So there is quite a lot I need to process when taking in to account all that I am learning out here. This blog may be all over the place because I am still trying to organize all this new info. My teacher is my tour guide; Yossi Maimon, a lifetime Israeli who has never left the country. He has written two books, is a tour guide and continues to periodically serve in the Israeli army. He is a very knowledgeable primary source, however it is important to be cognizant of his role in life and how it may effect his view of the world. I do not know much about Israel or the history of the Middle East but it is seemingly polar opposite to America. Where do I even start? How about some cultural observations; as it was important to consider Yossi and his Israeli nationalistic perspective, its as important to take into account that I am American and am used to a certain way of living. The USA is a sovereign country and thus our lives are much different than the Middle East. As I said earlier, there is so much war and fear that is a real part of everyday life here. It is normal to see people my age walking around with large rifles slung around their shoulders. There is less common courtesy between strangers, people do not wait and rather they barge in to “get theirs.” Drivers use their horns to communicate and not to initiate conflict (road raging america)!! There is a much more apprehensive and aggressive style of living but it is necessary. Out here it is like that old saying, “an eye for an eye.” The people do not forget and they will seek revenge (at least this is what I understand). These countries are considerably poor when comparing to many other countries. I have learned so much about countries I knew nothing about: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Most of what I have learned from all these countries goes back to religion and power. There is so much tension between religions. As we well know, Israel was founded as a country for the Jews. However, with time the legislature has turned more towards equal rights in an effort to accommodate others from Arab countries who are mostly Muslim (there are the Druids?, Bedwins(nomads), Christians even, etc…). Everyone seems to be watching each other. Israel is now a country that is constantly bombarded with tourism. Every day the streets are full of giant tour buses with people from all over the world. I wonder about this because all this external input has got to have an effect on how Israeli’s view the world. It is back to the days of trade, but trading ideas rather than material items(however there is alot of trade between technologies). The government is somewhat worried about this as can be seen in their education and military systems. About 60 percent of the schools are secular, religion is not taught. I have asked alot about the education system. Muslims, Jews, Christians etc all in school with each other. I can’t even imagine the social complications and dilemmas the youth must encounter in a country with so much emphasis placed on religion. Even though the schools are secular, it is only natural for children to take what they have already learned in their home environments and apply it to school life. How complicated everything must be from such an early age… The other 40 percent is divided between orthodox(30%) and ultra orthodox(10%) schools. When teens graduate, if they are Jewish, they immediately are to enlist for 3 years in the army. But what about the Muslims? There is a common understanding that Muslims are not to be trusted with the responsibilities of defending the country. This is kind of wild considering all the equal rights stuff we deal with in the states.
Although I am very concerned for some of Israel’s troubles, there are also a great many facets to Israeli culture that I admire, respect and am interested in. Firstly I have been thinking about spirituality. I myself am not religious but am most certainly on a spiritual journey through life. I have a great many questions and I try to be mindful of my bodily processes as they interact with my cognitions/thought processes. So much goes back to the basic idea of homeostasis; we as humans need to be in a physically stable state in order to think in a stable and rational way. From Friday night to Saturday night in Israel practically everyone refrains from work (no cars, electricity, cooking). This is the Jewish tradition of Shabat. I couldn’t believe when I flew into Tel Aviv that there was nobody driving on the streets. It is a surreal feeling for me as a westerner. I guess we have the same with Church and certain national holidays in the states but its still much different to me. Shabat is an excellent reminder of how important it is for us as humans to take a break from what we have created and deemed as necessary (technology) and go back to the basics. The fact this happens four times a month, 48 times a year blows my mind. For some reason I want to compare this to France and their 30 hr work weeks accompanied with 2 month per year required vacation for everyone. I guess we are on a different mission out there in the west. It worries me though because I dont see nearly as much emphasis on spirituality in the states. At what point did we decide it was not necessary to remind ourselves of our human condition? I think I may idealize some of these values because they are foreign but also because they are real. Life is fragile, we do not know when it will end and so often we are caught up in a world of attachments. Our attachments may seem necessary for survival, whether it be social obligations or monetary gain, but in the end we need food, water and shelter to stay alive. As a psychology major I would argue that sex, belonging and community are up there; I may be tuning into an evolutionary standpoint. But while we are the topic of simplicity I want to mention something else I have observed and appreciate. So much of Israel is built on just getting the basic needs met. People need water because they are in a dessert. Although the area around Israel has a long history, its development is still very young. There are so many new technologies that are beginning to be implemented here. The army has things I would have never dreamt of. A guy can shake your hand with a special unseen chemical and the chemical can be detected from aircraft to follow where they are. There are little toy looking bouncy balls with camera’s in them that can be remote controlled to spy on a target. Ecologists have developed ways to grow food more efficient and treat water that would otherwise be undrinkable (Dead Sea).
Last little thing. I would like to end this with moral story Yossi explained to us. What creates selfishness? He asked us this and told us a story about a poor fellow who was constantly helping the people around him. At a certain point in this man’s life he became rich and eventually stopped caring about anyone at all. What could have caused this? Long story short, when we don’t have a need to depend on others is when we begin to care only for ourselves. The poor man needed the support of others when he had nothing, but when he became rich he only cared for himself. He forgot all about what life is all about, Sharing. Just a little food for thought. There is so much to learn in life, and I believe most of it goes back to our relationship with ourselves and others, space and time. I know I am somewhat of an idealist, but so much can be accomplished when we consider each other and our situations.
So how do we all get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice…