What War Zone? THIS War Zone

From my third post ever, August 11, 2006:

Something else came up: when looking at the title of this blog, Michal wondered if I realized that we were at war. I admitted the same thing to myself before she brought it up. Israel-supporters in the States and around the world are constantly fighting the idea that Israel is some big war-torn country where you’d be nuts to visit. Anyone who’s been knows that’s not the case, period. Life in Tel Aviv has not changed at all and you didn’t need to ask anyone on the beach if they felt like they were on the front lines. Even in the worst of times, it’s never nearly as bad as the news would make you think. Nobody is dodging bullets to get get their cup of coffee from Cafe Aroma in the morning. That said, Israel is at war, and needless to say, there are parts of Israel which aren’t safe by most standards of measurement and I have no rush to visit…….So I don’t know what I think about the title of this blog. In an effort to get it up and running in my few hours before leaving the States, I picked something quickly to answer everyone who thinks simply stepping foot in Israel is crazy……Without having given it any thought, I’ll ask, anybody have any good suggestions for a name? That should really get the comments going. The over-under on number of friends who make fun of me is opening at 20.

Turns out that I didn’t get even close to twenty new ideas. But as I wrote above, I chose the name as my personal hasbara effort, to show that despite what a lot of the world thinks, this place is not Iraq, some third-world war zone where the streets are filled with camels.

Do you think some Iraqi immigrant to Baghdad maintains a blog called www.whatwarzone.iq where he tries to show the other side of life, what people don’t see on TV?
If you’re out there, Iraqi blogger…..care to add me to your blogroll?
(Dammit…this was supposed to be a serious entry.
)

For the past two-plus years, I’ve gotten over 100,000 visits and who-know-how many emails from both Jews and non-Jews around the world telling me how much they enjoy reading and laughing, and remembering the funny things about life here. For the same amount of time, I’ve also been wondering what I’d write about if this place did break out into war. Tonight, after a week of air strikes, Israel launched its ground operation in Gaza.

I don’t know what to think. As I’ve said, it feels a million miles away, just as it did in the States. And it IS far away….or at least it’s not exactly in my backyard as you’d think from watchign CNN. Maybe it feels different from 2006 because two years ago, I wasn’t seeing tens of Facebook and Twitter updates expressing people’s emotions and political viewpoints and linking to news clips. I’m not watching the local Hebrew news. And instead of writing emails to parents from the NY office of Young Judaea, I’m making slight itinerary changes to Birthright trips from the Israel Experience office in Jerusalem….along with writing emails to parents. Even though some of the soldiers from our groups (those who participate in each group’s mifgash, the five days where Israelis join the groups) have had to leave after getting called up, it still isn’t hitting me as I feel like it should. I’m not serving, my closest friends aren’t serving, and I’m getting most of my news from websites…the same websites I got news from while in the States two-and-a-half years ago.

So far, life in Jerusalem hasn’t changed. Although I hear more police sirens than normal, the situation in Gaza hasn’t had any effect on the fact that my room is messy as hell, I have no food in my fridge, or that I spend way too much time on the internet sitting in bed or currently on my couch. In short, life is going on here. (Anybody want to clean my room? B’ima sheli, where does all this dirty laundry come from?) I’ve had two groups arrive in the past 8 days and while none of them would have wanted a security “situation” to break out, there’s no doubt that there’s nothing like a conflict to impress on visitors the reality of life here. I’m happy to say they’re having the time of their life and are becoming the latest to exclaim “I can’t believe it’s not like it looks on the news! What was I so worried about?” So to any of you who are thinking about coming and are worried about the matzav (situation), it’s a dangerous world out there. If you think you’re any safer anywhere else, ask people in Mumbai or Virginia Tech. I’m hoping things don’t get crazy here but if they do, I guess that’s just life in Israel (or anywhere. That didn’t sound like a yiyeh b’seder, did it?)

Sure looks like a war zone to me. From my friends’ wedding New Years Eve….
the rock and roll face came out early this year, huh?

(By the way, that’s Tzipi Livni on the right, preparing to present our case to the world.)

And by the way….since I spent much of last week being silly, I feel like I need to say a couple of things. The internet is ablaze with editorials, message boards, Twitter wars, and more about this conflict. I try not to waste, err, spend my time arguing with people I’ve never met who don’t feel like listening anyway. That said, I’ve been apolitical for too long and have to open my mouth. Truthfully, most of these thoughts reflect the mainstream opinion in Israel and probably around the Jewish world so whatever….in a few words:

  • It’s been said a jillion times but what does the world want us to do? Fine, so you don’t approve of our response….but can someone sugggest another one?
  • Anyone who is complaining about Israel the genocidal Nazi state who didn’t bat an eyelash during all the time that rockets were raining down on Sderot can go eff themselves. (To any readers who may have been offended, that stood for “falafel.”) 99.9% of the media outlets and people in this world didn’t give a rat’s tooseek then so pardon us for not giving a crembo what you think now.
  • If you were an uninvolved news-watcher trying to figure out where you stand, shouldn’t you be at all influenced by the supporters of the cause? I got an email from someone whose opinion I really value a lot. He’s a left-leaning Israeli who’s very unhappy about what’s happening and thinks that our politicians are acting out of pre-election political interests. I love that Israelis and Jews are all over the map, a prism of varied views and beliefs, able to look in the mirror and place blame on ourselves. I really try to consider that maybe we’re not as right as we think all the time (who is?) and to not become emotionally hardened to the plight of innocent Palestinian victims. But I have always been deeply disturbed by vocal critics of Israel who are unwilling to accept ANY blame or point any fingers at the Palestinians for the matzav. When you strap on a bomb to kill civilians, or cheer in the streets when innocents die in Israel or on 9/11, or don’t do anything to stop those from firing rockets from your house, or don’t raise your voices to try to bring democracy or overthrow your government….anything to bring about internal change rather than just blaming the other party….really? That doesn’t say ANYTHING about you? When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, this was a major concession. The response was smuggling in more arms, attacking checkpoints, things consistent to wanting to eliminate Israel. No one say anything bad about that? Are there Palestinians who see nuance, grey area, mourn for Israelis, and take responsibility for their government’s mistakes? Where are they? Are they blogging, updating their Facebook statuses, writing critical letters to their newspapers? What if you were in a personal relationship where the other party only pointed the finger at you and refused to take any responsiblity for his or her actions? Wouldn’t that say something about that person?
  • I know this is soooo three minutes ago but that Iraqi blogger up there was strangely attractive.
  • And finally, Roseanne Barr…you are a piece of trash loser. Seriously, Hollywood celebrities should generally stick to what they know and keep their mouths shut.

My friend Ari is posting like a madman on Twitter defending Israel…Liza‘s been doing the same on her blog…Treppenwitz has given some ideas of how you can help

I ask you now, my loyal readers…so what are you doing?

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