Friday, January 21, 2005

'What do you find most annoying about Israelis'

That's what the Israeli woman asked me on the phone.

She told me that we had exchanged phone numbers on Jdate several months earlier. I had no idea who she was. I asked her why we didn't talk then. She said she didn't know. She gave me her Jdate profile number and I quickly looked it up online. It indicated she lived in Jerusalem. Residence in the capital (If I forget thee o Jerusalem...) is usually a tip off of right-wing leanings.

Could you date Ra'anan Gissin - if he
was a woman? I didn't think so.
 Posted by Hello

She told me her grandparents were from Indiana. They lived in Bloomington and one or both of them - I don't remember - worked in the music department at Indiana University.

I should have known better. Her question was like giving me a map indicating the exact location of the lone mine in the field before me. But naturally I had to get close to it.

"It's how we think we're the center of the world, that everything revolves around us. I think it has to do with being the 'chosen people.'"

I deliberately said "we" because I do consider myself part of Israeli society and I also didn't want to appear as if I was criticizing her. Well, it really didn't matter.

Her response went something like this:

"But everyone is watching us. Every decision we make has to take into consideration the reaction of the rest of the world. They don't understand what we're going through. They only see the Palestinian side. They don't know what's really happening here."

Me: "Yes, but when's the last time you saw what was happening on the Palestinian side. Personally, I have no clue what's it's like from their point of view."

Her: "We're the victims here. What do you think is the solution? To build a wall and leave the territories? Will that bring peace?"

Me: "I don't know if it would bring peace, but it would mean we were doing the right thing - an end to the occupation. Build a wall on the border, just get out."

Her: "That won't solve anything. We're not the guilty ones here. Don't you watch the news?"

Here's where I got a bit annoyed because I sensed - perhaps it stemmed from my own insecurities - that she was lecturing me.

(In my opinion, the tendency to lecture about how the world works is the second most annoying thing about Israelis.)

Me: "Listen, I've been here eight years and most of my professional life has been in journalism. I read the news and I'm doing a graduate degree in political science. It's not like I'm some clueless immigrant who just arrived."

This didn't stop the floodgates. She continued with her lecture and seemed to be channeling Ra'anan Gissin. I was no longer paying attention to her argument except hoping to find some opening to disengage - gracefully if possible - from the conversation.

Suddenly there was a pause, as if she was waiting for a response.

Me: "Listen, I'm going to go now."

Her: "What? That's it? Just over this political discussion?"

Me: "Yeah, well, in any case I'm applying to graduate schools in the U.S. so I probably won't even be here in the fall. Layla tov."

Her: "Layla tov."