together, those who elect to stay could amount to quite a lot of ants.

      Reply to Comment
    48. Richard Witty

      Yuval,
      You would be welcomed by a great many in the US. I don’t know Europe. My wife was born in Israel, lived most of her life in Europe, and now very gratefully lives in the US, albeit a very liberal and pleasant area.

      Many liberal individuals have left Israel, really at all times in its history.

      Israel needs you there, to speak up, to communicate your sensitivity intelligently. That would be my primary reason for staying, a loyalty to goodness, not the same as the trivial patriotism, though still a loyalty.

      Fear is by definition a temporary emotion. It can be restimulated and restimulated, but that takes a lot of work to maintain, and then has cracks.

      I saw a dialog between Peter Beinart and Gordis (I forgot his first name), in which Gordis talked a blue streak of invocations of fear pretending to be loyalty. He personally didn’t tire of it, but if Beinart had been successful at getting to calm inquiry, then the cracks would be exposed.

      Polemic like Sinjim’s above, confirm the relevance of the fears, invoke “which side are you on in a fight to the death, or only for shaming rights?”

      Reply to Comment
    49. caden

      Lisa, I know history isn’t your thing but the reasons the diaspora is relatively safe is because of Israel. And the number of Jews killed in Israel, tragic that it is, is about one day at Babi Yar, or Sobibor.

      Reply to Comment
    50. The diaspora is safe because of Israel? What evidence can you provide to support that statement?

      Reply to Comment
    51. Click here to load previous comments

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel