Posted by Emily Gian on 4 August 2011 at 2:05pm:
“The only way to keep a dream rosy and intact is never to try to live it out”.
Thus began the talk my literary idol, Amos Oz, gave to a packed audience at Melbourne Town Hall last night.
This is true, he continued, not only of creating a nation. This is true of writing a novel, planting a garden, living out a sexual fantasy. Zionism is lived out, and as such it is disappointing.
I have always wondered, when reading about Amos Oz discussing the nature of dreams, whether he had gotten it wrong, that the dream of Zionism was not destined to taste sour. What I realised from Amos Oz last night was that it is not Israel itself that is a disappointment.
However, there are major issues that stop the dream from becoming perfect; that could perhaps turn the dream into a nightmare.
The first is that of peace which has eluded the region for many decades now. Often it is hard to imagine a day when peace will come but both sides know that difficult sacrifices will need to be made to achieve peace. My Israeli mother-in-law asked me recently if, when I have children, I would send them to serve in the IDF. My answer was that I hope by the time they grow up, there will be peace and therefore the idea of sending children off to serve their country would not seem as daunting. She replied, “that is what I thought when my boys were born”. One son served most of his army service in Gaza before the 2005 Disengagement, while another served alongside other brave reservists in the Second Lebanon War.
As I read the news that Grad rockets had fallen again on Southern Israel today, I wondered again how soon this day of peace will come.
The second issue, which at the moment seems of more immediate importance to most Israelis, is the matter of social justice. A few weeks ago, a protest began in Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv concerning the housing crisis in Israel. Young Israelis protesting for more affordable housing erected tents as a show to the government that their needs are not currently being met. Since then, similar protests have sprung up in cities and small towns all over Israel. The protests are being led mainly by students and Israelis in their 20s-30s, who are not able to afford to rent or buy apartments in their area. This is true not only in Tel Aviv but all around the country, including in Arab villages. The protests are no longer just about housing but about other issues related to the high cost of living in Israel (see more). Please read Amos Oz’s ‘Israel’s tent city protests are a delightful revival of mutual fraternity’. Sources from the government are now reporting that PM Netanyahu has a plan that will “change the face of the country”, but only time will tell.
In his talk, Amos Oz stated he is waiting for the day when Israel does not occupy the front pages of the World News but the cultural pages, the literary pages and the architectural pages of the paper.
My own analysis is that he does not need to wait for the latter because it has already been here for a long time.
Despite certain problems, Israel is a wonderful country of where there is much to be proud. One only needs to pick up a novel written by Oz himself, or by his contemporaries A.B. Yehoshua or David Grossman, to know and to understand their rich and intricately woven interpretations of Israeli society. The same can be said of the Israeli film industry.
Israel has some wonderful organisations such as Save a Child’s Heart, whose mission is to improve the quality of paediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries. Their mission statement declares that they are “totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, colour, gender or financial situation”. This week alone there are children in Israel from Angola, Ethiopia, Romania and even places that are not so friendly with Israel such as Indonesia, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority (see more).
In late May, the Golda Meir Mount Carmel Training Centre hosted more than 70 women leaders from 38 countries discussing the topic “Science, Technology and Innovation: Education and Training for Women and Girls”. The centre’s motto suggests that by training and empowering women you can change the world from the ground up and this is something that Israel can certainly be proud of.
Next week, a combined team of 13 Israelis and 13 Palestinians will be participating in Australia in the AFL International Cup under the banner of the “Peace Team” for the second time. As opposed to those that are trying to find ways to deligitimise Israel and the peace process, the Peace Team promotes the message of cooperation and understanding between the two sides. Like it or not, the players and their children will one day sit together in peace and endeavours such as these can only help them do so.
These are just a few small examples of the wonderful things coming out of Israel that we should be proud to see on the cultural, medical and sports pages of our newspapers.
Zionism has been fulfilled but the dream of Israel as a thriving Jewish and democratic state continues.
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I think with dreams, whether you’re talking about Israel or if you’re planting a garden, it’s only when your expectations are unreasonable that you are disappointed. If you expect the roses you grow in the garden to be huge, a foot wide, just because it’s your garden, knowing full well that roses, at their biggest, are 6 inches, your expectations are unrealistic, and you’re doomed to disappointment.
If Zionism is the dream, and Israel is the child of that dream, then I have to wonder whether Amos Oz expected of his own three children that they all be brain surgeons, or did he, as most of us do with Israel, take pride in their achievements and in their kind hearts and good natures. Most parents only demand of their children what that child’s circumstances allow, so why do people demand perfection of Israel, then lash out in disappointment when those unrealistic expectations are unfulfilled?
Amos Oz lives in Israel and should know the goodness that is in the Israeli heart. Children do make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them … to expect that your child will live in Nirvanah, without exchanging a cross word, or somehow expect your child to cure an abusive spouse is unreasonable. To expect Israel to find peace where there is only barren soil, is unreasonable. One should rather admire the courage of, say, pulling out of Gaza, or the wisdom of building a fence that has saved so many lives. Those are the attributes in our children that we seek to be proud of, not that they have achieved perfect circumstances or have perfect neighbours.