Reason #12,087 that I hate the occupation.

I love Israel.

I don’t “love Israel” in that way that Diaspora Jews are taught to “love Israel” — that sort of dreamy, Zionist, ingathering-of-the-Jews, aren’t-the-Israelis-a-heroic-and-beautiful-people, we-must-be-ever-vigilant kind of religio-cultural devotion — rather, I love the actual Israel in which I actually lived for 14 years of my life. I particularly love Tel Aviv.

I love Hebrew, I love the sea, I love living in a Jewish culture, I love the proximity of history to everyday life, I love the tiled floors of old Tel Aviv houses, I love the sunset in Jerusalem (though I mostly hate Jerusalem), I love the walk from my friend Hazel’s house to mine (though I haven’t lived there for 11 years), I love the flowers, I love the music, I love the literature, I love the radio, I love certain spots and streets and corners and coffee shops and foods — oh! Krembo, and cottage cheese, and challah pooshtit — and I love many people. It was my home in a way that no other place has ever been, and even after all these years, in many important ways, it still is.

And all I can think about is the fucking occupation.

My husband and I left in 1998 because I wanted to live a few years as an adult in America, and I wanted to get my Masters Degree at an American university. I was accepted and fully funded at the University of Chicago, so there I went, with every intention of returning.

I stress this last because so few people believed me at the time, and, I suspect, believe me now. I never wanted to live here in America, never wanted to raise children in the galut. I wanted to go home.

But we were always pretty far left on the political dial, and the Israeli response to the second intifada was just too much for us. Over the course of a year, my husband and I separately came to the same conclusion: We did not want to raise our children in that place, where it was more important to perpetuate the war than find a solution, more important to feel the victim than acknowledge that one was victimizing others, more important to hold on to the settlements with every last drop of our children’s blood, than to stop spilling blood. By 2003, it was clear: We were staying.

And from that moment on, all that Israel has been for me has been one, big, awful struggle. I see all of it, all of it, through the prism of the conflict, the occupation, and Israel’s continuing failure to admit its responsibility and go to the negotiating table in good faith. And indeed, a very special slice of my rage is reserved for the constant Israeli effort to just ignore the conflict, sip coffee and enjoy the Mediterranean sun, and not spare a thought for the mayhem being pursued and perpetuated a mere handful of miles away.

And so every good thing — every Gidi Gov song, every word of Eli Moher, every picture of Rothschild Boulevard, every happy memory or wish for the future — just hurts. Mostly hurts. I weep over pop songs, dread getting off the plane, walk the streets of Tel Aviv (either in memory or in fact) with a weight in my chest that is at once sharp, and dull.

Rather than celebrate Tel Aviv’s centenary from the heart of the city I love, I am here in exile, passing judgment on people who say stupid things like “I think people here would prefer to live in another country. And living in Tel Aviv is the closet thing to living abroad.”

Rather than consider this whimsical carpet of flowers, “inspired by the tiles and murals found in the homes of Tel Aviv’s founding families,” I must consider today’s inauspicious meetings between Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas — inspired (I fear) by a human inability to let go of lost causes.

I want, to borrow a phrase, my country back.

Or, at the very least, I want to be able to go home, in some real way.

I realize that the home I once had was predicated on a hope for the future that has since been torn to shreds, and thus, the home to which I want to return may have only ever really existed in my mind. I suppose that some of my rage about the conflict is really that of a thwarted child: “They said there would be cake!” They said I would be able to build a life that I loved in my home.

I further suppose — I know — that these are first world troubles of the highest order. I considered adding up all the Palestinians killed in the occupation and then calling this post “Reason # [whatever that total is + 1] that I hate the occupation” because its feels so insanely disrespectful to the victims of my country’s policies to be whining about crying over songs.

But there it is, and I can’t deny it. Part of my sorrow over the occupation is very personal, very small, and very inglorious.

I wish President Obama the very best of luck, and I will continue to do the various things I do to advocate for a just two-state solution to the conflict.

And until that is achieved, I will continue to long for a country that slips, every day, farther and farther from my grasp.



Sometimes it just hurts.

Israel/Palestine: the basics.

Israel/Palestine peace advocacy – places to start.

Israel/Palestine – a reading list.


  1. Is it possible, that Israel is not real, in the sense of a real place, but a dream, a dream of a people? The Children of Israel have spent a seeming eternity defending themselves from others, wandering the deserts, looking for their home, and I sense that perhaps while this place now known as the “state of Israel” is Judaism’s current resting place, perhaps it is not the place that matters as much as many would believe. In essence, the Jewish people have felt that somehow finding this place, this home, was the fulfillment of God’s will, that they possess this ground as was prophesied. And yet this land is not the land of peace and tranquility, a reward for the suffering and ignominy of slavery. Instead, it seems to be a nexus, a concentration of the forces that have hounded the Jewish people all these centuries.

