Posts tagged ‘Tel Aviv’

May 21, 2012

Even Nazis have mamas.

Ich bin kein Nazi, Riko kept repeating. I am not a Nazi. But his tattoos showed otherwise and above all, when he asked me, a dog-park conversation, where I’m from and I said, Tel Aviv and he didn’t know anything about Tel Aviv, so I said Israel and then he hugged me and said – ein mensch ist ein mensch – a man is a man, a sure thing for showing you’re racist. and I laughed out loud and said – obwohl ich Juden bin, ah? – even though I’m Jewish, and he said no, no I am not a Nazi.

It’s been a long time since the German railway reminded me of Concentration Camps and water was preferably served without gas. The train is now more of a romantic adventure, picturing myself traveling with a weekend suitcase and a round hat case, being served Alpen mineral water. I’ve been back in Israel for four long years, experiencing the Middle Eastern jungle. Adding to that some history studies made me look at the world in a different, less naive way, eventually leaving me no other choice by to cancel the newspaper subscription, piling up on my table, not wanting to read more news, more realities of rape, murder, corruption and general unfairness. And above all – blindness to the pain of other animals, non-human animals.  I realized more than ever that people are just monsters, no matter where they are or where they come from. It is my proof to Nilse and to myself that I am not a racist – for me all people deserve the same amount of contempt and dislike. Sure, some might be more inclined towards violence, or killing, some may be more corrupt, but at the end of the day, people are selfish, cruel animals, not deserving protection, not deserving fighting for.

On his arm, just where my grandma had been marked with a number, Riko has a Swastika. Old and sun-faded, but it’s there. And I asked what does it mean for him and Riko said Adolf Hitler and saluted to the dead Führer. And I said na ja, well I don’t like it. And he said, yeah I know, I was 14, it was against the DDR, these were hard times, you know. And I said, trozdem and asked what it means for him. He said, it means I am German. I asked, against others and he said no, not against others, people say ich bin ein Nazi Schwein, I am a Nazi pig, but I’m not. And I said Adolf Hitler murdered my family and he said yeah, Adolf Hitler was dumb, that’s why. Just dumb. And I laughed and felt sorry for that man, drunk already so early in the evening, so used up. Speaks not a word of English for the Russians toughed them all Russian. And Riko went down on his knees and took my hands in his and he had long, skinny fingers and repeated, ich bin kein Nazi. I will remove the tattoo. Versprochen. Promise. Then his phone rang and he answered hallo mama and told me she’s sick. He sounded worried and caring and I thought, even Nazis have mamas.

And he said his family were all in the SS and I thought, my family was murdered by the SS. And he said his Father sent Juden to Russia, to Stalingrad and I said it wasn’t to Russia it was to death. And he said the soldiers didn’t know, don’t blame the soldiers, the soldiers are not responsible, they did what they were told and I thought, what a cliché, and I said soldiers took my family to the forest and shot them. He said nothing.

He said no one knew what was happening. I said everyone knew and had to think of different kinds of trains and trucks, today, at this very moment, carrying different kinds of animals, to death and people, they say, we didn’t know, it’s not like that. But everyone knows. It’s easier to not believe.

And I went home to my German Nilse and locked the door, a double lock, and felt nauseated, weak. Felt afraid. As if these monsters I saw in films or read about in books, became three dimensional. Alive. That damn Swastika has so much power. Is it the movies or my family’s history that give me fear? Does the Swastika have extra strength because humans gave it more power through art and stories? So many times I have heard Israelis send each other to be burnt or gassed, sent me, a damn lefty Askenazi, Hitler should have finished the job. Is it less frightening because Israelis wouldn’t actually get up and do it, because they are not so motivated, don’t have the organizational skills that Nazis had? Just too lazy, perhaps. That’s our luck, my Mother always says about the Arabs who surround Israel and don’t necessarily like this Jewish state. That’s our luck, that they are not so.. well, efficient. I’ve seen many neo Nazis in Berlin, while living there years ago, but never really conversed with one. Not knowingly, that is. Riko asked me to marry him five or six times during that talk and said that in Merseurg you don’t meet such people like me, so eine schoene Frau, and that made me think that with all our complexities, we are such simple beings. And remember what my sister always says – that a dick is still a dick. Racist, Nazi, Xenophobic – a hard-on is still a hard-on.

