HER STORY #60 - avigail
I'm 36 years old.
I'm a mother to two children; one is two, and the other is five.
I’m a graphic designer. I received a bachelor’s degree from Bezalel [Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem] in Visual Communications and a master’s degree in Culture Research at Tel Aviv University.
I have an independent design studio (www.the-studio.co.il). My work’s focus is mostly on art and culture, and I design books and exhibitions for museums, artists, and galleries.
I work with my partner who also studied at Bezalel, and who also is a graphic designer. He focuses on something slightly different, but we work together.
Besides this I teach graphic design, specifically the design of books and typography at Shenkar [Shenkar College of Engineering and Design].
I was born in Jerusalem, in the Old City.
It was a very different time in comparison to today. My mother told me that everyone would ride on the same buses, and she shopped everywhere. There wasn’t this sort of division, and she would even speak Arabic.
The people who lived in the Old City were young, like those living in Florentin [neighborhood in Tel Aviv], and included many students. The houses there weren’t maintained very well, which is why there were so many young people. It wasn’t a political decision for my parents.
I was born there, and I was there until the age of three. I was born in 1981, so that is actually when the Lebanon War started, the first one, in 1982. Things began getting more tense in the Old City, and when this happened, people would tell my mother, “Don’t go to this street. Don’t buy things in this booth,” and then they decided that it was beginning to be problematic [to live in the Old City], and to continue living there would be viewed as a political statement.
But when they lived there, it wasn’t a political statement. For them it was just cool, but the moment a sense of tension came and things began to get heated, people who continued living there would do it to take a political stand.
My parents then moved to the German Colony [in Jerusalem], where we lived for three years, and then we moved to a bigger house in the western part of Talpiot [in Jerusalem]. Also during my childhood we lived abroad twice.
My father is a professor, so we traveled abroad during his sabbatical. Once we moved to the U.K. for a year and another year to the U.S. It was an educational experience, because I experienced what it felt like being a foreigner and feeling uncomfortable, and the hardship of being with people who aren’t familiar. It built me a lot.
I received a religious education, in Jerusalem, which in itself is very interesting, because even though Jerusalem is considered religious in comparison to other cities [in Israel], it has a very important religious pluralism. That’s how I experienced it at least.
Although there is a big Haredi [broad spectrum of groups within Orthodox Judaism] population and although religion plays a big role in the city, there are many layers, and there is a lot of grey in the middle. There are many pluralistic and progressive communities where they also don’t necessarily combine politics and religion, and my family belongs to a very pluralistic and a very left-wing community.
I was educated within this kind of religious framework, where the woman was placed in in the forefront, for example in prayers. For my bat mitzvah, I went up and read from the Torah, and led the prayers, and I learned that there would always be questions. There was never this firm understanding of how: This is this and that is that. There would always be doubts, even about the religiousness, and about human rights and the “other,” which were a natural part of Judaism. We weren’t taught that we had to view ourselves as better. Those were basic things that I grew up on.
My grandfather, for example, was Haredi and voted for anti-Zionist political parties, but my father somehow rebelled against his Haredi education and became different – very pluralistic.
After my army service I traveled to South America and a little bit to the U.S., like many Israelis do [after their army service], and after studying at Bezalel and being exposed to people from Tel Aviv during my studies, I began realizing that it would be difficult to develop myself in Jerusalem within the world of design. I also wanted to experience something different, so I moved to Tel Aviv and I began working with one of my teachers. She exposed me to the world of art and culture, and from there it just began rolling. I worked with her for three years, and then I opened my own studio.
I actually studied art in high school. My major there was literature and art, and I remember that I wasn’t sure about choosing art. I’m not someone who knows how to draw, but the teacher told me that you don’t need to know how to draw. You just need the will to learn it, and that’s something that resonated with me – the will to express myself but not necessarily knowing how.
My final project in 12th grade consisted of political paintings that were very provocative. I used Gideon Levy’s “Twilight Zone” column [at Haaretz, Israeli newspaper] as a framework. It is a column based on Gideon Levy’s interviews with Palestinian families who had had traumatic experiences, and he travels with Miki Kratsman, who takes pictures of the families.
It is a column that has existed for many years, and they were very powerful to me. They are like testimonials, shocking stories accompanied by very strong photos, so I just took the photos from the newspaper and I translated them into my art work. It was one of the first political works of art introduced to the school.
I met my partner, Shlomi, in the army. We were both in the armored corps, and then after that he began to study at Bezalel. He had always known that he wanted to study there, and I had wanted to study art history. I come from an academic family where everyone has studied at university—to study and conduct research is the main thing, and painting and art is not.
When he [Shlomi] began studying, it interested me a lot, so I told myself, Okay, I will apply [to Bezalel]. Worst case, I won’t be accepted. I brought my political [art] work to the interview, and one of the questions posed to me by the interviewer, who now is one of my colleagues, was, “If you were asked by a political entity that you don’t agree with, to publish or to design a campaign for them, would you agree or not?” To which I answered, “I hope I wouldn’t agree, but I understand that my role as a graphic designer is to work with a client and whatever the client wants.” And I think that this is something that follows me today – knowing that I need to do something that I want to do, while at the same time taking what the client wants and asks from me into consideration.
I don’t work with politics at all, but I do work with artists, and artists have their own agendas, in terms of how they want to express themselves. The purpose of an artist book or an exhibition is to project what they did with the use of a filter, to the broad audience, not via a canvas or video art. It’s not internal communication, but how I can broadcast it to a wider audience. I am the tool of bringing it there, so many times I need to filter, or convince them, that what I am doing is the right thing for them.
For example, a painter who paints on huge canvases might automatically think that his artist book needs to be big. That’s not necessarily the right thing to do. I am basically the mediator, and my role here is to think about the viewer, the reader, who doesn’t look at the canvases, but who has the experience of another media. So it’s basically about mediating this huge thing to another kind of audience.
The artist always thinks about himself. So many times I need to go on tip-toe and be a psychologist, and there will be a lot of tension, but I gave this example in order to also say that it’s something that has accompanied me from high school – in terms of being accepted to this place and understanding what my role in life is.
After having studied for a while [at Bezalel] I was shocked, because the teachers always spoke about the client, and I thought to myself, Who is this person [the client], that I always need to think about? And it was very difficult for me to hear about it, because I just wanted to express myself. I had to understand that I wasn’t in the art department but in the department for visual communication, which is about how I communicate to the broad audience in a visual way.
I think that many times I forget myself. Many times it gets to a place where you need to please someone. If I have a client, I need to please him, so I need to listen. I’m not the kind of designer that will say, “This is what needs to be done and this is it, and if you don’t do it, then leave, bye.” I still think that my role is to listen to the wishes of a person who has come to me.
But the place where I do my own art, where I create projects like during my master’s degree, where I am doing research for me – that’s missing. I try to present personal projects, by participating in exhibitions, but when I am in front of a client I have to be the listener.
I don’t want to be an artist. I only want to do my things, because they are comfortable for me in some ways, or to say what I want through someone else. One of the best things that can happen or the biggest compliment I can be given is when people say, “You’ve really managed to bring me out in this thing. I didn’t think that I could be projected in this way, through someone else.” That’s interesting, because it’s like a form of synchronization in terms of how I am visible through the work of someone else. Through this transparency, I am present.
I work on artists’ books. It’s not a portfolio, it’s more like the artists’ statements through a book. It’s a genre in itself that can be found in libraries. It’s a very big genre within art, and artists also really like to publish books. Everyone would like to have a book, because it’s something that’s for life. It will never die.
Many times artists come and say, “I feel like I need to summarize or conclude a specific period, and I need to have closure.” For example, someone I worked with is a photographer, and she did a book called Mul HaShemesh [“In front of the Sun” in Hebrew]. It’s a form of retrospective for her. This summarizes her within the last 15 years of her work. So she came and said that she wanted a form of closure for a specific period of time, and she can then send this to any designers, museums, etc.
Jerusalem / Tel Aviv
For me, Jerusalem is very difficult, and it’s very difficult for me to return. I go back because my parents and my in-laws observe Shabbat, and we go with the children. We stay there for all of Shabbat, from the afternoon on Friday until the end of Shabbat [on Saturday].
When I leave Jerusalem, and when I go down the hill, it feels like a burden is taken off of me from the sky. It’s heavy.
