Friday, September 16, 2005

Circling Ben Gurion, so to speak—trying to avoid the obvious (part 2)

Friday, August 19, 2005

My brother picked us up at 7:45 AM for a walking tour of which he’s an organizer. We walked through a nice section of Yaar Yerushalayim/the Jerusalem Forest, with my poor bro busting his chops as interpreter. Down the mountainside we walked, then up another into Ein Kerem. There, we saw a couple of churches and an outdoor agricultural museum. It was hot as bleep, and the hills were a bit steep, but we drank water like fish and had a wonderful time.

Time to catch some shut-eye: We’re spending Shabbat with my brother. I’m really looking forward to this. He made aliyah 28 years ago, literally weeks about the Punster and I got married—we moved our wedding date from November to June so he wouldn’t miss it. So this will be the longest time I’ve spent with him in 28 years, and the longest time my son has ever spent with him. Okay, nap time.

Shabbat with my brother

There were so many of us there at one time that my brother and his girlfriend had to move some furniture out of the kitchen to accommodate all of us for Shabbat dinner. What a mob scene! There were my mother and father, the Punster, the Young Scientist, me, my brother S., my older niece, my nephew, my younger niece, my brother’s girlfriend R., her two elementary-school-aged daughters, and her mother. Aside from the language barrier—I don’t think R.’s mother said a word all evening (which, according to my mother, is what she does whenever they’re there for dinner), and her daughters know almost no English, either—we got along famously. There was joking and singing around the table in both languages, with occasional translations.

My nieces and nephew have grown so much that I scarcely recognize them. But we do get an opportunity to speak to the older two after we repair to the living room. A.R.., 25, is entering her second year at Ben Gurion University, having done her tour of active duty in Tzahal, spend some time in South Asia and some in the US. She’s decided to major in Political Sociology, a combination that I didn’t even know existed. A.Y., 19, is entering his second year of pre-Tzahal, working as a volunteer with at-risk youth, the disabled, and/or seniors and, this coming year, doing a lot of heavy-duty studying. This year, he’s entering a program in which he’ll be learning all manner of Jewish traditional texts in chevruta with other men and women from across the religious spectrum, from chiloni to kippah s’rugah. He’s turning into quite the family scholar. We didn’t get much of a chance to speak with L., who, being 16, apparently felt more comfortable hanging out with her two younger “sisters.” My brother’s kids and R.’s act like one big family, which was a pleasure to see.

We talked about the hitnatkut. I commented that everyone, including taxi drivers and bus drivers, seemed to have had their ears glued to the news since we arrived, which I could certainly understand. My brother told me that he usually drives in silence, but that, this week, he kept turning the news on, then off—he could only listen for about 15 minutes at a time before getting upset.

My brother tried to correct what he thought were misunderstandings on my part. He said that most of the settlers in Gush Katif, unlike many of the settlers in the West Bank, were there less because the government had told them that it was okay or a good thing—or cheaper—to live there, and more for reasons of religious ideology. He said that, odd as it might seem, the settlements established for practical reasons by the Labor party were more likely to prove non-negotiable, being considerably larger and more contiguous with the areas within the Green Line, than the more scattered, more ideology-based settlements established by Likud, which he thinks will all be given back over time. It’s a lot easier to give back Gush Katif, Gannim, and a few other settlements in Shomron than to uproot places like Efrat. He also said that we shouldn’t worry about the expansion of established cities that are beyond the Green Line. When the time comes, he said, Israel would just exchange some other territory, probably in the Negev, for that land.

My brother and I agreed that Sharon was giving up Gush Katif and those cities in the Shomron to make Israel more easily defensible. He added, though, that Sharon has basically given up on peace in the short run and is settling in for a long struggle. He also expressed concern that the so-called security fence, which is, in many places, an actual wall, may bring some quiet in the short run, but that locking a large group of unemployed men behind a wall was likely to fan the flames of anger in the long run.

Our discussion even result in A. Y. pulling out a dictionary to do a little research on dikduk—they were debating whether the word hitnatkut or hinatkut would be a better description. From what I could gather, hitnatkut means the self-withdrawal, whereas hinatkut means, simply, withdrawal. He prefers the term hinatkut.

We spent all of Shabbat with my brother and R., and had a grand time.


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