In May, 1969, I moved to Israel. I was 20 years old, a college drop-out, and an idealist who felt shattered by the direction the United States had moved: Richard Nixon was our President, we were enmeshed in a horrible war in Viet Nam, our nation was torn apart. What better thing for a young Jewish girl to do than move to a new nation, become a pioneer, farm, get my hands dirty. My parents dropped me at the airport, and off I went on my new adventure.
I met my ex- on the first day I arrived. He literally grabbed my art portfolio out of my hands and carried it to the housing block I was assigned. He was on a bicycle. He thought he was dashing. I thought he was an asshole. So began 22 years of ragged togetherness before it ended in divorce. Hell, we get along better divorced than we ever did married, but that's a whole nother story.
This story is about a four cylinder Fiat 500, a car that was manual transmission and only had two cylinders working. It wasn't our car. It didn't really belong to anyone, exactly. This girl purchased it in Spain for $500, drove the hell out of it until she appeared on the Kibbutz one day, parked it, and stayed for a month. She left, and somehow the car (and the keys) stayed. Somehow, we had those keys. So, we just sort of decided we had right of first whatever.
Israel in 1969 was very much a country on defense. Still bearing the swagger of the Six Day War, when the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank were captured, there was a bravado that defied the constant sense of looking over one's shoulder. We were not far from a small border town, and that town was constantly being shelled by Katusha rockets launched by Palestinians in Lebanon. It didn't stop us from hiking the hills - in fact, we felt in more danger from the wild dogs than from the rockets. Kids in their twenties feel immortal.
I cannot describe how beautiful this region was. The light, the colors of the land, the Jordan River - all of this begged for exploration. And we had a car at our disposal, so explore it we did. But there was the issue of the two cylinders - we would pull into gas stations not to fill up with gas, but because the radiator was about to overheat and we needed to add water, or coolant, or whatever it is you put into a car to keep it from blowing up. The other issue was that because Israel was at war, there were roadblocks set up all over the place. My ex- was without a driver's license; I didn't know how to drive stick. He decided there was no time like the present to learn.
Oh, there is a third issue. I don't like to take direction much. And one of the reasons he's an ex-husband is because he was a bit over-bearing. (I love it when I understate.) And I am a natural blonde.
So we pulled over into a secluded area to teach me the workings of manual transmissions, and clutches, and forward, and not grinding gears, and when to shift, and "GODDAMNIT, STEP ON THE CLUTCH AND THEN EASE IT INTO GEAR", and then it was time for my first roadblock. It did not go well. I lurched the car forward, I jerked it and it stalled. I tried again. Stalled again. The soldiers told my ex- to get me out of the drivers seat or they would run me in. We decided that my driving was not so good, and we'd be better off with him driving without that pesky credential. License? We don need no stinking license. Thus ended my driving experience in Israel.
I eventually taught myself in an emergency back in the States. My son spiked a sudden fever at age 4. My ex- had my car, I had our VW Bus, which was manual, and I needed to take my son to the doctor. I somehow managed to get there without a problem, except I couldn't figure out reverse. Later that weekend, I learned.
But we lived in Israel for a year before we moved back to the States. It was in Israel that I listened to Neil Armstrong's voice as he took his first steps on the Moon. The night of July 20th was hot, sticky and cloudless as we gathered around the radio - staring up at the moon - the first steps toward extraterrestial colonization after we completely fuck up Earth.
I was in Israel when my beloved Cubs folded to the vile, loathe and disgusting New York Mets. Not the Miracle Mets, no, nay, never: The MALEVOLENT Mets, forever evil in my book. I was in Israel when everyone was going on down to Yasgur's farm for the Woodstock Nation. I was in Israel for a year, and it changed me forever.
Last night, I was watching Neil Jordon's film, "Michael Collins." In the extras on the DVD, Jordon writes that Michael Collins developed new strategies for the independence of Ireland. His tactics include what are now recognized as urban guerrilla tactics - Jordan is firm in pointing out that Collins was a soldier, a politician, and would deplore terrorist tactics. In fact, in the 1940s, the underground Jewish militia, the Irgun, patterned itself after the Irish Republicans. Yitzak Shamir so admired Michael Collins that he took the nickname "Michael."
I believe that Yassar Arafat was of this ilk: he was a soldier, and his PLO employed the kinds of urban guerilla tactics that Collins developed. Not so the terrorist group, Hamas. Hamas straps explosives onto the bodies of young, disenfranchized men and tells them to go blow up a coffee house. Attack civilians. And then Israel behaves like the British did and bulldozes houses; cuts off water, electricity; builds a fence. Our world has gone insane.
This morning, Dusty sent me a link to this article from the New Republic. The article goes into depth about J-Street, the new lobbying group and political action committee that says it will represent the interests of liberal American Jews.
The group, according to its website, favors "diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran; multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution; and dialogue over confrontation with a wide range of countries and actors when conflicts do arise." Perhaps most controversially, its founder favors negotiating with Hamas.
"It's true that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal on most issues; the problem for J Street is that Israel simply isn't one of those issues." My own family is an example: my ex-husband and son support Israel and Israel's actions completely. My ex-husband speaks of Palestians as though they are less than human. Sort of the way Jews were talked about in the past. My daughter and I support a two-State, diplomatic solution and to me, this means that Israel must talk to Hamas. They must. To pursue a military stance will ensure the destruction of Israel. The only way for Israel to survive, nay, thrive, is through diplomacy.
What the Palestinians need is a Michael Collins, an Eamon de Valera, a Yitzhak Rabin. What Israel needs is some restraint, and a lobby like J-Street to make the Government listen. Most Israeli citizens support a two-state, diplomatic solution, as do a growing number of American Jews. J-Street supports peace, a two-state solution, security for Israel, and using diplomacy, rather than military force, to deal with countries like Iran and Syria. It is only the far Right wing (the millenialists, the Religious Right, the Rev. Hagee) who want Israel to keep Gaza and the West Bank.
Perhaps, as my ex-husband and our son drive around Israel in the car I've secured for them, they will come to terms with a more even-handed point of view. I can only hope.