I remember when we didn’t have kids and we would go there on the bus. When we went down from Jerusalem and came back to Tel Aviv, and drove along the coast, everything was light and happy and young, and when you went up to Jerusalem, everything became heavy. It begins with seeing Har HaMenuchot [also known as Givat Shaul Cemetery], the big cemetery at the entrance of Jerusalem, where my grandmother and grandfather are buried. I always know where to look, where their gravestones are. It’s like you go up and all the dead people look at you, and then the entrance to the city is so ugly in a way you can’t imagine, and many, many people there [at the entrance] are from the Haredi neighborhoods, so everyone is dressed in black clothes, and instead of feeling like I belong to the city, I feel a sense of foreignness to the city.
Inside the city, when I get to our parents, when I go around the streets of Katamon [neighborhood in Jerusalem] it’s nice, and I feel comfortable and I have a sense of belonging, but it’s the “welcoming” which hits you strongly, and also with time passing, I feel more and more of a foreigner there.
On Shabbat, we go by foot for about 40 minutes from my family to my partner’s family, and once when we did that, we would say “shalom, shalom, shalom” [“hello, hello, hello” in Hebrew] to familiar faces, but little by little everyone has immigrated to Tel Aviv, and I have very, very few friends in Jerusalem.
Everyone who studied with me at Bezalel moved back to Tel Aviv. All of my friends from high school left Jerusalem. I only have one friend left in Jerusalem. Everyone left, because there is something not progressive about Jerusalem.
The reason I left Jerusalem was that, first of all, I felt that in Jerusalem I couldn’t build myself because I was too connected in terms of family, community, and everything was simply too familiar. I needed the foreignness in order to build myself from zero, and also there wasn’t much to do for the artistic community in Jerusalem.
Perhaps it’s changed a little bit now. Now many young people in Jerusalem have made it their agenda to make things grow in Jerusalem, trying to make a life for the young and for culture to be there. It’s a strong agenda that the municipality supports, so maybe it’s a little bit different now, but I don’t have any will to go back there.
There is something in the city that is heavy, which doesn’t enable people. In Tel Aviv, everyone has their space. You want to be a homeless person? Be a homeless person. Do you want to be a lesbian? Be a lesbian. Do you want to be a secular person? Be that. If you want to be a religious person, be religious. Everything is possible.
There is a feeling of: Live and let live.
In Jerusalem, I feel that I have become a minority. I feel less comfortable. I feel that people like me are “on the fence”—they have a connection to the tradition, but they are not properly religious, they feel Zionist but also question the state of Israel. Little by little, the life in this country, but especially in Jerusalem, has become impossible for me.
I grew up in a place that was very accepting, very enabling, and ultimately everything became narrower and became more black and white. All the religious people are more extreme, and all the secular are more secular. Everything became more extreme and somehow in Tel Aviv I feel that there is a place for everyone.
I chose to buy an apartment in Yad Eliyahu [neighborhood in east Tel Aviv], because it really reminds me of Jerusalem, so it’s not as if I hate Jerusalem. It’s difficult for me. I feel like I’m struggling with her [Jerusalem]. She’s not easy for me, and Yad Eliyahu is like Jerusalem in Tel Aviv.
It’s a very traditional neighborhood. There are many religious people here. On Shabbat, it’s Shabbat here. It’s not like in Tel Aviv, where the shops are open, and there is a buzz. There is the silence of Shabbat [in Yad Eliyahu], and there is the atmosphere of Shabbat, which I really like, and which I find very important – the silence, the Shabbat atmosphere, where there are no cars, no movement, and the mixing of different populations.
There are many kinds of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, and I like that. This is the Jerusalem that I grew up in. Within Tel Aviv, I’m in Jerusalem.
In Jerusalem, I don’t feel at home anymore. My home is here [in Yad Eliyahu]. I think that it would be easier for me to live in Jerusalem if I were completely religious, because then it’s decided for you. It’s clear. The in-between is not anywhere at any time.
I think that my secular friends really ran away from [Jerusalem]. They don’t feel a sense of belonging, and even the parents of my secular friends ran away from Jerusalem. They left the city because they don’t feel like they belong, because they also grew up in a space that had been created for everyone.
