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Gossip and Political Small Talk in Haifa Israel !..

What is Balagan(mayhem)

I am writing this story from the perspective of a five-year American immigrant to Haifa, Israel. Many of my years in America were spent on the beautiful Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. By many people's standards I enjoyed a quiet, idyllic life of peaceful serenity. Many of my thoughts- and those of my neighbors-were filled with green surroundings, beautiful lakes, and regional wildlife. Politics were not the most integral part of our lives, at least in my social world.

Life in Israel is very different. It is saturated on a daily basis with political ideology, confrontations, and agendas. It is rare in this country to ride a bus, go to a cafe or attend any social function that do not include heated political debates. It is very common for me, as an American immigrant, to answer questions about the United States and Barack Obama's political views. I answer with a wry smile, "I am a Republican".

Many of the world's political myths, fallacies, and fables may be much more noticeable in Israel than elsewhere. Foreign aid is one example of a how these fallacies can affect Israel and our relationship with The United States. Many Americans have the false impression that Israel and The Palestinians receive enormous amounts of American financial support. The total percentage of Israel's G.N.P. that derives from foreign aid is a mere three percent. Much of this three percent is from loans on military hardware. The Palestinians also receive a negligible amount of American aid by many standards.

The peace process is another example. Many people question me, and other Israelis, about the intervention of the United States in the peace process.Both Israel and the Palestinians are independent national and political entities. Israel is a nation of thirty three major political parties. The Palestinians have a wide range of political views. The media is inundated with debates about a subject that, in the truest sense, is overly simplified and complex. These debates create tension and misunderstandings between the nations.

Israelis spend a great portion of their time discussing internal politics as well. It is common to be sitting in the mall and hear a conversation about a political leader's reported ties to the KGB. The subject of illegal foreign workers for domestic help is another of the favorite political topics. Israelis spend much time talking about ?sss illegal foreign worker or ?sss reported treatment of her domestic help. I wish more time was spent on discussing health, education, and welfare.

Gossip is a favorite pastime of many Israelis. I learned very quickly upon immigrating to Israel to protect personal information with great diligence. The purchase of a new shirt can often be the subject of great interest in my community. My love life is shared with my closest confidants only, at times to my regret.

My belief is that the biggest political issue facing Israel today is that Israeli political leaders are restricted in direction and conviction. The nature of Israeli politics- the numerous political parties, the wide range of political opinions- makes it difficult to evolve. I grew up in the United States where it was hard for the two political parties to reach agreement and implement policy. Imagine what it is like to have thirty three major political agendas rather than just two. I am amazed that this new, small, and beleaguered nation functions so well. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others share a fairly democratic although jaded society

"You can't improve on saying nothing." Golda Meir may have been right. Israel therefore of a nation of perfectionists!

It might seem to the readers that I am frustrated or even angry at the verbose nature of my new neighbors. I have learned to ignore the gossip and occasionally participate in the political "balagan" surrounding me. I try to remind myself that many of my new friends come from backgrounds where it was prohibited or even dangerous to speak openly. I have learned to truly appreciate the freedoms that I enjoyed in The United States and now enjoy in Israel.

"Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbors think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here." Thank you Golda!

Twenty percent of Israelis are not Jewish; yet we manage to live together in a jaded but fairly democratic society! The diversity of cultures, ideologies, and cultural backgrounds are a great joy to me in this amazingly complicated nation. Please come and see it for yourselves!

Posted by eshugerman 04:23 Archived in Israel Tagged politics israel gossip golda

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