They say you can't stop time. And that's not for lacking of trying. Things will move forward, progress, change, develop, evolve, no matter our efforts to hold on to and maintain what we know today, the status quo.
For that reason it always amazes me, each and every year, how a people known for dissension, for its embrace of radically different opinions and beliefs, can come together and, for one whole minute, even two, drop all the mishegas and be of one mind.
Each year when that siren rings on Holocaust Memorial Day, and again on the Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism a week later, all movement stops as one nation considers its losses. These annual moments of silence--and really, that's all they are: just moments; they're too short to allow enough time to actually develop a theory or draw a conclusion, they allow just enough time to remember and mostly, feel--go far in reminding many of us exactly why we're here and what we have to gain from standing together. It is during those moments that despite vast differences, we are each part of a whole. (And as an aside, for those wondering about the Arab population, my friend recently witnessed one chastising another for not respecting the minute of silence, for continuing on with his day. The reaction of the latter is more the exception than the rule.)
So, what we have here, is something really extraordinary.
Accordingly, it was especially upsetting that last week, as we were experiencing the second round of memorial moments, I read about a project that basically, if you read between the lines, is intended to denigrate our national integrity....to deny the pride of place Israel has earned and well deserves. A group of well-known American authors, led by no other than Israeli-born Ayelet Waldman and her husband Michael Chabon, and including some of my favorites including Geraldine Brooks and Dave Eggers, is organizing a collection of stories intended to illustrate, and I quote, "the situation in Palestine-Israel in a new way, through human narrative rather than the litany of grim destruction we see on the news;" to describe what 'occupation' looks like and what it's like to live under.
Now on the face of it that actually sounds interesting, and worthy. Consideration of this subject by the fiction writer, one well versed in looking for narrative and bringing it to life through brilliant description, is something I'd like to read. Yet, as primarily led by Waldman, whose anti-Israeli stance has been well documented, including a shocking dismissal of a recent bus bombing as "a tragedy but not a surprise...." (see link for twisted reasoning) this project will certainly be brutally critical and, very likely, offensive. And that, is incredibly disappointing.
With BDS campaigns and anti-Israel protests spreading like wildfire throughout the world, most especially on campuses in the United States, it would be nice to find intelligent, creative individuals, like this all-star roster of writers, explore their topic in a more even-handed way. It's so easy to get stuck on the superficial, to boil down a country to a clash between the oppressor and the oppressed. But this limited scope falls drastically short of reflecting anything at all about what really goes on in this tiny sliver of the Middle East.
Instead, for example, they might present a collection of writing that focuses on Modern Israeli society (and yes, there's plenty of grim to be found there if that's what they're looking for), exploring how it manages to accommodate a vast multiplicity of beliefs, faiths, opinions and mantras. I'd like to see these writers look beyond the "reported" side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the excruciating hardships of a people without a home, and recognize the historical facts (such as the fact that Israel didn't actually take it) that have left people on both sides frustrated and angry, paying close attention to the historical reality that created this situation and the world fervor that fanned its flames.
This conflict does not define my Israel, it is simply a part of it. And with that in mind I would like to see these writers, who know precisely how to use their words, who know exactly what audience they can reach, exploit their power to inform instead of vilify, to enlighten instead of judge. I'd love them to incorporate a view from within instead of restricting themselves to one from without.
It's a shame they didn't visit last week. These official moments of remembering, taking stock, considering what's happened in the past and await us in the future, are an experience like no other. They highlight the solidarity at the root of so much ostensible conflict (and not the one that's been pulled out and emphasized by people far removed from our borders) that in the end, keeps us together. It would be nice to see Waldman lead a project meant to build, or at least elucidate, instead of destroy, to look at what binds us instead of focusing on what divides us. I reiterate: Although the conflict with our neighbors is definitely part of the story, it's only one part. There are so many more stories, both beautiful and painful, always complex, waiting to be told.