I felt like it was a very mixed city. I lived in the Old City, and the experience there was mixed. When I lived in the German Colony, all the houses there were big Arab stone houses, and you could feel the people that used to live there. It was all kinds of people, and today I feel like it’s very one-way.
On the other hand, it’s also like this here. In the center of the city [Tel Aviv] at least, you have to be young, single, secular, left-wing. This is all you have, so it’s not only black and white [in Jerusalem]. Also, when I lived in the middle of the city [Tel Aviv], I felt like it wasn’t exactly for me.
However, in spite of this, there are a lot of different kinds of schools that you can send your children to [in Jerusalem], schools that are mixed, democratic schools, schools for girls only, Haredi girls, girls from a pluralistic religious background. There are so many categories in education [in Jerusalem]. You don’t have that in Tel Aviv.
The agenda in Tel Aviv is more secular and with a lot more variety within that. Within secular education you can find schools connected to nature, others more connected to the arts or science, but you don’t have the connection to Judaism. It’s almost non-existent.
In Jerusalem, the differences are very connected to religion. I miss that here [in Tel Aviv]. There is one school here but they only have three grades. It’s a secular school with a class that mixes secular and religious children. It has been created by former Jerusalemites, who felt this need in within education in Tel Aviv, but it’s very novel.
He Killed a Terrorist
I was a tank instructor in the armed forces. I chose to be a combat instructor, which is basically to teach soldiers how to use their military equipment, and within this you can be a tank instructor. But there are different sub-categories, and you can also be an instructor for rifles, for example.
For me, it was amazing because most of the roles for women were to sit in reception or in education, so for me to be there symbolized a lot of success and fulfillment.
At the end of my service, the Second Intifada began, which was in 2001, and that was the first time that I began to understand my role and what I was doing. One of my good friends, who was a soldier, and whom I really liked, came back from one of his operations, and he told me that he killed someone, and he told me in a proud sort of way. I didn’t understand how he could talk about it like this, and how he could be proud of it. He killed a terrorist, in his words.
I was shocked from this kind of talking, and then I began understanding what we were doing, because there is something in the army, in the way people talk within this framework in the like of: There is an enemy and there is us, and we are protecting the people from the enemy.
When you talk about people as enemies, it’s obvious to you that you have to neutralize them, to stop their activity. You don’t think too much. You do what you have been taught. You don’t see. You don’t think. I don’t know what happened there, because I wasn’t with this soldier when he was in the operation. But when I heard him talking, I understood that he didn’t really understand that we were talking about a human being – not just an enemy. Only when I heard him, I understood what I was doing.
It was at the end of my service. Until then we had only trained. Everything was quiet. My soldiers’ activity meant nothing. We only had to drive on a road and check that everything was okay. It didn’t include any action, so when something happened, and I heard them talking about this action, I was in shock, and then I understood the meaning of this.
I still think that I would have served in that position in the army today. It didn’t make me regret my position. I think that it was important for me, as a woman, who came from a religious background, as someone who wanted to contribute to the country, to do the maximum that I could. But I also think that a critical perspective is very, very difficult to have in the army.
For me it was a mitzvah [word in Hebrew for a good deed done from religious duty] to be in the army with this kind of point of view. It’s important that there are people like this.
Eager for War
I feel that there is something in the army experience, which is so sexy in terms of being a soldier and of having a uniform and a weapon. It’s very appealing to the point that we forget about what is happening – what the results of this thing are.
Today I don’t feel the same vis-à-vis the army as I did when I was 18 years old. [At the time] I felt it was something that I wanted to be a part of. I wanted to contribute and to give my all. It’s the protective army of Israel. It’s a must. We have to.
Today I feel that we are in a strong position, and the one who is weak is the one we need to defend, not the strong one. There is something about proportion. I feel we lost proportion. We are something that doesn’t defend. It attacks.
In the Torah it says that you should only defend. You don’t initiate wars. We don’t want to initiate wars, and today I feel that we are eager for wars. We look for it to light the fire. We look for someone who can do something so that we can attack.
Why Do I Talk Like This?
I think that the change in my perspective happened progressively.
I never had right-wing political opinions. I was never there, but there is something in soldiers’ discourse and army terminology, which really allows someone to refer to the other as the enemy, so you don’t have to remember who is there. You don’t think about the story of who is there. You only deal with the enemy, so it’s always about the “enemy.” And then you always have to defend yourself and to attack the enemy.
