Week Two in Jerusalem; the Plot Thickens
Good sabbath to those celebrating. To set the scene I am sitting on the balcony in the morning light, listening to the about 30 combined orthodox kids in the two apartment buildings next door make havoc before breakfast. It is neat to be part of a city as it wakes up. This week has been a big week full of classes, experiences and my internship. I am taking four different classes; the Arab Israeli conflict, social psychology, the faces of politics and Hebrew.
The Arab Israeli conflict class will help me better understand both the Israeli Palestinian conflict, but also geopolitical conflicts in the region both historical and current. Social psychology is focused through the lens of how social interaction works in a diverse society between people with clear differences. The faces of politics will help me understand the Israeli government including its actors and what elections are in a parliamentary system with over 30 parties in the Knesset (Israeli parliament.) Our first session on that blew my mind… I thought our congress was zany. And lastly, I am taking a Hebrew class which I certainly desperately need- I’ve gotten by so far on words and phrases; Ken (yes), lo (no), ani rotze (I want), but those ain’t gonna cut it for long- now that I work at an Israeli company.
StandWithUs is an Israeli education organization that advocates against BDS. I am interning in their social media department which has already been fascinating. Before our internships we had a session to explain Israeli work environment which is much more casual and very different from anywhere else. To help us understand what we were about to encounter, our teacher shared a psychological study. A psychologist named Hofstede, upon noticing the trend of different relationships between boss and employee in different cultural contexts, created an index of power distance. This index described per country the extent to which difference in rank plays a role in workplace interaction. The U.S ranks a 40, meaning that you may not be friends with your boss and perhaps you may not speak their mind fully you don’t agree with your bosses’ decision. Israel however, has one of the lowest power distances in the world. Sure enough, when I went into the workplace I was treated casually and respectfully; the people responsible for me immediately asked me about my personal life, looked up my Spotify, invited me to lunch and joked around with me.
There is so much more to share from the week, and most of it is written in the journal that I write daily. I will end with a few observations and experiences both good bad and human. we had an impromptu potluck sabbath dinner last night with over 25 people. We made tacos- yes, my jewish mother sent me with bags of Old el Paso Taco Seasoning! It was awesome to share in a meal and singing together. On a serious note I have been disturbed by the Anti Muslim and Arab prejudice from some people within the program. Whether it’s a joke, or a comment it disturbs me that American society has failed to teach tolerance and we as a minority oft plagued by prejudice don’t always combat prejudice when we see it. A person who has family in France spoke about the Muslims and Arab refugees bringing crime to France, purposefully having a ton of children, and not assimilating adding that France was now over 50% Muslim. In reality, Muslims only make up 10% of the population. I urged him to be cautious in his judgements. When you judge another people by a stereotype of their immutable characteristics rather than individual merits, and in language that is used to oppress the Jews as outsiders, you lose capitol to be able to fight antisemitism when you ultimately fall victim.
The other night I had an indescribable moment. I went up to the roof alone to watch the sunset. The city’s Jerusalem sandstone shone in gold, the sun kissed the pines on the hill, and for a moment the chaos of the kids, and cars, and shopkeepers below seemed to disperse. I told my parents yesterday that I had fallen in love with Israel but not to worry- I hadn’t decided to make aliya (the act of a Jew becoming an Israeli citizen)… yet.