Thursday, July 13, 2006

The game of life

“Due to the security situation, all trains heading north will terminate in Acco. No trains will travel to Nahariya under orders from the Israel Police. The Nahariya train station has been closed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Granted, this announcement doesn’t affect me, as I am traveling south to Tel Aviv. That is, it doesn’t directly affect me. In a greater sense, it affects all of us here in Israel, a sign the times, so to speak. The situation is spiraling out of control at a frightening pace, and I feel like I just don’t know what to do with myself right now. Yesterday it was a series of attacks on the Northern border that left seven Israeli soldiers dead and two kidnapped into Lebanon. This morning a katyusha rocket slammed into Nahariya, killing one woman in her home and injuring tens of other people. Katyushas also hit near Mt. Meron. Israel has retaliated by hitting the international airport in Beirut and Hezbollah’s television station. Who knows what will happen next. Life is suddenly worse than it was a few days ago, and my pacifist persona has been abruptly shunted aside as I decide that nothing would delight me more than to see that arrogant smirk wiped off the face of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, preferably by an IDF explosives expert.

I think of the bloggers across the Arab blogosphere who have afforded me the privilege of making their acquaintance, exchanging comments and emails as we work together to break down barriers, barriers put in place by those whose greatest fear is the discovery that we are all merely people and not the monsters they make us out to be. We may not always agree, but there is both a mutual respect and curiosity that we have chosen to embrace. Despite the actions of governments and organizations in our countries, we are trying hard to make our neighborhood a better place. Now, as I sit here on this train heading south, I can’t help but wonder, is it all for naught? It is so easy to forget the big picture as we focus on the relationships, the bridges being built. We share the same interests, the same tastes in food (who would have thought that sushi is so popular throughout the Middle East?), similar musical tastes. Thanks to these bloggers, I have learned about life in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Egypt, and so on. Never before have I been in a position to see a trip to Damascus as something normal, or to discover the excitement and beauty of Beirut.

Fantasy trips between Tel Aviv and Beirut have been planned, and we eagerly drink in each others’ words as we enjoy getting to know one another. It’s almost like a drug, and it’s so easy to become addicted, as we get sucked into a virtual world where disagreements still exist, yet borders are there to be traversed and not fortified. Then suddenly, reality comes crashing down as those with the real power make their presence felt through violence and destruction, and you wonder if your dreams of normalcy are only childish visions that will never come to pass. Are we being foolish? Is our bridge-building mere folly, a way to pass the time while allowing ourselves to think that we can somehow make a difference? I have no doubt that for the most part, we are all quite sincere in our quest, but while the perfect sunny skies of summer in the Middle East are tainted with falling rockets and fresh graves are dug in the cracked, brown earth, I cannot help but feel that we are all very small and insignificant as the Nasrallahs of the world show us who is really controlling the game of life.

23 comments:

nrg said...

Why not write, "I cannot help but feel that we are all very small and insignificant as the Nasrallahs and Olmerts of the world show us who is really controlling the game of life."

Please move to Norway, or at least the US so I can stop worrying about the three of you.

Liza said...

"Why not write, "I cannot help but feel that we are all very small and insignificant as the Nasrallahs and Olmerts of the world show us who is really controlling the game of life.""

I considered it, but to be honest, I see them in different roles. Olmert is reacting (albeit badly) to a situation in an attempt to defend Israel's sovereign territory (rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel, the incursion into Israel and subsequent murder of two soldiers and kidnapping of another, as well as the kidnapping and murder of an 18 year-old Israeli settler), while Nasrallah has chosen the path of violent provocation by heating up Israel's northern border with attacks within Israeli territory that are taking a heavy casualty toll in order to draw Israel into battle on a second front. To put it bluntly, Nasrallah is a terrorist, while Olmert is stupid, misguided politician.

Move to Norway? Hmmm... I'll have to get back to you on that. Could you get me good deals on brown cheese?

nrg said...

Well, you know me, dear. I see both as reacting to provocation. It seems that everyone in the region has been reacting for the past few years, justifying their actions because they are "reactions". I'm waiting for someone to come up with something new. To act instead of react. Neither side is impressing me.

Hey FIL was a big cheese man, I'm sure I could pull some strings...

Liza said...

