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Today I heard my fourth ever siren and I believe the experience may have fully integrated me into Israeli society after 10 years living here. (That and the fact that I have at least one genuine Israeli friend with whom I text in Hebrew).

For those of you living under a rock (and somehow managing to see this blog post anyway), Israel is once again under attack from Hamas. Hamas terrorists like to bombard Israeli civilians with rockets every once in a while while hiding behind civilian homes in Gaza. Those living close to the border have 15 seconds to get to shelter. We live far enough away that rockets make it out this direction quite infrequently and we have a full 90 seconds to get to shelter, which happens to be quite a long time. Protocol is that when we hear the siren we must get to a place of shelter as quickly as possible, and we have familiarized ourselves with the rules of what to do. We listen for the “boom” and then wait ten minutes for the debris to fall. Fortunately, where we live the “boom” is not a rocket hitting something, but rather the Iron Dome shooting down the rocket. The “boom” means we’ll be safe. While we wait out the ten minutes, we text and whatsapp our loved ones to let them know all is well and we joke around with our neighbors sharing our shelter.

Generally in a time of crisis I am extremely calm. I find panicking or freaking out really just counterproductive, and the same is true of the case of sirens. Yesterday I had a new experience which was far scarier than the actual siren. I only heard the “boom”. I felt a moment of fear that Israel had somehow not sounded the siren or I didn’t hear it. While I allowed myself to feel scared, I went online to check what my friends had heard. I learned that it’s possible to hear the explosion of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket without being in the range of the rocket or debris. This greatly comforted me, but at least with a siren there is a warning that you are about to hear an explosion.

I was planning on going grocery shopping last night, but a friend pointed out to me that waiting until morning would be a better idea since the rockets had only been at night in our area so far. Accepting her advice, I headed out to the store quite early this morning so as to be able to return from shopping in time to start work. I arrived at Shufersol Deal in Yachin Center, along with a few other early birds, several minutes before the store opened. As we milled about outside the store waiting for opening, a siren began to wail. Being unfamiliar with the area, we didn’t know where another shelter was so we began banging on the door and calling (in Hebrew) “There is a siren! Open the door and let us in!” but the people inside only watched us. I realized that I was the calmest of everyone there. The man with a baby was franticly banging and yelling, which made more sense to me, but everyone else seemed more panicky than I believed necessary. That was when I felt super Israeli- to stay calm while being denied shelter during a siren and after the booms. To continue living our lives. Being outside during a siren and hearing the booms, knowing that these people would not allow us shelter, was truly terrifying. But life goes on. The siren ended after 90 seconds, we heard several booms, and a few moments later the store opened its doors. We breathed a sigh of relief, took a moment to yell at the store workers for not opening the door, and then went about our shopping.

When I got home it occurred to me how potentially dangerous that whole thing could have been. I called the Petach Tikva City (Iriya) and the man who answered basically laughed at me. He told me that there was no siren where we were, we were hearing a neighboring siren and were not in any real danger. He also informed me that if the store wouldn’t let us in we should have looked for a different place to take shelter and we should check online (in the 90 seconds we had) where there was another place of refuge nearby. At first I felt like an idiot, but then I realized that I was not the only one there. It wasn’t just me, the stupid American Immigrant, who ran for safety at the sound of the siren. It was the Israelis as well. It was the Israeli woman next to me who was screaming, not me. And now that I am fully integrated, I will do the proper Israeli thing and report this incident to every possible outlet in the hopes that something will be done to prevent something like this ever happening again.

Stay safe, everyone. We should only hear good news.

I’ve never watched HBO’s True Blood, but after hearing a bit of buzz and reading this article, I watched this clip to see what the fuss was about that made the author so upset.

Marjorie Ingall wrote that she was disappointed with the show because the first reference to something Jewish, after having ignored Jews for four seasons, is a character chanting in what she refers to as “bastardized Hebrew” during a blood-letting/consuming ritual. She makes the case that the show is comparing Jews to vampires in several subtle ways, which is inappropriate given the Jewish history with blood libels.

While I think that most of the comparison is grasping at straws, the part of her argument that is weakest and actually even made me a bit upset is that the ritual is not chanted in Hebrew at all. While watching the clip, I quickly recognized the language of the chant as Aramaic. How embarrassing for Ingall. Perhaps next time she should do some research before crying “wolf” in her witch-hunt for anti-Semites.

