Posted By rachael

Date: March 25th, 2009

Category: Rachael's blog

I want to write a little about my impressions of Israel.

Israel strikes me as a land of extremes. It is a country of indescribable beauty but also of terrible and ugly hatreds. There is no room for a middle ground, it seems: If you’re Jewish you are either orthodox and politically to the right or you are a left-leaning atheist who doesn’t know the simplest blessings, like the blessing over the challah on shabbat. The secular Jews have trouble tolerating the orthodox and vice versa. In Haifa the Jews and the Arabs coexist peacefully and yet there was a terrible bomb-scare from a muslim group (as yet to be determined) in a shopping-mall in the north of the city this week. Jerusalem is a very tense place these days. I keep seeking answers that can explain the tension and the hatred but the truth is elusive.

Israelis here in Haifa will scream at you terribly in traffic but happily let you keep your cup of coffee at the bakery if you forget to bring your wallet (which happened to me this morning). It is like a huge extended Jewish family — a kibbutz writ large, or perhaps a shtetl transplanted and stretched out to farther corners. The love here is passionate and raw and intense. Old ladies on the street yell at you if you’re not dressed warmly enough. You really have to have thick skin!

I am in love with the Hebrew language. I could continue to study at ulpan for years, truly. Israeli literature and film (and even, to some degree, some of the television) feel like a continuation of the kind of art that emerged from Vienna at the turn of the century — deeply introspective, self-questioning, probing down into dark places. Perhaps that’s just the logical evolution from Herzl and Freud! I feel very at home with the academic and literary cultures here.

The medical system here is first rate. We have had more visits to doctors than we would have liked but we have been very impressed with the high quality of care.

That is it for now. It is time to pick up Ayla from gan. More later!

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