It dawned on me recently that I don’t live in Israel. I don’t even live in Tel Aviv. I live on the Dizengoff corridor, and that’s about it. With regular forays into the Rothschild realm, and occasional ganders into arty-yuppie-land, Neve Tzedek, I sometimes take peeks at the sea on weekends. Basically, I enjoy strong coffees in various cafes around the city, about which I know a great deal. On Fridays I run wine tastings at Tel Aviv’s best wine shops, and when I’m in good spirits, on Saturday nights I hop between posh wine bars and local pubs. My yoga studio is three blocks away. My new gym is 5 blocks away. The longest trip of the week I make is a ghastly 20 minute bus ride to my therapist, followed by another 10 minute bus ride to my meditation class, followed by one 10 minute bus and one 5 minute bus home. That’s my marathon day. And I never have to leave the borders of Tel Aviv.
Adding to my insular lifestyle, I don’t typically read Israeli newspapers, and I have somehow managed to keep up with the basics by listening in on bus and taxi drivers’ radios here and there. When I walk by a kiosk, I take a look at the headlines and then walk off. Once in a blue moon I’ll pick up the International Herald Tribune…but mostly because it has the New York Times’ arts & leisure section which contains the crossword puzzle I miss so much ’cause doesn’t it feel so much better to complete it on paper with pen instead of on a computer screen. For news, I read the BBC online, I surf the Huffington Post a few times a week, and I click on interesting links my friends post on Facebook and Twitter.
Pathetic, isn’t it? It’s difficult and embarrassing to admit. It’s beyond stagnant. It’s positively vegetative. Me! Me! I used to work in PR and read/skimmed half a dozen papers every day. I saved searches on Yahoo news, BBC, AP, AFP, Reuters, CNN, NBC, ABC, even Fox, and more. Local, national, international. I LIKED reading newspapers, even as a child. I liked the feel in my hands, I liked to be in the know. I felt it was important. And it really was. It still is.
What happened to me? Did the news become too painful? Did I slowly succumb to life as a numb couch potato? Did I choose the easy way out without even knowing it? Being proactive is difficult. For me, reading the news, taking in all the pain (along with the joy and innovation and intrigue), many times leads to action. It’s hard to really know about the injustice in the world and sit idly by.
Better to not read the news. Ignorance is bliss, right?
Not really. Because I know in many ways I’ve been a bump on a log. Sure, I work hard. I try to improve myself through yoga and meditation and running in place like a hamster. I read great books, the greatest books. I think big thoughts. I write creative little sketches. I play with words.
But I haven’t been participating in anything. Is the daily grind of trying to make a living (which in itself isn’t easy) to blame? Is social networking partially to blame? The immediacy of the medium makes it all seem more important than it is. And it’s addictive, too. Talking talking talking. Links links links. When I could be out learning how to sail, or participating in a knitting group, or better yet, helping people who are suffering by, who knows, teaching, building, cooking, writing…etc, etc.
I don’t live here. I have thoughts of “going back.” But if I haven’t really tried, how do I really know I don’t like it here. The politics are worse than in any place I’ve ever been. Maybe even Russia. Well, maybe not Russia. People die here needlessly every day. There is a violent uprising in Jerusalem right now, a 45-minute drive away, and I’m sitting here typing in my sunny beautiful living room eating a ripe avocado and gourmet French cheese. What gives?
Passover is in two weeks. A holiday commemorating the Israelites emancipation from Egyptian slavery. Every year I think about the people who are still enslaved today. In Israel we’ve got refugees, asylum seekers, and yes, lots of illegals, all fleeing terrible conditions in Africa, coming across the porous Egyptian border every day. As a nation we grumble angrily, curse them coming, and mostly don’t offer any kind welcome. And here I am, uselessly trapped in my own tiny little silver-spoon world, despite the “financial difficulties” I still face.
My Passover resolution: free myself by helping others. And to put down the sci fi for a moment and read a newspaper each and every day.