Maybe the most important thing to know about me is that I’m a procrastinator. My cycle usually goes something like this: I write a blog post, and feel inordinately proud of myself for accomplishing this small task – I won’t even think about another update for two weeks. This sense of accomplishment also extends into other aspects of my life, like schoolwork: “I really don’t need to finish my reading for class tomorrow because I wrote a blog post three days ago!”
As I begin to lose justifications for not writing another post, I tell myself that I’m really busy. Maybe I’m traveling for the weekend, maybe I’m finishing all the schoolwork I neglected after the last post, maybe I have a headache, maybe I have an important TV show to watch. The task of updating my blog becomes more and more overwhelming. With each passing day, things happen that I could, hypothetically, write about – I reach a point where I have so much to say, I don’t even know where I would begin. Also, since my last post was Freshly Pressed, my readership has increased substantially, so I have been using the “you’d have to work really hard to impress all these people” and “you can’t do justice to all the interesting things you’ve heard in one blog post” procrastination arguments more often.
And here I am. Am I only writing this now because I have a midterm coming up? Yes. Apparently my desire to procrastinate on studying for my midterm has finally outweighed my reluctance to blog. So, in all its delayed, hastily-written glory (because that way I can convince myself that I’ll get this done quickly so I can study later), here is what I have to say about the last month.
I was recently telling one of my friends about my MA program, and she asked, “So, when do you get away from the conflict?” I had never really thought about this before and my immediate reaction was, “Oh, all the time!” She seemed skeptical, and I struggled to think of things I have done that aren’t directly conflict-related. The best answer I could stutter out was, “Well, I volunteer each week for an organization focused on empowering Palestinian youth in Israel.” “And why do they need to be empowered?” “Mrrrphhhhh.”
I’ve been dwelling on this for a while now, because my friend is right. I have been thinking about and talking about the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts ALL THE TIME. One part of this is just inherent to my MA program. Obviously, Israel is the most common case study to come up in our classes and in our readings because we live here. But outside of class, no matter where I’m at or whom I’m with, the conflict comes up. I ran into somebody from Nablus the other night, and before I knew it we were talking about the lengthy process he went through to get a permit to visit his family in Haifa. I went out to dinner with an Israeli friend last week, and our conversation led to how the rising political power of religious Judaism threatens the stability of Israel. When I get together with people from my program, complaining about a particular assignment somehow turns into a debriefing session about the crazy thing we just read in the news.
I’m not saying that this is a bad thing: I chose to learn about conflict in Haifa because I knew it would permeate all aspects of my life, and I would be disappointed if it never came up in readings, or if my classmates weren’t every bit as interested in discussing the conflict as I am. In all honesty, I learn something new and mind-blowing about Israel-Palestine every day, and from conversations with my classmates, I see that new lesson from so many different perspectives. There are no words to describe how valuable this experience has been for me.
At the same time, I am secretly hoping as I write this that my Israeli and Palestinian friends won’t see this blog post, because I think they would be horrified if I told them that I never stop thinking about the conflict. This might seem counterintuitive, since these are people who have grown up surrounded by conflict, but I think it makes perfect sense. It’s a self-preservation thing: you can’t live your entire life always feeling angry and sad and guilty and bitter. Or at least, I couldn’t – for my sanity, I’ve realized that I need to make a conscious effort to not feel this way, at least from time to time.
I was going to write this really long blog post about all the crazy things I’ve heard in the last month, ranging from “all the Zionists are plotting to knock down the Haram al-Sharif to build their next temple” to “Gazan children don’t really deserve to live because they’ll grow up to be terrorists.” Instead, I’m going to end this post with pictures of really fun things I’ve done in the past month. I’m not saying these experiences have nothing to do with conflict (I don’t believe that for a second – we live in an interconnected world in which everything can be related to something terrible somewhere else). But as I’ve learned from my friends who grew up here, sometimes you just have to take nice things at face value, because otherwise you risk forgetting how wonderful life is.
Hanging out at the beach in Tel Aviv while watching the sun set over the Old City of Jaffa was pretty awesome.
In one of the Arab neighborhoods in Haifa, the city hosts a month-long winter holiday festival. I’m pretty sure the entire population of Haifa was there the day I visited – roasted chestnuts and chocolate Santas were particularly popular.
Getting to celebrate Christmas Eve in Bethlehem with so many friends was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. With that, here’s hoping we all get to have wonderful experiences like these throughout the new year – wishing you lots of fun and happiness in 2013!