The moment you get out of the picture and you look at it from a distance, you say: Wait, why do I talk like this? It requires time and perspective from far away, in my opinion.
And also, with time passing I saw how my friends reacted to their army service after a couple of years. The trauma that you get from the army service follows you with time. People who are really sensitive can’t live with this trauma. It’s difficult for them to continue being in uniforms, to continue to hold weapons.
It’s something that takes a lot of personal reflection. And it has a lot to do with people who are very sensitive and artistic and who look at the world from a very sensitive and humanistic perspective. I feel that most of the people at Bezalel, including men, don’t serve in the army. Some of them may have been serving in the army reserves, or after the army service they didn’t want to continue serving, or they got an exemption.
I feel that it leaves a scar in people’s lives.
I had a great army experience that included challenges and personal enforcement. I didn’t have trauma in any way either. It was interesting and challenging.
I was an instructor, and I was standing in front of an audience and teaching them something, and these are tools that I gained and that I use today. I also learned this when I a member of a youth movement. It’s something that I have, the skill of standing in front of people and teaching.
I was also in a very male dominated environment [in the army], and it felt very valuable to me to be one of the only girls in the unit and to decide that I would hold a weapon although I didn’t have to.
It also has a lot to do with how I grew up – in a religious pluralistic environment that doesn’t agree with the Orthodox society. I grew up with an education for women only, and it taught me about women empowerment, being strong, and feminism. It was a very feminist school.
In the army, it’s very masculine, not feminist. It doesn’t really support the advancement women, although there are combat units open to women, but you need to be accepted to those.
At the end of the day I wanted to be part of this thing and to be in a combat unit, which meant I would be serving mostly with men and only very few girls, and to be equal to men.
All the men there had weapons, so I asked why I shouldn’t have a weapon as well. It’s part of the uniform, so I insisted on carrying a weapon. I didn’t want to appear as a receptionist or a secretary, whose only duty was to type documents. “I’m a combat soldier.” As an instructor though I didn’t really need a weapon, but it was important for me to show the soldiers that I was standing in front of them and that I was equal to them. It was something about taking the position to the end.
It was very important for me to be part of the unit, to be the best that I could be in this position, but I also relate this to something that I’ve done in the whole of my professional life, not only in the army. For example, when I was in scouts, I also wanted to be the best at what I did.
In every situation, I wanted to be the best, so in the army it was just about doing the best, and when I look back I think that it wasn’t possible for me to relate to it in a different way. It’s a basic need for me.
In the beginning of my service in 1999, the enemy was the Syrians.
Think about how the world has changed. Today we help Syrians, and once Syria was the biggest enemy of Israel. That was the tension, the hottest border of Israel that we had to defend.
All of what I taught the soldiers was what would happen if the Syrians attacked. There was no talk about Gaza or other places. We didn’t relate to it. It wasn’t a real danger, but then at the end of my service it all began. There began to be an understanding of a need to train to be able to fight within small streets in town.
The narrative had previously been about an enemy that was far away, kilometers away from you, but the moment that it became about a war next to buildings then it got very close, and that’s what happened at the end of my service: The understanding that the enemy is not an “enemy” in Syria (far away) but someone that can look at you in the eyes really, who can be behind you.
The soldiers that I had taught learned about a tank that shoots a bomb on a target just kilometers away, but the tank also has small guns. They had all learned about the tank as a cannon, and not as something to be used in terms of people right next to it.
It was a different period in the history of the army and also in terms of the country’s policies, and what happened in the country.
At the end of my service the Second Intifada began. I couldn’t totally relate to it, but I did see some of the beginning.
When the enemy is far way, like the Syrians, it is much easier to identify them as "enemies". But when the enemy is a Palestinian, it is much more complicated since I know and have seen that he turned to terror because of a crazy distressful background, where he can’t take it anymore. He has had it, and that’s why he is doing what he is doing.
At the time when I taught the soldiers, there wasn’t any talk about the West Bank, about the Palestinians. It wasn’t a palpable enemy for tanks.
I think that at the moment I understood that the politics changed and the enemy was within the territory, I got released from the army, and at that point I already understood that things had become more difficult.
