Sunday, January 11, 2009

Racist

So, I am sure that all of you have been waiting with bated breath for updates on my newborn diet. Has she survived? Does she have a name?

Oh, who am I kidding? The only thing anyone around here has been waiting for is war updates or passionate articles defending Israel. And I WOULD write about that, I would, if it were not for the fact that…well…must I? With a sincere apology (and some profound embarrassment) to those in Southern Israel and Gaza who have actual cause to be traumatized right now, I am a bit traumatized. Every day there is some new screaming headline about an Arab Israeli going postal: rioting, attacking people with an axe, attacking people with a knife or (and this one scores top points for creativity and drama) lighting oneself on fire and trying to use oneself to blow up a gas station.

I live in Jerusalem. I work in Lod. Two cities with mixed Jewish-Arab populations. This should be inspiring. Thanks to the headlines, it is a sort of nightmare.

Thanks to the headlines, I have become a bit more paranoid, a bit more nervous. Last Thursday, the same day of Operation Human Torch, I realized I was out of gas. I did not have enough gas to get home. I actually hesitated before going to the gas station. Most of the employees were Arab; what if one decided to embark on his own personal Jihad while I was there? But then, the alternative was to drive home without gas, get stuck and end up being kidnapped and murdered by Arabs. And even if I got home, eventually I would have to go to a gas station. Which would, no doubt, have a high percentage of Arab employees who would all want to kill me. Well, in that case—what the hell—may as well get the gas now. Carpe Diem! At least the gas station in Lod has good coffee; I could have a nice café au lait before I died.

That same night, I commented to a friend how I hated the feeling of having to be afraid of 20% of the population of my country. Her response: okay, but you wouldn't go walking around Harlem either. She is right, but that does not make me feel better. Should we not be aiming for something better?

To complicate matters even further, I am aware that my fears are way overblown, are really disgustingly racist and basically consist of my tarring every last Arab Israeli with the same violent, vengeful brush. Even if one assumes that the average Arab Israeli hates Jews (an opinion given some support by Sayed Kashua's column this week in Haaretz), it does not necessarily follow that the average Arab Israeli is going to do anything more unpleasant to me than smiling pleasantly at while cursing me out in Arabic. So now I have guilt on top of the paranoia. Both in order to counter the guilt AND to counter any potential subliminal animosity I might be communicating due to my fear, I now find myself going out of my way to be excruciatingly polite and respectful to the Arabs I meet (for the most part at the gas station)—so much so that I am sure that they can sense how false it is…and hate me even more.

As you can see, good times all around here.

It could be worse. I could be an Arab Israeli trying to navigate this war.

So yes, I would like to ignore the war for a few seconds, if I may. My diet is not dead. She is now a full eleven days old. Her name is Roxie. With the minor exception of my going through sugar withdrawal—making me cranky, jumpy and ready to gnaw on my computer screen if I thought there were any sugar in it, it is going well. And to cheer us all on---I leave you with a performance by Roxie's namesake.

15 comments:

ee said...

Simple solution to the gas problem - fill up yourself. You can get gas all hours of the day and night, fill up yourself with no help, plus it's cheaper.

TalTalK said...

I can't play the video at work, but I'm assuming it's Roxie Hart? (If so, it's spelled with an ie and not y but it's your diet, so hey, who am I to talk?)

LOVED Operation Human Torch. LOL

Gila said...

ee-First-in Israel it does not appear to make a difference in price. Second, even if I do pump my own gas (and I normally do), how does that help me if one of the workers chooses that time to launch his own personal intifada? What put me on edge was being there at all.

TalTalk--thanks--will correct.

Asher said...

a few points
1 if I'm not mistaken the guy at the gas station was a Palestinian (the said gas station is "over" the green line)
2 the recent axe-attack in Rehovot was also a palestinian (what was he doing in Rehovot and how did he get rhere?)
3 just how mixed are the mixed populations? not a lot
4 should we add another million or more Arabs to the population by annexing the territories? Not likely
5 where do you expect the lower socio-economic levels to work apart from gas stations? Suggest to an unemployed Jewish Israeli that he should do it, he'll say that's Arab work
6 mazal tov to Roxie, tomorrow will be bat-Mitzvah for her (in days)

Gila said...