    One suspects that Israel, the land, may lead to the destruction of Israel, the dream of God.

    Just one man’s opinion.

  2. I hope you had both a happy new year and a happy birthday.

    Regarding the two-state solution: why this solution? (If you’ve discussed elsewhere why you think the two-state solution is best, I’d gladly read it.) Presumably, you want to live in a just and peaceful state, alongside a similarly just and peaceful state, but what matters more: the justice & peace, or the ‘own state’? Or do they matter equally?

    Hm. I’m not being very clear. Let me state my own bias: I don’t like single-identity states. On one level, who cares? The Czechs, Slovaks, and Slovenes, the Croats and Bosnians and Kosovars (and, most reluctantly, the Serbs), the Eritreans, the Basque, the Scots, the Quebecois, the Aremenians, the Kurds, etc., could give a fig for my preferences. They want to be in charge of their own destinies, and they conceive of those destinies as strongly tied to a particularly identity. And especially in cases in which a people have been oppressed or hunted precisely because of their identity, I can understand the desire to break free of those who have or would oppress them.

    But to understand that desire, and to acquiesce to the fulfillment of said desire, is not necessarily to support it.

    In most cases, my lack of support matters not one whit. But in the case of Israel and Palestine, I in my role as an American citizen am asked to support the maintenance and creation of two single-identity states. I’m a both pluralist in my bones, and, despite my preference for the highly unlikely solution a federated state, quite practical.

    So, my question to you: Why should a pluralist support a two-state solution, particularly when that solution explicitly rejects pluralism?

    And, if the answer is about practicalities, then I also have to ask how practical is a two-state solution? (I’ll spare the elaboration on my skepticism about even these practicalities for now, a skepticism which remains even tho’ I do agree the Arc sounds like a fine development project: this comment is already too long!)

    Finally, sorrow is sorrow. It’s when we try to plug our sorrows into hierarchies of suffering that we run into trouble. You’re deeply sad. So let that be.

  3. Matt

     /  September 22, 2009

    When my grandmother was alive, she had an M&M dispenser that was located far too conveniently from the front door. When people would come over, they would instinctively reach for a handful of M&Ms upon walking through the door. Even her landlord’s children would eye it surreptitiously if they stopped in, and she would always notice offer them some.
    After she passed, that was one of the most prominent ways I felt her absence. Of course I missed her dry wit and the way she looked out for people, but it would be the times that my mind would alight on her candy dispenser that I felt that gaping, aching hole.

    Grieving is a mysterious and complicated process, but we all have to do it in our own way, and in our own time. Regardless if in the moment it seems trivial or insurmountable, it’s all legitimate, and we need to attend to all of it in its due time.

  4. Michael Levin

     /  September 22, 2009

    An interesting, insightful, fairly recent addition to the ongoing discussion of the one state/two state issue: Adam Horowitz [on Mondoweiss] — ‘Mr. Horowitz, tell us what you think of the two-state solution.’

    He offers a short answer and a longer answer. Here’s his short answer:

    [Adam Horowitz, the co-editor of this site, has done a lot of speaking on
    Israel/Palestine and is regularly asked, “But Mr. Horowitz, tell us what you
    think of the two-state solution!?” Recently, for instance, he was asked this
    question by a pro-Israel student at Temple University. What’s his answer?

    There is a short answer and a longer answer to this question. The short answer
    is that I don’t take a position on one state or two states. In the end I’m not
    invested in one end product, but in ending the conflict. For that to happen,
    there are several principles that any just solution will have to meet. Some of
    those principles are equality (in the personal and collective sense) and
    self-determination. These are principles that can be met in theory in any
    configuration of solutions, whether they be one state, two states, a
    confederation, etc. I have heard compelling arguments for the need for one
    democratic state in Israel/Palestine and for separate states called Israel and
    Palestine. In the end it is up to people living on the ground to find a solution
    that works for them.

    From our perspective in the US we just need to know that regardless of what the
    solution looks like, the conflict will not end until these principles are met.
    Also, it has to be said that the current “two state solution” that is being
    touted by the US, the Quartet, and some Israelis (ie Olmert and Livni) does not
    meet these conditions. Their two-state solution is being used to formalize the
    unequal relationship between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, not end it. It
    will only deepen the conflict.

    The longer answer gets to the real reason I think people tend to ask this
    question, especially if they’re confrontational: they are asking if I support a
    Jewish state.”

    For the rest of his longer answer:

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