One of my commanders was killed in Hebron [in the West Bank], the one I reported to directly, and it was shocking. I couldn’t understand how such a thing could happen. It wasn’t part of the scenario. It was so new for me, this idea of meeting with the fear, with groups of soldiers that could be shot at. It wasn’t part of my service at all. It was only towards the end, and when it began to bubble, I was already out of the system, and I could look at it from the outside and see the full picture.
It was a scenario of palpable danger, where something really could happen to someone.
We had worked on a completely different scenario in the Golan, the whole time. I trained for a scenario in the Beqaa Valley, at the border with Jordan, when you go down from the Golan, from Jerusalem in the direction of the Dead Sea. Everything was based on exercises with videos of soldiers and I taught them what to do, if something happens.
Tanks are huge and heavy tools. They are cannons and are very heavy with a lot of powder, and a tank shoots for long distances, so it’s not like the soldiers needed to run and shoot with their weapons.
But today there are tanks that go in the West Bank. They were used in the Second Intifada, for example only to encircle a town to make people afraid. When a tank goes in [to a town in the West bank] it’s a disaster, because it destroys.
Anyhow, so what happened to my commander was a shock to me.
I had had struggles with him, and it wasn’t easy for me to work with him, but it all still came as a shock because it wasn’t part of the scenario. You don’t really think that something will happen. It’s some kind of “as if” scenario: You train and train and train. When the moment comes, it’s so scary and not connected to anything. It feels like you’re not there.
Until today, every Yom Hazikaron [Memorial Day in Israel] I say to myself: I need to think about this and this person [who has died]. For example, I taught in this program for Israelis and Americans in the army, and one of the participants got killed from an operation in the Second Lebanon War, and I thought to myself: It didn’t really happen. No, it didn’t happen to me. This person was a cute kid. He became a soldier. It’s like two different worlds that don’t connect. It’s like two different personalities, like split personalities.
I imagine him as a kid, having fun with his friends at the beach. I couldn’t imagine him being violent and participating in a war and getting killed. For me it’s really difficult to understand.
It feels like I put it away, and I think that that’s what happens a lot of time in the army. You are very, very busy with distancing yourself from things, and that’s why soldiers speak in a nasty way to people, who, for example, pass through the checkpoints, because for them it’s the enemy. For them, they are not people that pass the checkpoints to feed their children.
Feelings / Attacked
There is a filter, a different way of speaking that you have to put into your conscience in order to be able to carry out your task that you do well. To be a soldier you need to do specific kinds of tasks, not to feel but to act. Otherwise they won’t go and do what they do. If feelings were there, then you wouldn’t be able to carry out tasks.
The violent way of talking is connected to the army or connected to fear – connected to fear of being attacked all the time. It’s always about attacking in order not to be attacked. You always have to make the first move in order not to be attacked.
But I notice that I am also aggressive myself. When I drive, for example, I can get aggressive. There is this whole thing about violence on the roads [in Israel]. That’s where it gets out the most, because people always feel attacked.
I can get into this role very easily when I get onto the road. You easily adopt this way of talking and the behavior. Like, when I go abroad, and I’m in a developed country, where they give priority to pedestrians, then I also will do what everyone does.
I don’t blame the army only in terms of this violent culture [in Israel]. Not everyone was in the army. I think it’s a general atmosphere of attack and defense all the time, the fear of what will happen – if someone takes something from me.
Breaking The Silence
I remember when Breaking the Silence [Israeli Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) established by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) veterans who collect and provide testimonies about their military service in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem since the Second Intifada] first started, because a brother of one of my friends is one of those who founded it, and it’s amazing.
We are in such an extreme place in the world today. Everything has become extreme. When Breaking the Silence was founded, it was very legitimate that people talked. It’s okay, like I’m telling my story. I’m giving a sort of a testimonial in terms of what I went through with you [reference to interviewer]. It’s the same.
They [Breaking the Silence] just asked who wants to share, and people came and it mostly had to do with their military experience very clearly. It wasn’t about them being against Israel.
A demonization of them has happened within the framework of trying to destroy them.
