Re-post: Reason #12,087 that I hate the occupation.

I first ran the following on Sept 22, 2009. I don’t know that there was any extenuating circumstance — just another crappy day of loving Israel and being enraged by it at the same time. Since it’s old, I’ll put most of it after a jump, but it’s still very much the truth, and I want to say it all again.

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. Sigh. I live in Tel Aviv currently but I know exactly what you mean. I feel like the country is slipping away, and I’m just living here for a few years before it all goes to shit even more than it already has. What will happen to us? I feel like our culture and our country are being thrown away for nothing.

    I live in Israel right now and I feel like it’s already lost!

  2. I’m so glad you reposted this, if only for the benefit of new readers like me. This post makes my heart hurt in such a familiar way. And I’ve only lived in Israel for a matter of months — I never intended for it to be home the way that it was for you…

    The other reason I’m glad you posted this is that I get so frustrated with the discourse, both online and offline, which suggests that if one opposes the Occupation one must therefore secretly hate Israel. I’m always grateful when someone else stands up and says no, I love Israel, and that is precisely why the Occupation breaks my heart.

  3. thekahn

     /  October 15, 2010

    Damn. I understand, even though I have no comparable experience (although I guess we can all appreciate the thought of what we once loved about our country or a place slipping away, only to be replaced by something dark).
    I’m one of those Jews brought up in not-Israel, and educated at a Jewish school about all the awesomeness of Israel, its glory (they dressed us up as Israeli settlers from the ’50’s when i was in a very young grade if i remember correctly). But I had that balanced out at home by a healthy, healthy dose of scepticism towards Israel’s ever more un-cool policies. It was odd to watch every single one of my friends and sometimes their parents (if they hadn’t already been gung-ho pro-Israel before) falling ever more deeply into that falsely perpetuated myth, and feel as though I was the only one who saw what was really taking place.

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