Notes from the HolyGround

As I am currently visiting Israel, I thought I should drop a JewSchool line…

The other day I saw a photo exhibit in Tel Aviv’s Dizingoff Center, “World Press Photo ’04”, featuring photography from around the world and a special section devoted to photos from Israel and the territories (you can get some info and see examples here.)

Suffice to say that it’s always fascinating to see the world, and especially the Israeli-Arab conflict, through the eyes of these journalists. The interplay between power and fear that is so central to this struggle is so clearly demonstrated in these images: the eyes of an Israeli soldier, a religious father whisking his daughter away from an attack, or Palestinians demonstrating against the IDF.

But most striking is that when you leave the exhibit (which, by the way, was generally depressing… there’s a lot of bad shit in this world), you are immediately struck by Israel’s commitment to normalcy– cafes, shops, kiosks– the stuff of daily life are generally unchanged by the conflict (except for maybe the extra security guards). Indeed, Israel is all about self-preservation. Maybe not always at the existential level, but at least with regards to the standards of day-to-day life. It’s sad to me that preservation seems to have required the complete domination of another people– I’m not always sure that’s true, but on the other hand, how else can you ensure the normal function of your society when you under constant threat and attack from a group of extremists with apparently no moral limits and no desire to achieve peace. A couple days later, in a hip Shenkin restaurant, my friend casually told me how she witnessed the attack on Sinai a few months ago… the juxtaposition is mind boggling.

Another friend mentioned to me that the mood has changed dramatically since the death of “the Asshole” as he referred to him. People are optimistic, but with a note of caution after the miserable failure of the Oslo process. No matter what, Israelis never seem to lose The Hope.

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