Monday, August 16, 2010

Sakhim, They Don't Mind When Other People Suffer

A few months ago, a Hebrew blog emerged entitled: "Sakhim, they are everywhere". the term "sakhi" is Hebrew slang derived from Arabic. It was originally used among consumers of canabbis to imply "sober": either someone who doesn't smoke or one who does, but isn't effected. "Sakhim" is its plural form.

In recent months the term came to be used otherwise. It now represents the mainsteam, bourgeois Israeli, as compared to the offbeat urbanite. On the "sakhim" blog, the sakhi is described as "the typical, politically correct Israeli, bereft of self awareness."

The anonnymous authors add that: "Sakhism can be percieved by the sakhi as something cool or just. The sakhi is mistaken. while innovative forces always seek to advance and broaden the barriers of the possible, sakhism will forever draw backwards and inwards, to the mainstream, to the common, to the avarage. Sakhism is not dependant on social status or ethnic origin and it appears in the 2010 Israeli sphere in various forms."

The sakhim blog, mainly showing Israelis making fools of themselves in weddings and other social gatherings, gathered some interest, especially from Tel-Aviv newspaper "Ha'ir" which dedicated two front page stories to what it perceived as a new social divide in the city, that between sakhim and "hipsterim", who seek more experimental lifestyles.

The attempt to paint sakhim as the ultimate conformists and the hipsters as their opposites failed, mainly because hipsters tend to be equally conformist, albeit within their narrower communities, as well as miserable fashion victims.

"Ha'ir" hoped to depict a contemporary version of the split which existed in 1960's Israeli society among the "salonim" and the "tnua". At the time, the salonim, who took on a rockn'roll lifestlye represented western influence on Israeli society, while the tnua kids stuck to the values and dress codes of the Zionist youth movements. Today, foreign influences are everywhere. Both sakhim and hipsterim are westernized, not to say Americanized. They're really not all that different.

Having realized this, I stopped reading the Sakhim blog and went back to concentrate on other things, until today this blog carried the following photo gallery, taken from the Facebook page of a young soldier girl, which was and still is open to the public. The caption on top runs: "Sakhim, the army service is the happiest time of their lives."

This is indeed the girl's heading for her photos: "My military service: The happiest time of my life :)". in two of the photos she is seen mocking blindfolded Palestinians. Such photos are nothing new, we've seen blindfolded Palestinians fed Matzas before and made to play other games. It's that innocence, that Sakhi spirit in which the photos are presented, that draws my attention.

Are hipsterim less prone to be cruel towards helpless individuals when given the chance? Are they more prone to make a big deal out of someone doing so? I wouldn't bet on it.

There are rare people, like the ones who author the sakhim blog, who are appaled by the state of our society and put the time into crying rage, and even they do so in a sardonic manner that signals an acceptance of the dark reality rather than a desire to change it. In action, we're all sakhim in one way or another. We are all of us children of the occupation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The City with no Mongolian Waitresses

Last week the government of my country decided to deport 400 children of work immigrants. These children were born here, speak Hebrew and know no other surroundings, but they belong to the wrong ethnicity. Minister of the interior Eli Yishai cited fears for the "Jewish character" of the nation if these 400 kids remained in the country. "It's time to let these families know that the field trip is over," said Yishai.

Today Yishai proposed paying 1000$ US to any family of work immigrants who would just pack up and leave the Jewish homeland (to which his parents arrived as North African Jewish immigrants in the 50s). 1000$ arent enough to buy a decent sofa these days. Yishai's attempt to buy people's lives at such a sum shows what he thinks these lives are worth. Foreskin-crowned Goyim are to him no more than filth that can be bought out.

Funny thing is, Yishai has a point. If we are to follow Zionist logic, then slanted-eyed and black-skinned children really should be deported and the rest of the lot encouraged to leave. Zionism states that this land belongs to the Jews, not to the Chinks. Niggers - out! there is no black in our blue and white flag (except insofar as Ethiopian Jews are concerned, and we treat them with appropriate prejudice). This is the land of the Jews and we deserve it because of the great racism to which we were subjected.

It baffles me how short-sighted Zionism is. It really did start off as a way to escape the pogroms, to dodge violent and dark racism. The early Zionists saw only the murderous Russians and themselves, it didn't occur to them that Filipinos existed in this world and that one day they'll figure into the equation. Hell, they didn't even notice the Arabs. Theirs was "a people without a land going to a land without a people".

Today it's concept of a Jewish state ends up making Tel-Aviv the only modern, westernized city in the world where foreigners are unwanted by law by virtue of their ethnicity rather than citizenship status. A friend of mine sojourning in Berlin writes about the beauty of a Mongolian waitress who served him at a restaurant. This land will be thankfully clean of Mongolian waitresses as soon as they bite the 1000$ bait.

It's time to admit it. Our short-sighted forefathers have created a monster, and we've nourished it and helped it grow. Ours is a country where police will be soon searching for children in attics due to their ethnicity. Today a public debate over the fate of these children is raging, tomorrow the public may internalize the full meaning of the "Jewish state".

Our only hope is to ditch the whole Jewish state concept and replace it with something else, perhaps an "Israeli State", where little Yuval, whose parents speak Tagalog can feel at home. We could also search for some other term, one that would even allow Little Ramzi from Jaffa to feel that his native land embraces him lovingly.

(Artwork: "Roots", an iron sculpture by my mother, Orna Ben-Ami. Photo: A. Hay)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

If You're Going to Jerusalem on Foot, Be Sure to Take a Tel-Avivian Duck With You

The Preparation.

The drying up.

The 5:00 AM streetcorner.

The morning traffic.

The passing under a bridge the most difficult way conceivable because it was Anna's bright idea.

The Anna.

The roadside.

The raspberry juice served by complete strangers.

The right direction.

The snack.

The shofar.

The field where they grow milk containers.

The marshes of despair.

The legs that have just traversed the marshes of despair.

The evening walk.

The haystacks of a new day.

The flower I picked and brought home to Itka.

The laughing Catholic volunteer from Hong Kong named Ting Ting.

The mysterious home by the roadside.

The highway at Bab Al-Wad seen from above.

The yummy grapes.

The Elvis

The ditch I had to walk in.

The cupious amount of trash.

The twighlight in which I found myself again in the ditch.

The only road going into the city that didn't involve walking in a ditch.

The real gate of Jerusalem.

The first image of me in Jerusalem, taken by a little girl named Shoshana.

The arrival of the pilgrim at the temple (the Uganda bar and bookstore) and handing of the offering (Dakka 6 poetry journal).

The end.

BTW, while the title advice stands true. It's also advisable to bring a good friend along. I'm deeply indebted to Anna Wexler who sacrificed the wellbeing of her legs for this.

The story of the pilgrimage will appear in full in the Succot holiday edition of Israel Hayom. For more about the duck and its legendary creator Dudu Geva, read here.