Flights of Faith

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday’s Frequently Asked Questions: The Basics

How are you? Are you safe? Umm…why haven’t you left?

Hey, I’m good. I’m safe in Jerusalem (for now). I haven’t left because I still have research to do here. I also think I have a pretty good pulse on what could happen in my area and my potential responses. That said, I know all the flight times for next week and am trying to push up my interviews because my family really wants me to come back home.

Is it scary where you are? Dangerous?

I was asked this question before the war and my response was completely different. Obviously, violence is more of a reality now then when I first arrived in June. The Middle East rule, sadly, is not if but when. This Spring, I was in Tiberias, Haifa, Galilee, and the Golan Heights. All places that have been bombed in the past two weeks. Jerusalem has not been attacked since the second infitada (“shaking off” in Arabic) died down around 2002. But as I mentioned in ‘Questions of Consequence,' an attempt was foiled last week. Still, I knew all of this could happen when I clicked to book my ticket. I weighed all of these risks and deemed them worthy. I still stand by that decision as this experience has been amazing and invaluable since my first week here.

Wait. So, what are you doing that’s so important to make you stay in that environment?

It’s not so much “importance.” I just want to finish this project and would feel like the summer was incomplete if I didn’t. (I know, I know. Incomplete summer vs. incomplete life.) I have a lot of different projects I’m working on right now, but the one making me stay is my research on Ethiopian immigrants to Israel. The last stage of my research is individual interviews with Ethiopian Jewry using a mix of life history interview tactics and ethnography. These interviews would give me a great bank of information to analyze this fall. I am also considering interviewing some other groups as well.

Ethiopians in Israel?

Yes. In the late 80s and 90s, operations to airlift Ethiopian Jewry out of Ethiopia took place with assistance from America and Sudan. As of 2006, most of them are in Israel and the rest are scheduled to come although the government has been very fuzzy with the details. Their arrival is seen as controversial because they worship differently and have to undergo a conversion course after arriving. In addition, their history includes accepting Christianity, for a time, against their will. This makes the status of “Jew” even harder to be achieved. What they do to become “fully Jewish” is a critical part of my research and will most likely be blogged later.

Can you give me a rundown of who is in the Holy Land?

Sure. European (Ashkenazi) Jews. Sephardic Jews (descending from 15th cent. Spanish rule then the Ottoman era; most Americans would confuse them with Palestinians), Euro/Sephardic Jews (largest Jewish ethnic population), Russian Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Arab Jews (unfortunately, no one talks about this group. They are Jews from surrounding Arab countries) Persian Jews (from Iran), Palestinians (Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem; 1-2% Christian; the rest, Muslim), Israeli-Arabs (these are Arabs that live inside the State of Israel, usually Muslim, not always identifying themselves as Palestinians), Black Hebrews (African-Americans who claim to be a lost tribe; reside near Be’er Sheva) Christians running holy sites/ministries (not given Israeli citizenship), B’hai followers, and the Israeli Druze (a sect of Islam). Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians, and the Lebanese border the region.

How do I make a comment?

Press the pencil button on the bottom right. You do not have to be a blogspot member to comment. Post questions there for the next F’s FAQ or just ask me by the usual means. Have a great weekend.


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