9 Mar 2024

it’s a jungle in here

When I was still a PhD student, I thought that what we’re doing in the professional community — I was the, uh, the secretary of the Israeli Oriental Society back then — the Israeli Oriental Society has really nothing to do with the orient or with mizrahim, it has to do with the discipline of middle east studies in Israel — uhm, was established in 1949, just a year after the establishment of the state of Israel, uhm, and this is basically an academic society of scholars and professionals dealing with middle east and Islam. And I thought that — as the secretary of the society, I thought that we should talk to society, we should talk to Israeli society. We have a lot of information, a lot of knowledge about Islam, about the middle east, about whatever —

That the Israeli society doesn’t have.

That the Israeli society doesn’t have. And we’re the professionals, we should, you know, reach out to them. You know, academics operate in English, they write papers in English, they give talks in English. And — and they’re West-bound.

Yeah. And it’s also not very accessible to anyone who’s not an academic.

Right. Right.

But — can I just back-track. Why is it important for Israeli society to know about Arab culture, about the middle east, about Islam — I mean, there are people who are experts on this, but they do it to serve Israel’s security.

Not even from security reasons. Only just because you’re an Israeli, and half of your own Jewish citizens of Israel are of Arab origin, and their families are of Arab origin — some of us speak Arabic with our families, with grandparents, with Palestinians, we work with Palestinians, and we’re, again, in the middle east. So however you look at it, you have to know Arabic, and you have to know what’s going on in your neighborhood. And you cannot be isolated from your neighborhood.

It seems like Israel’s policy is to keep the society in an isolated state of mind, in an isolated psyche — not to feel like they’re part of this place but more to feel like they’re a branch of Europe, or the U.S.

Right. Right! A villa in the jungle, like Ehud Barak, the prime minister and former chief of staff, said.

From a conversation with Assaf David podcaster Yahav Erez has up this week (and which I learned about this morning via Yair Wallach on Bluesky). I’m looking forward to getting to know Erez’s show, Disillusioned, better.

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