And what was Nasrallah reacting to, exactly? How did Israel provoke a terrorist organization in Lebanon? This isn't the first time that Hezballah has taken advantage of heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians to open a second front on the northern border. One has nothing to do with the other, and they are just trying to make a complicated situation even more complicated. The Israeli occupation of South Lebanon ended several years ago, effectively rendering Hezballah's stated goal of liberating Lebanon from the Israelis a success. The UN officially recognizes that Israel is no longer in control of any Lebanese territory, so in theory, we are no longer "provoking" Hezballah. Yesterday's Hezballah incursion and attacks on sovereign Israeli territory is an unprovoked attack of the highest level, and deserves to be treated as such.

Though I am certainly not enamored of Olmert, his government or his current methods of dealing with the Palestinians, I simply cannot make any comparisons between him and Nasrallah, and asking me to do so is a bit harsh and unrealistic, I think, despite my leftist leanings.

I remembered that bit about your FIL, which is why I asked. You may have noticed that any mention of Norwegian salmon was conspicuously absent. May I call your FIL the "Big Cheese" when I see him next? Is he a cheese whiz? :-)

nrg said...

We often refer to him as the Big Cheese. El Queso Grande...Stor osten (sounds stupid in norwegian)... feel free. He is involved in salmon now, too...you should really visit again soon.

The comparison you can make between the two is that both are reinforcing the feeling of smallness and insignificantness of people like yourself in the region. This by making decisions that are either reactions to imprisonment of comrades (in the non-1900's soviet sense of the word), what they see as misuse of power against others in the region with whom they identify, kidnappings of soldiers just doing their job, involvement of innocents in a nasty conflict. What ever the reason for their reactions, they are producing responses like your blog posting. A feeling that things have gotten out of hand. That the hope that contact between everyday people would help somehow was just a fleeting notion that seems foolish. Both of these men and their staff/supporters/choose appropriate word here are fueling hatred and justifying violence. I don't think one needs to be a terrorist to spread terror. Innocent lives have been lost on both sides of the border. None of those are justifiable in my eyes.
I know I'm removed from this, but the "we should just bomb the f**k out of them" knee jerk reaction isn't going to work. It never really has in the long term. I just wonder how many people on the sidelines need to die, be abducted, wounded, orphaned, flat-out terrorized before someone who is "really controlling the game of life" decides to try a different solution.

Beth said...

Glad to hear you are safe and sound.

Liza said...

Okay, I can (grudgingly) see some of your points for comparison, but I still cannot in good faith put down on paper a comparison between the two, as their are too many fine lines that will be crossed and opens up too many Pandora's boxes for my comfort.

Oh, and I definitely agree with you about the knee-jerk reaction, and I don't think I crossed that line. I was very conscious of the fact that I didn't want to cross it, and given that I don't believe in those "bomb the f*ck out of them" solutions, it wasn't too difficult. I stand by my comment about wanting to see Nasrallah dead, however.

nrg said...

I can also see your point. Would the world be a better or worse place in his absence? But at what price? Is that price (ie lost innocent Lebonense lives) more affordable the more Israelis injured or dead? Should it be? Are the lives in one group more valuable than in the other? Who can presume to have the right to make that call? I will agree that Nasrallah isn't high on my list, but I believe it would also be too naive and incorrect to assert that Israel is an innocent bystander who got caught up in something that had nothing to do with them. (this is not to say that I think you have made that assumption-just a general comment) There aren't good guys and bad guys here. Everyone gets to take a big old bite out of the blame cake. In my opinion, when it comes to leaders (official or otherwise) in your part of the world, there are bad guys and worse guys at the moment... I hope that changes, because I doubt the gravity of the situation there will change in any direction other than for the worse.


PS can we write about language challenges and cultural assimilation again now? Please ?

Liza said...

Please excuse all of the spelling and grammar mistakes in my last comment. It was before lunch, and clearly I was weak from hunger. :-)

nrg said...

sushi? Can you hope?

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

That's a nice post and I totally agree. I am fed up with the extremists who try to build barriers among sane people.

Suha said...

She/nrg,

What a beautiful conversation. As a Lebastinian (half Leb/half Pali) from Beirut, I see my attitude as the mirror image of She's. I don't think Nasrallah is as bad as Olmert. To me, although I have tons of criticism for him, Nasrallah is still humane. I have seen him on many occasions, not just when a war breaks out. Olmert (or whoever is PM), on the other hand, is the harbinger of doom. When I hear his name, I have to fear for my life.

I really think it depends on what side of the border you are looking at it. I think our respective media does more to shape our views of things than we would like to admit. But when all is said and done, if on a clear day when no one is being bombed I take a step back from it all, nrg's is the position I would take: the choice is between bad and worse.

