Dan thinks his two young girls are happier here than in London. He only worries about their military service.
The peacemaker in the lion’s den, Dan has always been a pacifist. When he was younger, he read Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and he used to stand on the street soliciting charity donations.
Now, he’s a pacifist more for the sake of his children. When his girls reach 18, he hopes that there won’t be a need for conscription.
Dream on, say the locals.
But Dan doesn’t waver. Eventually Israelis will see that they cannot ignore 4.5 million Palestinians at their door step. That is not a dream.
When he moved to Israel in 2008, Dan met a lot of English-speaking immigrants. Most of them, he says, believed that they were returning to their homeland. They kissed the ground when they arrived. Usually though, after a year or two, they left. Dan met one Australian who made aliyah so that he could open his windows and smell the air here. Six months later he went back to Melbourne.
Dan’s anecdote reminds me of an interview with Amos Oz in which he lists all the different dreams that Israel promised: the return of the Biblical period and the resurrection of the shtetls in Galicia, the spread of Viennese coffee houses and the establishment of a Marxist community that was also Tolstoy’s utopia. ‘After sixty years, Israel has a sense of disappointment precisely because it was born out of a dream. But it isn’t disappointment about the nature of Israel as much as the nature of dreams.’
Dan didn’t know what to expect when he first visited Israel in 2004 with his Israeli girlfriend, now his wife. He liked Tel Aviv. Despite the decrepit buildings, the city seemed more vibrant than London. The people he met drank less, they spoke their minds and they were genuinely interested in what others had to say. He saw a future for himself here.
Yet Dan has learned not discuss politics with Israelis. We just don’t speak the same language, he says. And anyways you can’t convince someone to change their mind.
Ironically, he first learned that lesson when he tried to reason with a zealous anti-Israeli protester in Brighton. He was still in his Gandhi phase back then.
But I’m not Gandhi, he says. I can only affect my life.
Dan Savery Raz is a journalist and writer, who co-authored the Lonely Planet Israel & the Palestinian Territories guide book, and has since published two books: The Last Stanza, an anthology of Israeli poetry and Dada is Zed, a collection of short surrealist stories. All his work can be found at http://danscribe.com/