Flights of Faith

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Toy Soldiers

“There is no Israeli society.”

Dolores frustrated, released the words with a sigh.
It hurt her to say that, especially in front of an American.
Our topic. Violence.
At the NACOEJ office talking with its administration, I had wondered aloud if some of the fighting I saw at the camp in Ramla was allowed (and sometimes encouraged) because, well, they’ll be soldiers in six years. Most likely to be positioned on the front lines of a conflict we could only guess from this point in time.

At the camp, Ethiopian boys would regularly pummel each other usually extending vendettas the whole day throughout any and every activity. Cooking, food zoomed across the room. Crafts, beads became mini-grenades. Art? Watch out for the scissors. Sometimes, the teacher would order the kids to stop. That usually only happened when a girl was involved. The rest of the time fists flew, legs rammed, bodies collided. I could only count on peace when the guys were playing, what else, Grand Theft Auto. Pupils dilated, the screen became their obsession. Cruising in their vehicles and killing civilians, life seemed to be good for these twelve year olds.

After detailing my experiences with violence at the camp, Dolores and Gretchen exchanged worried looks.

As my finger tried to find the pulse of Israel, Dolores and Gretchen were trying to put their best vein forward. Most of my conversations with Israelis follow a similar path.

Staring at Dolores, I resolved to press the topic. Striking out from a painfully long silence, Dolores blurted out her response. “It’s complicated. Look, we have a mixture of all different cultures bringing their social norms to the table and the collective Israel is not enforcing any standards.” Gretchen nodded politely, then interjected trying to form a 1-2 punch.

“Well, some parents know life as an Israeli will be tough. Because of this, parents don’t punish them for misbehaving and spoil them instead.” Dolores, unimpressed, gave off a scowl. Trying to rescue her initial effort, she began to rattle off stories about gendered violence in Ethiopia. Once finished with that detour, she mentioned the different groups of Israelis that form the country again.

Then after looking at each other, Gretchen and Dolores turned to me with matching smiles.

The presentation was complete.
The defense rests.


Blogger ma-keu said...

Ohhh, I liked this post.

I really wish I could ask these kind of questions to the women I work with, but I guess I just don't feel like it's worth it to make them relive those ordeals. Plus, I wouldn't be able to make out most of it anyway.

Also, now I kind of want to confront the old ladies who stare at me whenever I walk with a Korean girl.

10:48 PM  

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