Somehow an absolute age has passed since I last brought you news from life here in Israel. No need to worry as all is well… As we all know there never seems to be quite enough hours in the day to get everything we want done – especially when it comes to sitting yourself down productively in front of an Internet-enabled computer. I couldn’t say that life in Jerusalem has been horribly hectic, but somehow time does seem to fly what with my daily Hebrew classes, the trudge through my numerous part time jobs, travelling back and forth to the Kibbutz every other weekend, as well as regular visits to our local art-house cinema (Jerusalem Cinematheque), lectures at Hebrew University and other bits and pieces.
Admittedly we don’t live the most action-packed of lifestyles here and so far the streets here in the ‘promised land’ are most definitely not lined with gold, but as my Hebrew slowly progresses, as Jerusalem becomes more of a ‘home’ than a distant exotic location, as the extreme summer heat slowly descends upon us, I still have to pinch myself every once in a while to be sure that I’m actually here living in Israel…and enjoying it. The quiet but stable life Asya and I are slowly establishing for ourselves here is something I don’t think either of us could have dared imagined a year ago when we first started thinking about moving here. I don’t think we are any clearer as to want we to do with our lives (and where…) but in the time it takes Asya to finish her university degree (another 2 years) we’re pretty happy taking on this adventure whatever the ups and downs maybe.
One of the ups has to be getting my head around what it is to be Israeli and Jewish – 2 things I can’t say I ever thought would play a part in my life. This last month has been jam-packed with national holidays and religious festivals all underlying the unique character of this country and its people: Passover (celebrating the Exodus of Jews from Egypt), Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism Remembrance Day), Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day), and last but not least Lag BaOmer (Jewish religious holiday which reasons are beyond but everyone lights big bonfires).
Growing up in England and Denmark I can’t say that I’ve ever celebrated any forms of nationalistic or religious holidays with the same vigour as Israelis celebrate them here. The patriotic zeal that’s evident up and down the country on Independence day, for example, was something I found particularly difficult to associate myself with – me not being Israeli/Jewish and all. However, wanting to do my bit to ‘integrate’ I too found myself hanging small Israeli flags on our balcony, as everyone seemed to be doing. Of course at the back of my mind I couldn’t help but recognise that literally just the other side of the hill, in the West Bank, millions of Palestinians would on the other hand be commemorating their Nakba Day (“day of catastrophe”); the expulsion or flight of Palestinians from today’s Israel. How long before they too get to celebrate their own Independence Day I wonder…?
Whilst Independence Day was celebrated with millions of flags, blue and white fireworks, and the traditional large barbecue gathering, Holocaust Memorial Day was (naturally) a far more sober event. For 2 minutes the wails of sirens throughout Israel were accompanied by 2 minutes of thought and commemoration for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. It was a genuinely moving experience participating in a memorial service at my Hebrew language school alongside teachers and students who had actually lost family members in the most horrific of events. Although the idea and political consensus for the creation of a Jewish state was established long before the Holocaust, you can’t help but appreciate the importance the creation of Israel plays in making sure that words of “Never Again”, uttered in its aftermath, are more than just hollow words. That this image of a Jewish safe-haven rising up after millennia of persecution has become so blurred (if not forgotten) by the injustices forced upon the Palestinians makes everything here even more perplexing, if not outright depressing.
So not to leave you on this depressing political note I’ve included these photos below from here, there and everywhere over the last few weeks along with the hope that I’ll keep you updated again sooner rather than later.