He [interviewee’s partner] also spoke to Breaking the Silence and gave them his testimonial, and the moment you do it and talk about things, you understand more what happened. It’s like talking to a psychologist. Until you talk about yourself, you don’t really understand what you’ve been through, and while he talked, he also had nightmares.
Following his army service, my partner went to the reserves, and there was an operation during Operation Protective Edge [reference to the war in Gaza in 2014]. He was in a tank in Tulkarem [Palestinian city in the West Bank] or somewhere close to there, and he broke down mentally.
Every time he came back from the reserves he couldn’t function. He couldn’t come back to a normal function within his studies and work. He would get into a sort of disconnection for a couple of weeks, and then he began going to a psychologist in order to get a letter enabling him to skip going to the [army] reserves.
It was very difficult for him not serving at all, because there is a sort of consensus with regards to the army – that you give yourself and you belong to this framework, and if you break it, you are outside of the mainstream. So at the beginning he just stopped his normal position [in the army] and lowered his profile and wasn’t a combat soldier, but with time the army just let go of him, as in they didn’t seem to need him.
It’s not that he didn’t want to serve in the army, but just not in combat, because the army has some very good positive sides as well. It’s an educational thing. It helps weaker populations a lot, but the experiences of war are very, very extreme.
It has been very difficult for me to feel that I belong to this country with all the things that have happened lately. I don’t believe that I’m part of this country. I just don’t believe it – that it’s a people who are thirsty for blood who want war. It’s difficult for me. I can’t live with a country that behaves the way that this country does. I just can’t be part of this thing.
When I hear and read the news, I don’t believe that I’m part of this place. I don’t identify with it, and what amazes me about the place that I live in is that all the people that I’m with feel like this. It’s this kind of bubble – everyone identifies with what I feel.
During the last elections [in Israel] I was sure that the left would go up [in mandates] and win. Everyone was going to vote for Dov Khenin [Israeli politician, member of Knesset] for mayor of Tel Aviv at the municipal elections, and I don’t understand how he wasn’t elected. It’s not reality, and the understanding of this is also very hard – that the majority of the people don’t vote as I vote.
My friends in the U.S. experience the same thing. For example, I have a friend who lives in New York and another one who lives in California. None of my friends understood how Clinton didn’t win because they said that all of their friends voted for Clinton. Nobody voted for Trump, but they are the majority, and that’s what I’ve really come to understand lately – that the majority is not pluralistic, doesn’t want peace and is supportive of nationalism.
We are going back in time. It’s shocking for me really. I just want to ignore my understanding of this.
I don’t see a left-wing government winning in the future, but when I grew up it was always the left that won. Avoda [Israeli labor party] was winning time after time, and then when the right won, it was surprising, but at least there was some form of ping-pong between the left and the right.
There is a feeling of being part of a persecuted minority. People are scared of saying what they want. People can’t enter Israel. If you are European and not Jewish, they will ask you: What are you doing here? One of my friends who came to teach at Shenkar asked me: “What is the thing with security and Israel?” They interrogated her for hours at the airport. She came to lecture, and if she had come and was a human rights activist, is there no space to be a human rights activist in this country? Is it not okay? Is it not legitimate? It’s crazy.
I have a lot of students and colleagues who have left the country, and little by little more and more people emigrate.
I don’t think about it, because I feel like I’m already stuck with family and children, but if I were in another place in my life I would think about it –if I didn’t have children, and if I had a partner who was more supportive of that idea.
Today I think it’s impossible with all the commitments. If I left it wouldn’t mean that I would never come back however, because there is always this thing in me wanting to try new things. But at the end I come back home. There is something in Israel, in my family, my friends, in what is known and what is comforting.
People who move around are very interesting to me. It just amazes me. I wonder how they can do it. It’s very difficult, but it’s also difficult to live in a place where you feel like you’re a minority and that your opinions can be dangerous.
I’m not a political activist, but I see how little by little people are being careful about what they say, like how they are marked. People are scared of saying all sorts of things, as if “Big Brother” is listening.
I try not to write my personal opinion on Facebook just because I don’t like to put personal things on Facebook, but when serious things happen, I can’t shut up, but in daily life I try not to be public, as so many of my students are on Facebook, and I don’t want everyone to know what I think.
Interview conducted on May 29, 2017 by Sarah Arnd Linder