Asher--regarding your point number five (where lower socio-economic classes should work)--you have missed my point. As I see it, the problem is MINE, not theirs. The solution, as I see it, is for me to remind myself that my fear, while being justified to some extent (there is a risk here-attacks do happen and I have no reason to assume they cannot happen to me), is seriously exagerated. In other words--I have to get a grip. The solution is not to just start firing Arab Israelis because, hey, I will feel safer if I do not actually have to see them.

Beyond the fact that this would be wrong on so many levels, it is also stupid and likely to make the situation even worse.

ee said...

Gila -
The gas price is not the difference, when pumping yourself you don't pay the added service fee (I live in Israel too).
And if you fill your car at crazy hours like me, the station is often abandoned, even fanatic terrorists sleep...

Gila said...

ee--oh-got it.

Your logic about the times is funny. It reminds me of how I settled on my favorite coffee shop on Emek Refaim...no security guard, but so small that no self-respecting terrorist would waste a bomb on it.

Maus said...

The thought of being killed by an Israeli Israeli is impossible?

Women and cars is a bad combination.

If I ever might make a trip into the real world I would not dare to show people my rural way of consumenting.
To me café au lait is coffee with milk or do I miss something.
Excrusiatingly is a word I would never imagine to exist, is it seen to the latest news in a relation to crushing?

Asher I have sinned, instead of English a Yamaha RX 797.

shavuatov said...

Thank you for this really honest post.

Rachel

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Hi Gila - long time no comment (meaning me). Congrats on your diet. Hang in there.

Bassam, Ezra (not kidding) and Marwan are the arab guys at our local makolet. I'm not going to say we party together, but we are friendly and ask about each others families and so on. I feel a little weird with them right now,but probably not as weird as THEY feel with US. Individuals can bridge the gaps, most of the time. Nations don't seem to be able to...

kinzi said...

Hi Gila, I've been thinking about you lately. Praying. Thanks for sharing your heart, it is certainly a nasty time for ALL.

TeacherLady said...

Hey Gila, you're entitled to your feelings. They're based on experience, after all, and human nature is very much influenced by what we actually see and feel far more than on careful consideration and evaluation. Stereotyping may not be politically correct, but we do it for good reasons. Does it make sense to double check the little old lady with the cross around her neck or the big Arab dude with the huge beard and a Quran under his arm when it comes to airport security?

Okay, so I may not fit the profile wearing my skanky outfits and rocking The Beatles on my MP3 player, but being an Arab I understand why I get "randomly selected" for extra scrutiny and I really don't mind as long as I don't miss my flight. It may not be justified for all cases, but it's really hard to discriminate accurately, so I understand why they do it.

I'm so sorry for anyone who lives in fear. That's no way to live.

Anonymous said...

It is only racist if it wasn't true that Arabs attacks Jews. It is only racist if there was no such things as suicide bombers.

Of course you know that there are suicide bombers. And you also know that it doesn't always happen to the other person.

After all you have been the other person.

So stop calling it racist when it is really just good sense. Good sense gained at a terrible cost.

Anonymous said...

"I commented to a friend how I hated the feeling of having to be afraid of 20% of the population of my country."

But you weren't born in Israel. You had a choice.

You knew (or at least should have known) what the situation was like in Israel before moving there.

This is just part of living in Israel. Just like if you were a pioneer moving out west in 19th Century America one of the things you would have to deal with was Indian attacks.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks to the headlines, I have become a bit more paranoid."

You mean like someone moving to Israel worrying that she might become a victim of a suicide bomber.

We all know that would be an unfounded fear don't we.

What's that saying, even the paranoid have enemies.

It's not paranoia. It's not racism. It's good ole common sense.