There is so much I didn’t know or understand about Israel until I lived here.
That may sound obvious, but it wasn’t obvious to me.
After all, I had visited this country six times before I lived here.
I majored in International Politics with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies.
I studied the Hebrew language for three years at a University level.
I interned at the Embassy of Israel. And worked at three other Israel-related organizations all before I was 24.
I was an assistant editor of a Jewish newspaper in the United States.
And then a freelance journalist covering Jewish news.
I shepherded 20 teenagers on a teen tour through the country.
I married an Israeli.
I thought this qualified me as an expert.
And perhaps I am more expert than some…at reading and writing about Israel.
But not at living here.
Which is okay. Because, now I know so.
A lot of people outside of Israel don’t. And they write about this country, and they flaunt an expert bio and CV they’ve earned through study and degrees and guest spots on political commentary shows.
I don’t begrudge them their bios and CVs. I respect them for their dedication and commitment to the topic of Israel.
However, I do think what’s missing from the bios and CVs of experts on Israel is detailed information about how long they’ve lived here. About what it was like for them to live as a community member among Israelis. To share the roads and the air and the land with Arabs. To walk among us.
Today, on the drive to work, the same I drive five days a week, I found myself passing through Kfar Manda again. It’s the Arab village right next to Hannaton. I pass it every morning on my way to work.
Some mornings I’m listening to the news, and concentrating so hard, I hardly notice the details around me. Some mornings I’m singing Michelle Shocked at the top of my lungs (or the soundtrack from Miss Saigon) and I just give Kfar Manda a nod as I pass through. Some mornings there’s a mix playing, and Kfar Manda is a backdrop for the wistful melodies.
Some mornings, like today, the village comes alive and poetry is born. And in that moment I am far from an expert. Just a student of life. Exploring the world around me. Understanding what I think after writing it all down and seeing what turns up.
I’ve gone back to school. And it’s opening up a world of discovery unlike any I’ve known.
I wish it was a prerequisite to being an expert.
Jen Maidenberg is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/.This was first posted on her blog on June 3, 2012.