Ingall’s little faux pas got me thinking about how Jews are represented in the TV shows I’ve been watching lately. It’s not clear to me why she was so bothered by a lack of Jewish representation in a show about vampires (especially when she got upset at the first reference because it’s insensitive to the blood libels to connect Jews to vampires). Many television shows include a token Jewish character. Often these characters are represented with some sort of (usually) inoffensive stereotypes, and nobody really feels the need to get insulted and point out the anti-Semitism of portraying a Jew as a successful doctor, lawyer, banker or physicist who still lives with his overbearing mother. Although I usually find humor in the stereotypical television Jew, I do not find a show to be lacking if it leaves out the Jewish guy.

In the past weeks, I’ve enjoyed all three seasons of The Good Wife (which I recommend, if you’re looking for a new show). One of the characters, Eli Gold, is a good Jew. When Eli was first introduced in the show, I admit that I was expecting him to be portrayed as rather sleazy. Like Ingall, I have a tendency to assume that when Jews are stereotyped on TV it’s going to be full of negativity and make us all look bad. But it turns out that not only does the show represent Eli as an upstanding, honest character with a tendency to lean towards the moral and correct path, they also include several references to the Middle-East conflict. The first time Israel was mentioned my heart almost skipped a beat. I was entirely certain that they would make Israel out be the bad guys. Much to my surprise, the writers managed to stay impressively neutral and portray both sides in what seemed to me a fairly unbiased perspective. The part of this that I found to be most incredible was the way that Eli’s character interacted with a leader of the Muslim community. When the characters initially meet, the Muslim asks Eli, a crisis manager, to help fix the Palestinian image following a protest in which things went awry. Eli responds, “You know I’m Jewish, right?” The two go on to work together, and in the end we see that Jews and Muslims can, in fact, overcome differences and get along. There is even another example of that in the same episode, but I do not want to spoil it for you, as it’s a great show and you should watch it.

But I digress. My point is that sometimes Jews are represented in television in a negative light, other times quite positively and occasionally not at all. There is no need to dig deep into the roots of the writers’ psyches to find some way of making them terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad anti-Semites. It’s a show about vampires, for goodness sake! It’s not necessary to play the victim and write a three-page article condemning the show for it’s use of Aramaic.

In case you are not familiar with these advertisements that were aired in certain American communities by Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, I suggest you take a look.

These clips are fairly harsh, a bit exaggerated and certainly leave one thinking.
Of course any country with so many citizens abroad would want to campaign to bring their citizens home. I think the idea of advertising to Israelis in North America to return home is a good one. It shows that the government cares and wants them home. Israel wants back it’s inventors, industrialists and citizens in general. It makes sense to me, although I do not completely agree with the sentiments of the ads.

Having been fortunate enough to grow up in a terrorism-free environment, I am grateful that I do not fully relate to what Israelis go through every year on Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Remembrance Day). There are cultural differences between Americans and Israelis, so yes, there will be a barrier to overcome between an Israeli and American in a relationship- be it in Israel or anywhere else in the world.

As an American with a very strong Jewish identity, I find it problematic to blame America instead of the parents for a child not knowing it’s Chanukah. While assimilation is an issue not to be overlooked, that little girl’s parents could have easily taught her about Jewish culture and holidays. The American culture cannot be blamed for that- that girl wouldn’t have known about Chanukah (aside from sufganiyot and dreidles) even had her parents raised her in Israel.

What interested me about these short clips were the discussions they inspired. They really got a dialogue going, although probably not the one the Israeli government was hoping for. The Jewish Federations of North America were insulted by the ads, and the Anti-Defamation League found them to be demeaning. PM Netanyahu, who apparently had nothing to do with this, had the ads pulled following such negative responses. I’m curious what you all think about the campaign and the various reactions to it.

If you just watch the videos and don’t really think about their implications too much (as we are meant to do with television advertisements) I’m not sure they are really as terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad as Jeffrey Goldberg made them out to be in this piece, published in The Atlantic on November 30. Makom published an interesting analysis last week on the ads and Mr. Goldberg’s take on them, which I enjoyed and recommend.

According to my understanding, the adverts are meant to resonate with Israelis, showing extreme and exaggerated portrayals of what might happen if they do not return to their homeland. I understand that assimilation is a sensitive topic, which is why it may have struck a nerve and insulted or offended Americans, but that is just another one of the many cultural difference that separates Americans and Israelis.

“The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption’s campaign clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities, and we regret any offense it caused,” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, said in a statement. “The campaign, which aimed to encourage Israelis living abroad to return home, was a laudable one, and it was not meant to cause insult…”

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