Another Blog on Israel?


 Another Blog on Israel?

Prof. Sam Lehman-Wilzig

Schusterman Visiting Israeli Scholar, Brown University

Let’s start this first post on my blog with a well-worn Israeli joke.
 A man dies and goes to the Pearly Gates. The angel at the gate does what has been done from time immemorial: weigh the sins and the good deeds. This time, though, the outcome causes consternation – for the first time ever the two are exactly equal! So the angel asks God what is to be done, and receives the Almighty’s response: “show him Heaven and Hell and then let him decide”.
 The deceased is taken to Heaven where he sees an incredibly long table with old men gesticulating and arguing vociferously while learning from the holy books; the table has a few plates of dried, crusty bread and cups of water. “OK, so what does Hell look like?” he asks the angel. Immediately the man finds himself in a cavernous hall with wine dripping from the ceiling into gold carafes, nubile men and women gamboling about, and in general a merry time being had by all. The recently deceased man doesn’t hesitate: “I prefer Hell”.
 Within seconds he finds himself in a large cauldron of scalding water, with cackling, horn-headed creatures sticking pitchforks into his side. “Hey, what’s going on here!” he exclaims in pain. “This isn’t at all what I saw beforehand!!”
 To which a booming voice emanating from Heaven, intoned: “Ah, but then you were a   t o u r i s t…”
I imagine that many of the readers of this blog have visited Israel at one time or another – or plan to in the future. Others (or the same ones) follow Israel in the news – the usual stuff: a suicide bomber here, another election campaign there. Whether in person or as news consumers you are still “tourists”, a species of onlooker who sees the superficial aspects of a country’s life but finds it hard to get into the “kishkes” (Yiddish for innards) of the observed country. That’s what this blog is intended to do – also the answer to the question constituting the title (above) of this first post.
 Yes, I know that I misspelled “Israel” in the blog’s generic name. Which is precisely the point. The “reality” of Israel as seen by Americans is not the reality as lived by Israelis – just as the reverse is true as well (not to mention the fact that Israelis have a penchant for misspelling English words). Of course, I do not purport to know “the whole truth”; Israelis themselves are somewhat divided as to what constitutes “Israelity”, but at least they know that it is not Heaven or Hell!
So stay tuned as I try to “explicate” various aspects of Isreality, keeping in mind that there is no “right” or “wrong” way of doing things – just different strokes for different folks. Having spent half my life in the U.S. and half in Israel, I can vouch for that truism (for those morbidly curious about my past see the personal and academic profiles on this website). This blog will look at Israeli society, culture, politics, media – just about anything that is significant and/or interesting. And yes, you are more than welcome to post your comments here as well. For what would an Amerisrael blog be worth without some good old arguing?

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