The kid with the strong opinions

“So Yaffa, tell us, what are your views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

I look deep, I look wide. Anywhere for a way out. Then I respond with the only answer I can give.

“I just don’t know enough to have an opinion yet.”

Now let’s back up a bit. This article is not about ‘Peace in the Middle East’, there’s enough of those to go around…and around…and around. This is merely me trying to capture a kind-of-breakthrough I have just made. One that is as comforting as it is petrifying: I DO NOT KNOW ENOUGH TO HAVE AN OPINION ON EVERYTHING.

This may sound simple,

‘Obviously I’m not going to state where I stand on the rights of workers within the production of blue cheese, I know nothing about it,” you can argue.

But that’s not what I am addressing.

I am talking about the topics you think you have the right to have opinions on.

The ones you are used to stating without thinking twice, the ones that come out of your mouth as naturally as air comes into your lungs.

I used to be that kid in class. The one with the strong opinions.

‘Obama is shitty’
‘Reincarnation is false’
‘Israel is perfect’

I don’t know the first thing about American politics, I have never delved into the depths of afterlife studies, and aside from the fact that no country is perfect, I had never even been to Israel for more than three weeks.

So you see, while endearingly passionate, these statements were all fueled by two potentially poisonous substances: emotions and single narratives.

Then came a twist. Off I went, a mere 10 months ago, moving to live in the land of milk and honey, three suitcases packed to the brim with clothes, toiletries and strong opinions.

Little did I know that in this crazy, chaotic sliver of the Middle East, my fancy Johannesburg clothes would lose their relevance, while my strongly formed opinions would start to decay.

I sit at my desk conversing with classmates from Germany to Ramallah. I hear the taxi driver cursing the government and then swearing that he loves his country more every day. I witness teenagers arguing over the West Bank at a beach bar in Tel Aviv. I listen to lecturers address God, life, death and equality.

I witness, I listen, I hear, and I stop speaking.

I stop shouting out my emotional first thoughts on every topic, I stop oversimplifying.

Because when you oversimplify, you devalue. And who the hell am I to devalue those thought-out standpoints that one can spend a lifetime dissecting and still not fully understand?

Don’t get me wrong — there is definitely a place for opinions. There may even be a place for emotional pulls and value to passionate first perspective. But for now, I choose to be silent.

It is a secure, warm and self-assured feeling when you can fall back snugly into the knitted quilt of opinions and beliefs that you have grown up with. But it is only by breaking the barriers, stretching your mind till it hurts, opening your ears to more than familiar tunes, that we learn to say —

“I just don’t know enough to have an opinion yet.”

About the Author
Twenty-two years old, Yaffa made Aliyah just over three years ago. After taking part in the Mechina program at Hebrew U she is now in her final year of a B.A. in Philosophy and Literature in Bar Ilan, working part-time as a content writer and is still going through the long process of integrating into Israeli society. (And loving most of the journey)
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