Wednesday, March 18, 2015

So Am I Israeli Really?

Yesterday I learned that I am not really an Israeli and I learned that I am half of Israel and I learned that I am Israeli.

It was election day and a bank holiday. For a country that doesn't have Sundays off (we have Fridays off but the children have morning school and everything else closes at 2pm) it was a chance to have a real family day out. It seems the two preferred activities were shopping or hiking/picnicking.

The formidable cave
I wrote last week about how Israelis have an obsession with hiking. I also wrote about how DD hated her class trip which was inevitably a hike.

A group of friends asked us to join them on a hike and picnic. I said I'd have to consult with DD. I was confident that she'd decline and I'd have my out. I love walking in the English countryside where the paths are smooth and the hills are rolling. Here, however, the paths are rocky and the hills are mountains.

Unfortunately DD was all for it. I couldn't deny her the opportunity for a day out with friends and a picnic so I reluctantly agreed to go. I'd also followed the conversation on whatsapp and had seen them come down from a serious mountain climbing expedition to a more  moderate trek. We are a group of five, overweight, middle aged, women - and yet four of them wanted a seriously challenging hike. This is where the immigrant sticks out from the Israelis.

I admit it was pretty at the top (or half way to the top)
Before we went I had to vote. This election was extrememly emotive. People voting for Bibi on the Right felt they had no choice but to put national security first even thought there are gaping social injustices that need fixing and the Left were promising to address these problems.

People on the Left accused the Right of not caring about the poor, infirm, and downtrodden. They also believe that actually, Bibi's security policies are more dangerous than re-entering peace talks with the PA.

There was the issue of the Right aligning themselves with the ultra-orthodox community who contribute nothing to the country but aren't shy about receiving all the benefits going and then demanding more. There was the issue of Bibi himself who doesn't invite people to love him with his arrogance and wanton spending of public money on his own personal comfort.

And there were all the smaller parties some of whom were inspiring but, if they passed the votes threshhold and gained a seat in the government, would have to compromise on all their principles to be included in the ruling coalition so what is the point of voting for them.

I had seen how fiercely my hiking friends 'knew' who you 'should' vote for and who it was 'wrong' to vote for. I decided to keep my ballot a secret. I, along with 20% of voters, were undecided right up to the last minute. I did not need approval or lectures either way. If there was one 100% correct way to go we wouldn't need elections. I made sure DD didn't see which slip I put into the envelope because she can read now and I didn't want her telling them under interrogation by accident.

We packed our lunch and went round to my friend who was driving. She was irritated with me because I had nixed the idea of a joint picnic. She had asked if we should organise a joint picnic and I answered that I'd prefer not to. I don't enjoy eating outside, sitting on the floor so all we need is a sandwich, an apple, and a bottle of water (and a packet of crisps for DD). Two others said, 'ok,' and that was the end of the discussion. I didn't realize I'd cancelled a big part of the overall experience. And then I got told off for not making more of an effort to enjoy hiking. (Those of you who hate brussel sprouts or heavy metal music - just make more of an effort, eh?).

Deceptively gentle
We, five families, met up at Nes Harim just outside Jerusalem. We set off along a rock strewn path. I'm sure the scenery was lovely but I was too busy concentrating on avoiding the rocks and watching my step to appreciate it. This is what you typically hear on an Israeli hiking trail: "Come on sweetie (to a toddler who can barely walk), climb the mountain with Grandma and Grandpa, isn't this fun?"

Then we climbed up a steep(ish) incline to some caves. During the whole ascent all I could think about was that we would have to come down again. I'm fine climbing up. You can't fall up. I am scared climbing down. The children disappeared inside the caves. I was nervous about getting back down the mountain. I was nervous about my daughter being inside a cave (it was only an overhanging rock really but it was dark and I couldn't see her). I admit there was a pretty view.

We stopped to rest, eat, chat, play. Then I saw there was another steep(ish) ascent. I was fine with this but the route was circular and who knew what climbing down the other side looked like. I decided to go back. The others offered to take DD on with them but she opted to come back with me. All the way down she was trying to help me with a steady flow of supportive commentary:

I'll help you Mummy.
You don't have to be scared of rocks, they can't hurt you.
I'll carry the bag.
Just stop thinking about the rocks, think about a nice cup of coffee instead.
I love you Mummy, you're the best.
We're nearly down now so just get those rocks out of your head!
Phew, we're nearly home, aren't you happy about that?

When we got back to the meeting point we found an ice-cream van (one happy daughter). Then we spent two hours eating our picnic, playing word games and on the playground equipment. It was nice. We're good company. And the relief of not worrying about the climb down made me all giggly and dizzy with happiness.
All I could think about was climbing down again

The others eventually arrived. First came the fittest mothers with all the children. About 20 minutes later the other two mothers huffed and puffed to the end. Red faced and sweaty they exclaimed, "it was so much fun, you were so silly to go back. The descent was much more gentle than the ascent."

The hike was a confirming experience for me. It confirmed that I don't enjoy hiking in Israel and I won't be doing it again.

And what of the elections? It turns out that more people are more scared of being killed by terrorists than they are of dying of starvation so Bibi won.

Emotions are still running high. Facebook and emails are flying about how depressed and incredulous the Left are that people don't want change. While the Right answer them that they do want change but they first need to be alive to enjoy social equality. And the Left didn't help themselves by basing their whole campaign on the slogan: Anything but Bibi.

I understand both sides. People have different realities. It's a small country but some people are living under immediate physical threat near the borders whereas others are concentrating on social inequalities. Some are looking at the bigger picture of eventual peace in the region while others need to know that they will be protected tomorrow.

My (secret) vote reflects roughly half of Israel. I hate rock-climbing hikes. Je suis Israeli.


  1. Unsure footing is my biggest nightmare too. Well done to both of you for giving it another try.

    1. That's exactly what it is Mum B, unsure footing. I wish I'd had a name for it yesterday as that might have made it more acceptable.

  2. I believe that the fear of falling is the only fear we are born with so I'm amazed at so many that have overcome it to the point of high diving or bungee jumping....For me even a wet rocky area on the beach has me shaking! You are not alone. x

    1. Interesting about being born with that fear. I always did have a good memory. ;)

  3. I'm with you on the hiking, I'd kinda like to go as there are so many lovely places here but it's either too hot, or it might get chilly, I don't have decent footwear, what if Leo tripped or got tired and Louka wouldn't be able to cope with rocks, what if I had to carry him..... I could go on :)

  4. You were right to follow your instincts. On the hike, on the picnic .... and on the voting.
    Over-all it sounded like you and your DD had a lovely time, and she really does sound like such lovely company :-)

    1. She is lovely company. As for my instincts, they are telling me to invite these friends back to mine for supper after their next hike - I'll cook. :)

  5. From Margie in Toronto - I don't mind the hiking but I'm right there with you about the picnic! I love the idea of eating al fresco but usually end up loathing the reality. Not even that fond of restaurant patios - to me it's just a sneaky way for restaurants to cut back on the A/C - and somehow the bees and wasps always head straight for me!

    1. I don't know why I didn't reply to this at the time but I still agree with you even 9 months later. xx