July 16, 2009

– Of Blindness and Hypocrisy.

Our minds are over saturated with “global warming” warnings and promises. Many websites offer “green tips” in an attempt to help save “our” miserable planet. These user friendly tips are usually the kind you can and should do in your everyday life, such as switching off the light when not in use, etc. Not many sites, however, tell people to stop eating animals as the single, most efficient way to stop polluting. Greenpeace are a superb example of hypocrisy, not caring to mention “don’t eat animals” in their “what to do” section. When a search is placed for “meat“, it’s all pretty much about whales. Interestingly enough, the word “beef” brings out quite a few articles on the subject.

One article, talks about the damages of farming, in general, as the main polluter, omitting the fact that most grains produced are used to feed animals, so people can then eat these animals:

“It is not only these direct effects that contribute to climate change. Cutting down forests and other natural cover to make way for agricultural land for grazing, growing animal feed and other crops, removes vital carbon sinks so increasing global warming.”

The article states that “(…)The second biggest direct emitter is animals. Cattle and sheep in particular, produce large amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane when digesting; levels are increasing as a result of the growing demand for meat.”

Cattle“?

Cattle:

1: domesticated quadrupeds held as property or raised for use.

The word “beef” in used to describe cows as a product, as the apple dictionary defines it:

beef |bēf|
noun
1 the flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food.
beef 1
• ( pl. beeves |bēvz|) Farming a cow, bull, or ox fattened for its meat.

Dictionary.com has really outdone the apple one:

1: the flesh of an adult domestic bovine (as a steer or cow) used as food2 a: an ox, cow, or bull in a full-grown or nearly full-grown state ; especially : a steer or cow fattened for food <quality Texas beeves> <a herd of good beef>

“Cattle” = “beef” –> cows –> animals. Aren’t animals a part of the planet that the fellows in Greenpeace work so hard to protect? I would be the first to say that cows should not exist at all. But they are here, and they are here because of us.

I have seen this sort of phrasing around the media, implying that, seriously, it’s the animals’ fault, and using the words “beef” and “cattle”, allows people to forget that these are live beings who, by their nature, omit methane. Under the “what can be done” section, it is written that:

“By reducing the use of fertilisers*, protecting soil and biodiversity, improving rice production and cutting demand for meat, especially in developed countries, the devastating effects of agriculture on the climate can be reversed. (…) Reduction of methane produced by rice, one of the world’s staple foods, is vital. It can be achieved by using less water and fertiliser* without sacrificing yield. And slash demand for meat.”

* The spelling here is from the original, Greenpeace article.

The sentence “By cutting demand for meat” does not imply, in any way, that the good readers of Greenpeace should now, right now, stop consuming animals. This article does not call people to reduce, or to stop eating animals. All is written in a very careful, indirect way. ‘We’re only mentioning this, not suggesting. Yeah, a “slash demand for meat” would do some good, too. FYI’.

A search for the word “cow” on the Greenpeace site, shows much anger over GE soy beans that are grown “as animal feed” and are “sneaking in” to the “regular crops”. Treating the syndrome, instead of the problem, as usual. The first search results, btw, are about “sea cows”.

Vegan sites offer much information on the relation between raising animals for food and global warming. So there was a general feeling in my mind that most people are aware of these facts and are just too stubborn in their habits to discontinue this madness, but a facebook message I got a couple of days ago reminded me that it is not so. The person wrote that he has “taken a look” at my blog and that his own personal site might interest me. The site, in Hebrew, is filled with ‘green goodies‘, suggesting canvas bags, instead of these evil plastic ones, creating art from old materials etc. etc. you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong – cleaning with vinegar is one of my favorites, but even if I’d commit myself to each and every tip on their website, it wouldn’t even begin to have the affect that simply not eating meat would. And you know what? forgetting my “organic market” basket at home and carrying everything in my overflowing bag is much more annoying than just not eating animals. Not eating meat is easy and passive. Recycling is much harder.

