Thursday, 2 February 2006

Home, where my music's playing

Not too long ago my mother asked me over the phone who am I going to vote for.
The question immediately registered as a strange one, coming from my not so internationally oriented mother who is half way across the universe as we know it. Still, I gave her the most honest answer I could come up with, telling her that I would vote for the Democrats or the Greens (depending on the context) and adding that the nearest elections - the Victorian state elections - will only take place at the end of the year. As I was about to spill my guts on why and how (Australia has this preferential voting system where you can actually vote for both and more), something I might discuss in yet another blog entry, my mother - obviously impressed with my political agenda - started laughing and reminded me that the nearest elections are actually in March.
She meant the Israeli elections.
I had an answer ready for that, too: Labor, because their leader is an ex Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) guy and I have supported this group while in Israel, and also because the time I served unemployed has made me into quite the socialist. Not that the party or its leader are perfect - they're the masters of dodgy deals - but no one in politics is free from corruption (not even George Bush or his Brokeback Mountain fellow, John Howard). It's just a question of choosing the lesser evil.
Besides, what other options does one have? There's Sharon's party, Kadima (Ahead), which has no agenda anyone knows about other than the further continuation of Sharon's agenda - and can anyone really tell you what agenda the guy has/had? My impression is that he was working along the iterative software development lifecycle methodology. Besides, I still fail to understand how Israelis vote for a war criminal, and I'm not talking about the Arabs killed under his orders but rather the Israelis killed in vain while following his orders. The guy should have been serving time in jail.
Who else is in there? Bibi Netanyahoo, the populist joke who will say anything you would like to hear and change his position according to the latest opinion poll? Given my views, the choice could not be easier.
At this time my father joined the call and it strayed towards very different realms, preventing me from saying that regardless of my voting preferences, I will not be able to vote and even if I was I do not think I would have. These are no longer my elections: I chose to leave that place, I have zero responsibility for whatever takes place in it. I do not belong in Israel anymore.
What!? I hear some of you say. Just because you went to live in Australia and have been there for a bit less than four years makes you think you're no longer an Israeli? And do you really think the people of Australia will truly regard you as an Australian? Well, no, and no.
Technically speaking, I am still an Israeli: I carry an Israeli passport, as useless as that piece of paper is when you also have an Australian passport. However, technicalities aside - I am very much inclined to return my Israeli passport and leave my god given right to serve in the Israeli army behind me for good - I will forever be an Israeli. Whether because of my thick accent (which many seem to mistake for a French accent) or because I used to watch Telepele and Kishkashta on TV as a child, I am a product of the Israeli culture for better and for worse. For this particular reason most Australians will never regard me as an Australian - their first question will usually be "...but where are you from". Regardless of what these people think, though, my cultural heritage is now a part of the Australian one in the same way as the Australian one is now a part of me. I am an active member of society, mingling about and affecting others, while also openly absorbing from others, which is where the difference between me and most other immigrants is - I am consciously opening myself for absorption, while most others are locked in their internal communities doing their best to continue living the same way they did before albeit at a better environment overall. The primary reason for me coming over here was to experience living in another culture - I felt like this is something I have to do in this single incarnation I was given - and I am doing my best to live by it.
Do not expect my accent to change (Uri once told me that the part of my brain in charge of accents was gone with the wind by the time I was 16-17) and do not expect me to gallop buckets of alcohol for the sake of it. You should definitely not expect me to watch commercial TV - it lowers the IQ - or expect me to actively barrack for my favorite footy team because sincerely speaking I find the sport rather violent, full of unclear rules, and overall boring. However, before you send me "back to the place I came from", the way several people already did, please pay attention to the newspapers that I read, the side of the road that I drive on, my choice of car, my choice of suburban house near the beach, and my day to day activities: They all say Australian. Yes, they're not that remote from Israeli activities, but matter of fact other than religion and its influences on cultural diversity there's not much of a difference between the Australian way and the Israeli way.
So why the disconnection with Israel? For a start, I never did go for the mainstream Israeli culture. As I said here before, by the time I was 10 I didn't think highly of religion and ethnic divides. From the time my father took me with him to New York I realized there's more to this world than meets the eye in Tel Aviv, and I wanted to experience that. So while I'm way too spoiled to try in live the Indian or the Tibetan way, I am doing fine (thank you) with the Aussie way. It's not perfect, and I feel that under the helm of Mr Howard it is on the decline - less live and let live and more live and let me live first - but barring a few way too cold exceptions (Canada and the Scandinavia) or places you can't get much of a job in (New Zealand) it is still the best place in the world. Not a perfect place - this blog is full of complaints - but still the best.
If I had any doubts about it they were all cured by our round the world trip. While my main impressions had to do with taking notice of the subtle and not so subtle cultural differences between all the places we've been to and be quite impressed with the rather subtle causes for these differences - weather, ancient histories, geographical features - in Israel I definitely felt out of place. The heat was way too hot, the apartment buildings were all put right on top of each other, the noise, the fact people still smoke in certain public places, the security check, the way people drive, the way people act, the cockroaches - it just wasn't me.
Israel is a nice place. Unlike Australia, it is actually near the rest of the world (by far Australia's biggest deficiency). But for me it is now first and foremost the place where most of my family is and the place where many of my friends are. Yes, I read Haaretz on a daily basis over the internet, but mainly because I find it is superior to other newspapers in certain respects (and the fact that it's in Hebrew does give it a headstart). Yes, I read the Israeli sports columns, but that's mainly because they have the European football coverage that I like - the exact mixture and depth of English, Spanish and Italian football that I like - mostly because that is what I grew up on. But I do not think this is what makes me an Israeli.
For now, there is only one place I can call home.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hear hear!
There’s nothing more annoying than those election-day air-trains from Brooklyn to TA. Well, the votes of the dead are actually more annoying.
But anyway, I’d like it better if people who choose to live in a country would vote, and those who choose not to live there would refrain from voting.
And it’s good to hear you say Australia is the best place to live (even if you have to insult half the world to do it).

Moshe Reuveni said...

As my disclaimer says, I try to equally insult everyone.
I apologize for the world's half I did not insult: Your time will come.

K-Factor said...

Good Monday morning reading! Ready to offend and stand my ground!

I am recollecting conversations between my parents and myself years ago, shortly after I decided not to return 'home' to Greece and stay in sunny London. I can't help thinking about the magnitude of my parent's disappointment. And I clearly recall my persistence to stick to my decision.

Twenty-one years later, of which 13 in the UK and 8 in Oz, 99.9% of my experiences are identical to Moshe's. The accent bit, the change of surname, the 'how can you leave Greece' questions!... Great coversation points, I do assure you. They separate the travelled amongst us from the emotional patriots. The advantages? Huge! You get to validate your beliefs and you get not only to meet but also agree with people like Moshe!

Well, except for that 0.1%... And kind of - the 'For now' qualifier leaves it open for a possible 100%. To my parents' obvious disappointment, my definition of home is somewhat more fluid.

It is not location-based, language-driven, big family-dependent, religion-defined. It's where it feels right, where memories are created, experiences experienced, challenges offered and love is in abundance. So I preach that perfectly right for people to seek a home with as many of these attributes as possible.

In closing, and in agreement with the host, my current home fulfils all my criteria.