Ben Waxman

Walking Away

Admission: I try to avoid discussing the Middle East, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian dispute with Americans/non-Israelis.  On occasion I break down and do it, in particular if someone writes something that is simply factually wrong.  However, for the most part though, I find these discussions to be useless. Why? Something that happened in the last 24 hours will illustrate the reason.

Short recap: An Israeli news program revealed (recording in Hebrew) that many Israeli hospitals make an effort to separate Jewish and Arab mothers in maternity wards.  A very outspoken and right wing politician, Member of Knesset Bezalel Smotrich, added fuel to the fire when he (and his wife) used pseudo-security, pseudo-religious language to justify the practice.  Personally I found Smotrich’s words to be abhorrent.

The story immediately became the topic of an endless number of Facebook discussions.  Two in particular stood out for me because both discussions took place in the framework of the same Facebook Group, Orthodox Jews Against Discrimination and Racism.  One discussion was held mainly between Israeli (English speaking) members of the group, the other between non-Israelis (Americans mainly).

In the first (Israeli-based) discussion, the posts focused on what Smotrich said and the experiences various women had when giving birth.  Participants stayed on topic, showing how real people feel about issues that affect them personally. You read about women and what they went through in maternity wards. Any theoretical idea had to take into consideration that there are actual people involved. Real people that I actually know, see in the street, whose kids go to school with my kids.

However In the second discussion, the posts were all over the map. Gay rights, Ethiopian Jews, slavery, American aid to Israel, Brown v BOE, even the Zionist entity itself. You name it, it was there.  The only thing that wasn’t discussed was what the MK said and what women actually experience.

The above is a typical example of what goes on with many of these discussions: people who know next to nothing about a subject, endlessly pontificating while never actually talking about the reality on the ground. They don’t talk about the reality because they don’t know what it is.  Stating that (most) Americans (including American Jews) don’t know the reality in Israel is in no way insulting; it is a simple statement of fact. Anyone who hasn’t been here (actually, who didn’t live here for an extended period), whose Hebrew (not to mention Arabic) is poor or non-existent, is simply incapable of understanding the day-to-day realities.

I don’t know if it is normal for people to endlessly discuss subjects about which they know little or nothing. I do know that I don’t want to take a part in those discussions and prefer to walk away from them.

About the Author
Ben Waxman was born in the US and served as a Peace Corps volunteer. He lived in the Jerusalem area for decades and now resides in the Shomron.
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