Another point that got on my nerves was the following sentence (translated here from Hebrew): “Every housewife will tell you…” hmmm, how 50’s.

I wrote back, suggesting he would take a better look at my articles, that his site is missing the most important information and I even sent him a few links. I haven’t heard back from him yet.

The employees of Greenpeace, who stand in the street asking for signatures or money or who knows what, are appalled when I ask them if they are vegetarian. They don’t make the connection.

It makes me wonder why must these facts stay so confidential.”With the world on the brink of runaway climate change,” they write, “millions are anxious about the effects that a warmer globe will have on our everyday lives.”

Here are the ‘Take Action’ ideas posted on the Greenpeace site:
+Become a Cyberactivist

+ Be Part of the Solar Generation

+ Volunteer in your country

+ Save energy and save the climate

+ Donate to Greenpeace

If someone would be kind enough as to send me a link to a section in the Greenpeace site, offering real information about how we can help save our planet, I’d be most delighted to post it here. I just don’t think it needs to be so hard to find.


animals, not food.

animals, not food.

 

December 21, 2008

– Of how horses and donkeys in the city fall through the cracks –

Working for an animal rights organization in Tel Aviv, I organized an event for horses and donkeys, to try and ban a primitive practice of using them to pull carts to transport Altesachen. in Yiddish, ‘Altesachen’ means ‘Old Stuff’, and though most don’t know what this word means, for Yiddish is not usually heard on Tel-Avivian streets, it is to this day yelled by the owner of these miserable creatures, calling people to give him their ‘old stuff’.

For some people (too many), the use of horses in the city for cart pulling is something nostalgic and romantic. While for the “hard core” animal rights activists the subject is almost meaningless when is compared to the suffering of billions which are used in the food industry. People do not identify with donkeys and horses like they do with dogs and the subject is not a media attractor like fur is. People regard it as a luxury for us to deal with this, like a German woman visiting Israel, who asked if Israelis have “nothing better to do than to worry about a couple of horses and donkeys in the city” or as one of the club owners who hosted us for the event noted, he’s having a “real hard time with it”, since it’s “just not sexy”. And that is how sometimes, these animals fall through the cracks.

It is important to understand that in suffering we are all equal, that animals suffer just as we suffer (even though it’s hard to understand why people insist on having to identify with another living being only to relate to his or her suffering), that we all share the same basic rights.

It is true, that in numbers, the horses’ situation in Tel Aviv is a small, insignificant percentage, in comparison to the number of people who starve around the world or animals used in laboratories, but still – we each have to work to reduce the pain and the suffering around us. No matter how small the numbers may be, the pain is the same, and we all must fight to stop it. Whether it’s by calling the municipality or writing letters about a horse we see on our street, or if it’s in the choices we make when we buy groceries. Every single time we choose, we can make a difference.

To find out about the struggle to stop skinning animals for their fur, go here.

Written on the day before the longest Night of the year, 2008.

April 24, 2008

– Of Tuna-Free-Dolphins –

Looking through the paper this morning I came across a recommended dish at a Tel Aviv restaurant featuring veal. The header was “a healthy meal”. To produce this “healthy meal” a calf had to spend his short life in a small cage, in the darkness, without having enough space to even turn around so his precious meat will remain soft and white. Maybe I’ll start putting out ads for fake restaurants offering dishes with main ingredients such as baby seal’s cheeks, tuna-free-dolphins and roasted dog paws. In some countries these “dishes” wouldn’t cause much excitement. However in the western world, where the norm reigns, they can and probably will create quite a stir.

April 5, 2008

– Humans are not Humane.

A  beautiful person I know encouraged me to write. When I asked what about, the answer was: ‘You know, humanity and things like that. You should just write.’ I sat down to write, and realized that the term “humanity” is too positive of a term. It brings out associations from the word “humane”. Sadly enough, there’s not much “humane” about humans.

A better word to describe this human race of ours is simply: “people”. And in any case, it’s not humanity that concerns me so, but what it does to others.

