Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Summer You Don't See

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 23 August 2005.

At times this summer it seemed that only one thing was happening here. The fact that the one thing was hotly-debated, much-protested, potentially violent and generally unpleasant guaranteed plenty of international news coverage. But what about the Israeli summer you don't see on television? Because for most Israelis, many of whom are not personally involved in the withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, life goes on.

That's not to say people aren't paying attention. With live coverage of the actual evacuations, plus nightly in-depth analyses of the situation and its potential impact on Israeli society and security, it's awfully hard to be unaware of the disengagement, even if you're a teenager. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with several teenagers I know, to get their impressions, and to find out what was really on their minds.

The thing that strikes me again and again when talking about political matters with Israelis of all ages is that, unless the person is, for whatever reason, 100 percent committed to believing his is the only valid opinion, people have remarkably open and flexible minds. They are able to see the pros and cons of most situations, and not just all one or the other. Given the driven, impatient nature of so many Israelis, I am always surprised by this ability to remain open to the possibility of looking at something from a different perspective.

For example, Ran, age 13, told me yesterday that at the beginning of the summer, his sympathies lay almost completely with the settler families, who were going to be forced to leave their homes. After watching events unfold in recent days, he has come to appreciate the difficulty of the task facing the army and police forces carrying out the evacuations. Ran told me he has alot of respect for the soldiers, and the way in which they have carried out their onerous duty. He feels that the settlers and their supporters who have used verbal abuse and physical violence against the soldiers and police officers have gone too far, and to no purpose. Ran and I discussed several aspects of the disengagement, and I was impressed by how much thought he has given to each of them.

Still, Ran and the other teens at our house yesterday are, quite naturally, also concerned with issues that will affect their own lives directly. We were joined by several more people, and the conversation turned to such vital matters as who will be the math teacher next year, and how the students think they will do on the standardized tests that are a part of every eighth grader's academic experience. The start of the school year in a matter of days was bemoaned. A late arrival to the party was greeted with shouts and hugs, and asked about her trip to France. Plans were made for a bowling get-together later in the week. Pizza and ice tea were consumed with great enthusiasm, and the in-pool volleyball game was resumed with renewed energy.

Such is the stuff that summers, even Israeli ones, are made of.

(c)Amy Samin

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