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Staying Put

Haredim in Jerusalem Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
Haredim in Jerusalem Photo: Dudi Vaaknin
 
 

Should I stay or should I go?

We know nothing will change around here, but will we stay in Israel nonetheless?

Raanan Shaked
Published: 03.25.08, 00:50 / Israel Opinion

We know how it will end. We’ve been living here for long enough. We feel bad saying this to other people - even though we know they know it too – but amongst ourselves, we know.

 

We know that we won’t win and won’t lose. We know that the war with the Palestinians will go on. And on. And on. Until either we, or they,
die. And our children will continue on the same path.

 

We know that Ashkelon is screwed. We know that Tel Aviv will turn into a skyscraper made of cement, and we know that Jerusalem will turn into a disaster area – ultra-Orthodox, radical, the capital of the world’s nutcases. Jerusalem is where a mosque will lead, one of these days, to the outbreak of a world war.

 

We know that the IDF will enter Gaza in the winter for an operation called “Winter Rain” and again enter it in the summer for an operation called “Burning Heat.” We know that we actually don’t quite know the operation’s objective, but whatever it is, it will be partially achieved.

 

We know that the IDF will eliminate the most wanted terrorist, and then number two, and then number three, along with four Palestinian women, as a response to a revenge terror attack. We know that the world will be angry, but we also know that we won’t give a damn.

 

We know that we will run out of room here. We know that all the parking lots at all national parks will be filled to capacity next Saturday. We know that we’ll get stuck in a traffic jam on the way. A giant one. We know that we cannot save Sderot – at most we can hug it. We also know that “hug” is a word that died because of overuse.

 

We know that peace with Egypt won’t get any warmer – not in the coming decade. We know that Holocaust survivors won’t really get what they deserve. We know that former President Moshe Katsav didn’t really get what he deserved. We know that there will be no more roads, yet we still continue to buy cars.

 

We know that Ariel Sharon won’t recover. We know that all the commissions of inquiry in the world won’t bring one soldier back to life and won’t kill any politicians. We know that the Zionist ethos is dead, but we have no idea where exactly they buried it.

 

Marriage of convenience

We know that it will become more vulgar around here. More violent. Hotter. Less convenient. Yet despite the fact we know all that, we still remain here. We’re not going anywhere. We tell ourselves that it’s because we love this country, but we know that we’re a bit dishonest, and that more than this being about love, at this point it’s about a marriage of convenience.

 

Above everything, we know that we have no other country. Not because there is a famous Israeli song to that effect that is always played at rallies in the town square. We really don’t have another country, because no other country will offer us citizenship, work, and a realistic chance of integration.

 

We know all those things for a certainty, even though sometimes we argue over them for the fun of it. Even when we argue, just to pass the time, that there is no telling what will end up happening here, we know that we do know. We know what will end up happening, and mostly what will not end up happening. If we look ourselves deep in the eye, we know.

 

The question is what we intend to do with this information. Yes, we can hallucinate, on occasion, out of despair, about erasing Gaza with one bomb. We can daydream about two pastoral states for two peace-loving peoples. We know those are hallucinations, even though rightists like Effie Eitam and leftists like Yossi Sarid strongly argue that there is such reality somewhere over the rainbow. There is no such reality. We know that.

 

So what are we left with, now that we know? Well, the bottom line, at the end of the day, is one genuine Israeli choice: The choice of whether to stay or leave. Whether we should leave our children with this exact life, or give them a new start in a new place. Whether we should offer them Canada, or Australia, or the United States. Whether we should open the door and let them leave.

 

We do not have any other real choices. We have no choice at the polling stations: Our political choices for a while now have been about a bit more or a bit less of the same thing. It doesn’t matter what ballot you threw into the ballot box, once you did you in fact voted in favor of one thing only: In favor of going on. In favor of continuing the Zionist human experiment. You chose to go on and not to disconnect. This is a meaningful choice.

 

Any other choice in this place is meaningless. We can yell and protest, write and argue, move to Tel Aviv, leave Tel Aviv, make children, not make children, switch jobs, come up with an alternative agenda, redesign, form a non-profit group, a movement, a group in Facebook.

 

We can make tons of choices that would change our lives, but at the end of the day won’t change the size, quality, or borders of the narrow cage where our lives are trapped. Because at the end of the day, as singer Ehud Banai wrote right at the beginning of one of his songs, everyone knows what will end up happening. And indeed, we know.

 

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