There are number of questions, which are constantly on my mind: Why do people distinguish between wild animals they observe and photograph to those they hunt? Why do people use their religious beliefs to reaffirm themselves that using animals (whether it’s for food, sacrifice or any other form of murder) is indeed the word of god? And the question of the day is: why do people differentiate between “pets” to farm animals?

I would like to believe that the love for domesticated animals, as well as compassion for the farmed ones go hand in hand. Maybe it’s a good start: first learning that cats and dogs can feel pain, fear and love, and then relating these ‘attributes’ to other animals. Because isn’t this what it’s all about: people learning to empathize with animals, come to realize that they can also feel the same feelings that people can, and by that show some compassion?

The past week I have spent in Tel Aviv, which is where I was born, partially raised in, escaped from, returned to, left again, and now longing to come back to. Tel-Avivians are very helpful when it comes to cats and dogs. It is also true that vegetarianism and veganism is much more common in Israel than many other western countries (are we a “western” country? there’s another debate), definitely more than Berlin, which is where these words are being written in. However, Israel had and still has an acute strays situation and although there are barely any stray dogs to be seen roaming around Tel Aviv, there are many stray cats, feeding from trash bins, kittens dying from eye infections and very sadly: abuse. Still, I honestly can’t think of a single person or a family that does not have a dog, a cat or both living in their apartment.

My aunt is a perfect example. Living on a ground floor in a very nice area of Jerusalem she has been feeding, caring for and giving shelter to an endless amount of cats over the years. She has also started an organization for helping stray cats in Jerusalem; their main cause is to spay and neuter strays so they don’t reproduce. But meat she eats eagerly and wants nothing to do with my veganism talks.

A short stop by an animal shelter, somewhere in the middle of Scotland’s highlands, demonstrated to me, again, just how bizarre people are: The workers get dispatched and save animals that were neglected, lost or abused. They bring them in, take care of them and hopefully find them a good adoptive family. Only one girl from the team doesn’t eat animals. Sure, the job that these people are doing is not less than angelic, but again I lose connection to reality when faced with the question of why do people make that vicious distinction between different species? How can someone save animals 8 hours a day and then go home and have a steak dinner? Sadly, I know, that the question is how can one save humans all day, like a doctor and then go home and have a steak dinner. Why save one life and take another? But on the differentiation between humans and animals I will write later on. What is so illogical is still that ultimate question of saving one animal and killing another.

<First published on March 24th 2008>

 

 

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April 1, 2008

– Part I: From Dachau With Love: Tales of an Israeli girl in Berlin –

New Tradition:

G-

Ghetto, Gestapo, Gas, Goering, Goebbels, Galicia hmm… Germany?

One fine night, just before I was to fly to Munich and meet my German boyfriend, a selected group was sitting at a smoky bar: my trusted sister, some good friends and two Germans I met in Ramallah during a demonstration some two days earlier. According to the tradition we started playing our favorite game: The Holocaust-Alpha-Bet. The idea is to choose a letter and find as many Holocaust-related words starting with that letter. Urs and Hans, who were not yet familiar with the game, drank their Israeli beers politely and sent disturbed looks at one another. A few letters later, we found ourselves very disturbed when the two young Germans started to cooperate efficiently and even had an astounding array of associations which even we, so well trained, couldn’t come up with.

Admittedly, Holocaust-Alpha-Bet is a twisted invention. The intention of the game is not to mock the survivors or the Holocaust. The truth is that this darker than dark humor is a form of protection for us – the Third Generation. It’s a way for those of us who as children grew up immersed in tales we couldn’t ever really comprehend, to deal and cope with life, death and the Holocaust in particular.

And what makes one a ‘Third Generation’? My case is a simple one: My Mother was born in Poland, and immigrated to Israel in 56’. Her parents (who fled Poland just in time, but left family, friends and loved ones behind, later to come back and discover they were murdered) force-fed her mashed potatoes and gefilte fish in order to be strong so she’d be able to escape the Nazis. One time she managed to visit Bochum for a work related trip. She spent her time at an art exhibition in a Gasometer. That was quite enough for her and she decided never to return. My Grandmother on my Father’s side had survived many camps and was not shy about showing her numbered arm. I am not sure if my fixation is really because of my family’s personal past or my attraction to all things morbid. But maybe it will help explain why going to Germany in the first place was a difficult task to take on.