And I am not saying this because I happen to be in Norway :)

PS: You two did not happen to meet on on organized peace trip of Israelis and Palestinians to Norway, did you?

nrg said...

Suha,
No, She and I met long ago. On the other side of the pond as teenagers.

I have neither Israeli nor Palestinian background and am an ex-pat living in Norway with my viking husband and two kids. I have an interest in the area, both personal, as She is there...and basic humanitarian, because I see it as a hot-spot of injustice and misuse of power.

She and I don't always agree, but we find a mutual understanding in the end. One of the most wonderful things about her is her ability to really hear an opposing arguement. She may not feel compelled to agree with it, but she will understand that the opposing viewpoint is as valid as her own and based on a completely different, yet equally rational and worthy set of personal experiences.

This is, above all, a great place to come and talk. To listen and be heard. Not to be judged or chastized, but to be respected and appreciated for willingness to share a bit of oneself.

Welcome!
And isn't it just gorgeous in Oslo today?

Suha said...

I am in living with my viking husband on a farm in Halden. The weather is gorgeous here too. Deer dash in front of the house every once in a while. They overlap on my retina with the destruction and burnt flesh that I have seen in the news today. It is surreal.

nrg said...

We have a cabin at Hvaler, so it is approaching your part of the country! I live near Tusenfryd and work in Oslo.

Have been avoiding photos. The words I read are bad enough. If you still have family in the area (mid-east) I hope they are safe.

Janice said...

Palestinian children killed, injured and traumatised daily by the Zionist Occupation Forces.

You should be but I suspect are not ashamed by this.

Lori said...

She,

Mary and I are worrying about you and your loved ones at this terrible time... please be safe

Anonymous said...

Start learning Arabic the language of to day and tomorrow's new realities : أعلن الجيش الإسرائيلي السبت فقد أربعة من جنوده كانوا على متن البارجة الحربية التي تعرضت لقصف من جانب مقاتلي حزب الله قبالة سواحل بيروت.

وقال مسؤولون عسكريون إسرائيليون إنه تجري الآن عملية البحث عن الجنود الأربعة.

وكانت البارجة الحربية قد تعرضت لأضرار بالغة واشتعلت بها النيران في الهجوم الذي تعرضت له مساء الجمعة.

وأفادت الأنباء أن السفينة تم سحبها إلى ميناء حيفا وأن السلطات الإسرائيلية فتحت تحقيقا في الموضوع.

Anonymous said...

when you talk about soldiers ?the IDF solders are different than the meaning of a military soldiers armed to the halt, and they are meant to fight ? right .so when they are taken as war presenters ,they are not abducted ?they are not on a picnic on the Gaza or south of Lebanon ?they are on a military mission ,besides when Israel looses logic ,Israel as usual gose for civilian targets and infrastructure ,but times are changing ,bully neighbors are no more tolerated .

Liza said...

Beth: Thanks. I'm glad I'm safe and sound too, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I sit here wondering just how far those Katyusha rockets can fly, knowing that Haifa isn't so far away.

Vox populi: Welcome to Something Something. It's nice to read your words of sanity, given how insane things seem to be getting in this part of the world. I agree with you - too many barriers out there, just too damn many. If only we could find a way to build them around all the extremists so that the rest of us could find a way to live in peace.

Suha: Welcome to Something Something. I find your views fascinating, as they seem to mirror my views exactly! What you said about Nasrallah is what I would say about Olmert, and vice versa. I also agree with NRG's assessment about our region being filled with bad and worse leaders, and in a number of cases, I would also include the word "ineffectual", as there are quite a few out there who are simply allowing (for whatever reasons) the extremists on the ground to call the shots, which I happen to believe is this case with Lebanon now (though a good chunk of the blame for that falls squarely on Syria, which does what it can to thwart the success of an independent Lebanon).

With regard to the media, I think that when all is said and done, it is very difficult for media outlets to be unbiased no matter where they are and how distant they are from the conflict at hand. Some are more biased and some less, and I always find it interesting when each side of a conflict perceives a certain media outlet to be biased in favor of the other side. I've written this before, but one of the best things about blogging is that is allowing us, as "enemies", to cross lines and get to know each other, get to see how the other one thinks. I hope you'll continue to pop in for visits here, so that we might be able to break down some more barriers together.

