Saturday, March 16, 2013

Letter From Israel

elinor    אלינור    

Happy birthday, Geoff. I've returned to Israel from the US of A and am wondering whatever happened to the collective IQ of that country. People are so little concerned with anything but their incomes and looking young that this time, when I said I was from Israel, I got the most limpid of smiles. I used to get a bit of a fight, some recognition of the connection the Baptists have to the Land of the Bible or even an insincere Ohhhh? Not this time.

The economy would seem to be somewhat better but the stores are vast and minimally inhabited. Traffic in Arizona and New Jersey is not as heavy as it was; petrol is very costly and people seem to be staying at home. There are lots of WE SUPPORT OUR TROOPS signs but it will be so long until they come home. Afghanistan is a topic of current conversation, however, besides Botox.

I had a very satisfying encounter on the flight to Newark, on my way to Arizona. When passengers--who unaccountably are now called customers---were instructed before landing to raise their seat backs to sitting position, the woman in the seat ahead of me did not. After some minutes I reminded her, which produced an irritated I WILL. Not good enough, lady, my travel bag is under your seat and I want to forage in it before I 'deplane'.
A woman across the aisle commented on the exchange, which I answered with the classic observation: She must be Israeli--they think a rule is a mere suggestion. Yes, anti-Israeliness is rife--even occasionally among those of us who carry Israeli passports.

The Lady Across the Aisle said she, a teacher, was returning home to New Jersey after the most exciting educational experience of her life. At the Arts and Science Centre in Jerusalem, she said, at a teachers' continuing education seminar. The session was one whose origins were well known to me; I had been involved in the program from its inception and edited the very first (and subsequent) issues of teaching material for the Excellence 2000 program. (It was I who rejected the idea of renaming the program after sequential calendar years, claiming that this was a program for the millennium.) She extracted from her bag a 'rocket' made from a litre soft-drink bottle and I had memories of the prototype, constructed in the office next to mine at the Society for Excellence through Education and brought in for display and discussion by the then-young head of the science department. She ended our brief encounter with the words The only way this program can fail is through me, if I don't carry forward the thrill of learning I'm bringing home with me. Wow.

As you know, one of the most lively discussions here concerns the participation of the ultra-religious young people in the defence of Israel. The current thinking is to cull the best and the brightest and let them stay studying in their yeshivas; the rest are to be drafted into the army. Much noise had been made about who should go. I can tell you how the decision should be made.

Two ultra-religious boys sat beside me on the plane and I thought they might ask me to change seats. Nottatall. We exchanged a few words, then settled into our various reading material. In flight, the kosher meals are always served before the rest and of course these boys were served before me. Why aren't you eating? asked the one beside me. Aren't you Jewish? Don't you eat glatt kosher? I resisted the impulse to say Kosher is kosher and I don't believe in any of that and it's none of your business anyway, but I did admire his forthrightness and frank curiosity--a reliable sign of intelligence.

How do you work this TV? I showed him the OFF and the ON and explained the movies, music, short programs and whatever else there is. I understand, he said, and he did. He had a terrific time leafing through all that was available whilst his buddy looked out the window at nothing.

As we approached the US, we were all given landing cards. I completed mine and and at his request, showed him how it worked. Using his passport he rapidly copied the English information. His seatmate couldn't read the English, didn't understand why the form wasn't in Hebrew, didn't know the address in New Jersey where he would be staying. Floundering. OK, I thought, this one goes back to yeshiva; the other, straight to the IDF. Easy.

We still don't have a government although the headlines today give me hope: No more than twenty ministers (excluding the PM, of course) and none without portfolio. The last government had tens and tens of ministers. Perhaps now our tax money can be spent out of the Knesset.

12 March 2013

Cross posted  Israel Thrives

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