So there I was, after a wild night, in which we went through most letters (and didn’t neglect a single holocaust joke, as well as talk about the Israeli occupation, which, as usual, got nowhere), I finally felt myself able to separate between Nazi Germany and Germany of the third millennium and that I was truly prepared to visit the cold land of monuments, where rusty railways send shivers down my spine; that the protective wall in my heart was fully built. But arriving in Munich, I chose to sit silently in the basement (where my boyfriend and I stayed at his parents’ house), and to read ‘The Seventh Million – Jews after the Holocaust’ a book by the Israeli writer and journalist Tom Segev. As I read through adventures from Auschwitz, I realized just how I was trapped in feelings of hate for a whole nation: in their straight and punctual way, so successful, cold & harsh; Hate for that sexy language that attracts me so and yet makes me quiver. For that beautiful, clean countryside, and that tasty beer which felt sour in my Jewish mouth, which sought revenge.

Hiding in the cold basement, alone, I couldn’t even find comfort in my boyfriend: a German version of Nilse Olgerson, who didn’t imagine for a minute that our retreat would become a Holocaust debate-room, and most certainly did no find it amusing when I announced dramatically that I am on my way to the shower and look forward to making it out alive. We had long and exhausting holocaust conversations, especially together with his father (who speaks no English) who said he does feel somehow guilty, although he knows it’s really without a just cause. A few wine glasses later, while discussing the (then new) Berlin monument, he was outraged that the monument was making the Germans feel guilty, and said it was enough already with the holocaust memorabilia. Nilse argued that it is very important to remind people of their history, and the two of them quarreled until morning.

Behind enemy lines, listening to two Germans debating in, well, German, about this most tender of subjects, and what felt for some reason so personal, like it’s my own private pain and how could they discuss it so callously, my already fragile spirit broke completely and Munich seemed colder and meaner than any other European city I ever visited before. Nilse, miserably trying to salvage things took me around green Bavaria, where the flowers bloomed and painted the fields with color on that perfect spring day… But all that pastoral ambiance depressed me even more and reminded me of my small country back home, which we were driven off to so many years ago. I felt that it wasn’t fair for the Germans to have all this beauty. Later he took me to his former elementary school, with its well-groomed gardens, manicured grass, sparkling clean classrooms and Jesus firmly nailed into a wall. And as I stood and listened to that stillness, a stillness that could never be found back Home, I knew this was no place for a Tel-Aviv girl like myself. Even when my sweet gentleman dragged me to the magical Neuschwanstein, my sarcastic tongue lashed out at him mercilessly.

Entangled In Denial:

When we met, two years ago, Nilse and I would walk around Berlin and have long conversations about the world. He then asked me if I had already visited the Jewish museum or gone to see one monument or another. I simply answered, in simulated nonchalance, that these things don’t interest me at all. He just stared at me with his blue eyes and kept his polite silence. He did not (and could not) realize that my way of dealing with things was to deny them. That I was feeling especially uncomfortable discussing it with him. Only while visiting Israel he realized how entangled I am with the Holocaust, which is a part of me, of the family, of the Israeli world.

When I first came to Germany I wished to ignore “that part” of the country’s history, to rise above it and certainly not to discuss it with the locals. To try not to make them feel as if I am reminding them of their history which they would rather forget, not to make them think that I am judging them, or even worse: blaming. But denial can’t work in Berlin. Everything pressed the Jewish-Past-Button: Taking the train-line, final destination: Wansee or Oraniunburger, or even getting on a train. Some of those old stations, with the old German font, someone yelling ‘Raus’, or of course – ‘Achtung’.