Another expat living in Norway! A beautiful country (I've visited NRG twice), but how do you stand those winters? Of course the summers are quite amazing, from what I've heard, but still!

NRG: I chose not to respond to your last comment in our exchange because of your pleading PS (PS can we write about language challenges and cultural assimilation again now? Please ?). I'm sure we'll have many more opportunities to pick up where we left off, should you so desire. :-)

As far as the sushi, I've heard so much about certain sushi restaurants in Amman that I could probably find them without a map, and I've read comments from Arab bloggers on different blogs bemoaning the lack of good sushi places in their locales. Clearly, there is a universal need for better sushi in the Middle East.

Thank you so much for your comments and compliments! Though I'm sure I slide sometimes, I do my best to be the person that you describe, and to maintain this blog in such a way that people with a genuine interest in conveying ideas and opposing views (respectfully!) will feel comfortable and welcome. Of course, if one doesn't play nice, my inner bitch may be forced to escape, but otherwise, I like to think that we have a pretty good thing going here.

Janice: Actually, I am often quite disgusted by the actions of the IDF, and if you were to read my blog on a regular basis, you would realize that. But then, I suspect you aren't really interested in my views, and are only here to spread joy and happiness with catchy little comments like you've been doing on the blog of at least one of my colleagues. If you can express your views (which I suspect are somewhat different from mine) in a respectful way (which would include not referring to the Israeli military as the Israel Occupation Forces, among other things), you are welcome to do so. Otherwise, you are probably better off spending your time elsewhere.

Lori: Thanks for your concern. So far so-so. Not much more to say that I haven't already written, but for now, I'm ok. I'll keep you posted.

Anonymous: Welcome to Something Something. I would like to learn Arabic one of these days, though for now I only know a few basic words. If you or any of my other Arabic-speaking readers would be so kind as to translate what you've written here, I'd greatly appreciate it.

Anonymous 2: I'm not quite sure where you're going with this, but as far as I know, none of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers were in either Gaza or Lebanon when they were snatched. As far as Israel losing logic and going for civilian targets, that is rather one-sided, given that the Palestinian terror groups not only specifically target Israeli civilians, but they often hide amongst Palestinian civilians (they are literally putting the lives of hundreds if not thousands of innocent Palestinians at stake!). And, as I write this, most Israeli citizens in the North are being forced to remain in bomb shelters because they are currently being targeted by the Hizbollah.

I would never claim that the Israeli military is innocent here - they have perpetrated a number of actions in which innocent Palestinians have been injured and killed, but to point fingers at the Israeli military without acknowledging the roles played by other groups here is to view the situation in a vacuum without taking all factors into account. Innocent civilians on all sides are paying the price.

When you refer to bully neighbors, are you referring to the Israelis, the Palestinian extremists or Hizbollah?

Kat said...

She,

This is my first visit to your blog, and I have to say that I'm impressed by the tone you set, and the (general) maturity of the dialogue you have ongoing with the people who comment here. I consider the quality of the comments to your site a reflection of the site itself; I will be back. (Not everyone is cooperative in this respect, but that's just plain consistent with human nature, isn't it?)

Liza said...

Kat: Welcome to Something Something, and thanks for the compliments. As I wrote in a previous comment above, I try to do my best to keep things civil around here. Mudslinging free-for-alls aren't my style and don't serve my interests at all, as I truly want this to be a place where anyone and everyone can feel comfortable, as long as they are respectful of one another. There have been many times when I've had to bite my tongue, so to speak, in response to a comment, but I do my best not to (though sometimes it happens).

I'm very proud of the tone I've set here, and I guess (and hope) my readers like it as well.

I look forward to "seeing" you again.

RR said...

To Suha:

Nasrallah isn't as bad as Olmert? Nasrallah is humane? For a second I thought you had to be joking- then to my horror I realized you really believe what you wrote. I suppose you have been spoonfed so much propaganda your whole life that you cannot help but believe it.

This terrorist piece of crap you describe as humane has only one goal in life- to wipe Israel off the map, to murder innocent people, to raise a generation of terrorists to do his bidding. Lest you think he actually cares about you and the Lebanese people, consider that Hezbollah, the terrorist group he controls, purposely shoots rockets from within the civilian population, so that when Israel must respond, it will undoubtedly hit some of those civilians, no matter how hard it tries not to do this. Humane? What exactly is your definition of humane?

Sorry, She- I know you try to keep things civil around here, and I usually ignore those kinds of comments, but I couldn't let that one go by.