Pluralism in Israel
Israel is known for its pluralism, yet there is still room for improvement. Lately, two different events made me realize that Israel is making progress even more rapidly.
First, a national monument that honors 15,000 Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust who were persecuted by the Nazis for their sexual orientation was dedicated in Tel Aviv. The memorial consists of three triangles: one of them is an upside down triangle painted pink, indicative of the symbol the Nazis forced homosexuals to wear.
The second event was a silent rally. Thousands of African asylum seekers in Israel and their supporters rallied in Tel Aviv this month in an escalation of their protest against measures restricting their movements and ability to work. Watching the news of Israel, looking at the pictures from Rabin Square, and seeing thousands of people, black and white, without words, conveying their most human and deepest fears made me feel that despite the progress, there is much more to do in order to find the delicate balance between securing Israeli life and helping those in need.
Israeli culture: Modern Israeli poetry
Contemporary Israeli poetry touches local nerves, sensitive to the changing reality, and as it should be, sometimes slapping and awaking readers. For the last two or three decades, since Yehuda Amichai, poetry in Israel has been more accessible. Amichai, Dalya Rabikovich, Dan Pagis and Agi Mishol allow readers to question political issues, but also to explore deeper layers of themselves. For poetry to cross language borders it must have strong content and a brilliant or at least surprising thought. This short poem is a perfect example — enjoy.
Separation from the parents
by Agi Mishol
I do not know you
to tell the truth
you do not know me either
I see the rusting wire in your eyes
and your ailing soul in the evening
With a small tuna salad in your lap
Together with toast
In front of the TV
But your mother tongue is not mine,
So we prefer to stroll:
Walking is better than sitting
sitting is better than lying down,
lying down better than sleeping.
And we stroll,
Your arm strung through mine,
and we play once upon a time I
was your mother,
and now you are mine.
I’ve been in Tucson with my family for five months as a shlicha (Israeli emissary) and so many events indicate how vibrant the Jewish community is. One event caught me unprepared — a Hadassah luncheon earlier this month, with 75 participants. The speakers were non-Jewish firefighters who visited Israel two months ago with much help from the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation and Patty Vallance, a volunteer in the Jewish and firefighter communities. I guess no one in the audience expected to hear such an emotional review of this professional trip. The firefighters presented slideshows that showed mainly people to people connections with many Israeli firefighters and other rescue teams and with a 19-year-old soldier from Tucson, Shoham Ozeri. I don’t know what astounded me more — the fact that they remember almost every detail of their trip (you can tell by the looks on their faces that they are reliving their experiences as they speak), or the fact that they took such care in correctly pronouncing the names of each city and place they visited, and they visited so many. One of the magical moments for me was when Kelly McCoy, one of the seven firefighters who went on this trip, said “We went as seven professional firefighters and we came back as a seven ambassadors for Israel.”
I didn’t know that I could love Israel even more.
Next week, you can hear the firefighters talk about their experience, both professional and personal, together with their Israeli guide, Eitan Blumberg, who they invited to Tucson at their expense. The event will be at the Northwest Fire District Training Center, 5125 W. Camino De Fuego on Monday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m.
Don’t miss our Weintraub Israel Center winter newsletter enclosed in this issue. And you can find us on Facebook.
Oshrat Barel is Tucson’s community shlicha and director of the Weintraub Israel Center.