And even while indulging myself on a visit to the KADEWE: leaving the place cheery and delighted, holding on to my recent purchases, almost forgetting to remember. As I was making my way to the U-Bahn in the wicked cold of May, I lifted my eyes off the sidewalk just like some foolish tourist. And there it was: a monstrous sign reminding me – a betrayer to my grandparents, and the whole Jewish nation, walking in the street of the Diaspora, purchasing from these Goys, and worst of all, enjoying myself (!) – never to forget those who were taken to the concentration camps. Indeed, Berlin is a strict teacher who will not allow me to simply ignore my history lesson.


Nilse in Palestine:

Nilse is 30. He told me how he always wanted to visit Israel.The first time he actually visited Israel was March 2006.

‘But why did you want to visit Israel,’ I tested him, ‘because of the German history?’

‘Because of the connection between Germany’s past and the situation in the Middle East today.’ he answered bluntly.

On his first day in the divided city of Jerusalem he insisted on going to Yad-Vashem (the Israeli holocaust museum), while I decided to take advantage of the time to walk around the beautiful German colony.

I remember being mad with him. I wanted him to feel guilty, to take some of the pain which I have. He came back and didn’t say much for a while. Finally he concluded that the Yad-Vashem experience was so overwhelming it has left him stunned.

The cynical jokes and the perverse associations, which simple words bring up, surprised and shocked him. On his last day of his first visit, while standing on the bus line, we overheard a young guy saying something like: ‘Oh man, it’s just like Treblinka here’. Nilse did not understand the Hebrew, but after two intensive weeks with me and after long conversations with my mother (who feels much more anger and has better Holocaust anecdotes), understood perfectly well the connection of the packed line of people along with the word ‘Treblinka’, and sighed wearily.

During the two years we’ve known each other, my German man has withstood much Jewish sarcasm and plain mean observations. A couple of months ago I was truly determined to try and put an end to my bad manners, seeing as I was really creating an unpleasant atmosphere. But sometimes I just find myself in the most irresistible situations, like the time he asked me what to bring for my mother from Germany and I instantly replied: ‘Her family back’. He ignored this fine comment and I had turned from a victim to a victimizer.

So though there is such an immense gap between the past and the present and us Third Generation Germans and Jews (and especially Israelis), could a relationship between us work? A different German would probably not endure or put up with my behavior.

The truth is that our characters and genetic codes do play a primary role: Those who live in the shadow of the past and those who don’t. Although the DNA argument is not particularly a healthy one in a place where people were murdered over it, I can’t help but to examine my own gene pool: My mother, who will not visit me in Berlin and my sister, who does not carry this Judenschmerz on her shoulders: ‘When I was in Japan,’ she conveys to me in hope to put a stop to my suffering, ‘I met this hot German guy, who immediately began to apologize once I told him I’m Israeli. He asked if I could ever forgive him… I just stared at his lips – moving in such sexy perfection – and at his strong, tattooed arms; but he continued! Just Holocaust talks until I finally said “it’s not really a turn-on for me, so you better stop it!” your German man,’ she continued, ‘is interested politically and historically while you just like to torture yourself.’

Is that the genuine reason I chose to conspire with him? Or is it the other way around: even though he is German I still chose to be with him? And how can a future be build with someone who’s not quite sure where his grandfather was in 39’? Why do I have such a strong attraction to this culture and language, this stubbornness to study in order to read books and poetry, to understand films and music? And Berlin, am I in love with this incredible city because of its past or is it its promising future?

As I walk down the broad streets of Berlin, in an attempt to feel a bit at home maybe, I am haunted by Fania Oz-Zelzberger’s lines from her book ‘Israelis, Berlin’: ‘The riddle, in my mind,’ she writes, ‘is the ability to be an Israeli in Berlin without always hearing, at each and every moment, the joint cry of hundreds of mothers at the Flossenbürg concentration camp, who just realized the children transport is leaving for Auschwitz; Without hearing, past all the sounds of Berlin, the silence around the dead baby at the Majdanek station.

Zelzberger’s words do not only haunt me, they reproach me. And to me there is no riddle: I can’t. But maybe by studying others, as well as myself, and by trying to actually live here, I will find a way to juggle between the two worlds. Never to forget the past but perhaps to see a brighter future.

First written Spring 2006, partly in Hebrew and then translated and sewn together, piece by piece.

-Ikey Green