Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Jewish Democratic State


Relative deprivation and the notion of Middle East coexistence.

#travel dispatch from #Israel, with #sociological observations on a tour of the Knesset.

Thursday 2/13/2020. Image
This is a screenshot from my Periscope of the first part of the Knesset tour (photo and video taken with permission). I watched this man talk and wondered...
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How is this young Arab woman, who was with a student group that went in after us, supposed to feel included in the Jewish Declaration of Independence? Image
Reflecting on an earlier visit to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, where I observed many Arab students visiting, I feel this even more intensely. Image
The Knesset is a shrine to the modern Jewish state. Jewish. Image
The tour guide carefully explained how the legislative system here works, and indeed it is brilliant and inclusive. Sure. Image
But as we took turns here posing with the Israeli flags, the meaning of it was clear. This is a land built on the blood of our ancestors. Image
And when you're given a pass to visit the Knesset, as a Jew, you are doing something that resonates in a very specific way. No more ovens. Image
The security at the Knesset is tight. We arrived and started taking photos, but stepped too close to the glass from the outside, and a guy with a submachine gun physically pulled my husband backward.

Then we sat down and waited across the way, by the giant Menorah. Symbol after symbol after symbol of Jews fighting for freedom. Image
The Arab students arrived as a group. They were clearly distinguishable as Arabs even though their clothes were Western-looking. This group was mostly teenage boys. And they looked angry.
I recalled seeing the Arab girls at the Jewish museum and they did not seem angry. But they were distinct and not part of an integrated group of Jews and Muslims.

The tour guide explained that Israel is a Jewish Democratic state but not a democracy. I thought to myself, a woman did not design the state then, because a woman knows that once you let another woman in for tea, she doesn't stop until she takes over. Image
I thought to myself, if I were visiting an Arab country, I would be shocked if they gave Jews full citizenship. It doesn't happen in this part of the world. When we Jews lived in Muslim countries, we were formally second class citizens, and it was clear.

To me, it is more offensive to Muslims to pretend that this state is anything but Jewish.
It seems to me — the Jewish idea of coexistence is a really noble one. But it doesn't make sense if you don't first take history, religion and culture all into account.

In any case, they’re having a third election here in 18 days. They will sit here to count the ballots. Image
Votes counted in the open is transparency. Transparency is also a section of the Knesset is reserved for the media to watch the legislative activity.

Of course there is so much that is hidden.  Maybe transparency is not a credible value.
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Going back to coexistence. The Israeli mindset is very intellectual. It's also about creativity and possibility. I think this is how they rationalize things that don't make common sense.

Artistically they are very into love. They have a love for humanity here. I think they wish things could be different than they are.

This is us at the gigantic sculpture that says "love," which in Hebrew is "Ahava." Image
We also saw a gigantic model of Jerusalem in the second Temple period. Image
All the art is from the Israel Museum.

They also had a display showing early Christian life. Image
Here is the explanatory sign. (If you visit the museum please take more time than we did...it's tremendously rich in artifacts.) Image
Amazing display on ancient Egypt. I think this requires more study on my part to know the significance.Image
Similarly I noticed this and it struck me, but I don't know how to "read" it. ImageImage
There was other stuff from today too. We got ripped off by a cabdriver.
And we got ripped off at the shawarma place too. 90 shekels for two of these and a French fries! Image
But it was worth it, and thank God overall it was a very beautiful day. Image
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Copyright 2020 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Photos by the author.  All rights reserved.