By A. Daniel Roth
This was originally published at allthesedays.org
With images on Israeli screens of wedding guests and Palestinian teens, wielding knives and eyes aiming to kill, I walk through Jaffa and South Tel Aviv with my hood on and headphones in, listening to the history of debt – a book on tape – and passersby pass by me, and look scared of me, without a full view of my face. Some of them must think I’m a monster willing to do anything, and some of them must guess that I’m on their side.
It’s unclear if I’ve ever been viewed this way before. There is terror in those eyes and nearly everyone feels it. Terror at the sight of a human being is a learned response. Images, experience and text books teach them that fear is the root of hate and the plant that grows is mandatory at celebrations of their pain and lamentations of our own.
People together in New York City. Photo by A. Daniel Roth
For months I’ve felt silent, in the face of this violence; not because I don’t have words to express my grief or anger or vision, but because I so often feel that I’ve said it before online, on TV and to your face. And there is a certain allure to being on TV, saying what you need to say and smiling – even when no one is watching.
From afar it seems that this place is broken and these people are all cut up and bloodied by the shards left after the fall, and it seems odd at first to sit in a theatre in a suburban lot of Israel and watch the Force awaken and hungry games of revolution. “How can they not see the irony in rooting for the heroes?” we ask as we walk out of a theatre millions of miles away, built on a different kind of destruction.
On an airplane, the light weight feeling that a child has during that ascent gives way to the heavy heat in the heart of an adult, unsure of why or how we are more aware of the dangers at hand. The view from the window above Toronto looks like a photo of an open expanse that has no green lines and is not occupied in the active legal sense – the opposite of where we’re going, but it is dotted with death nonetheless.
Dreams of building something beautiful as a collective culture, doing nothing to neighbours that one might find hateful to one’s self, stand in stark contrast to the nationalism and militarism and state-ism and jingoism and storytelling-ism. Here and there the argument is exclusively about survival and ironically it has only become bitterer as the sounds of broken silence are an invitation to a darkness that some wrap themselves in; cackling and violent, unable to see who their neighbors are, willing to bloody everyone they see below.
For so many, so far away, this place and these people are caricatures and characters in a story with terrible dialogue, but outstanding set design. So-called Zionists and Anti-Zionists wax on and wax off drawing lines that don’t exist on maps that are too old, wondering who is pro and who is anti, forgetting that these places and these people are brothers and mothers, complex relationships, desires for self-determination, and clear and present occupation.
A king on his death bed writes a letter to his constituents apologizing for imbalanced rule, corruption, violence, repression, potholes, and improper use of optimism during the worst of times. At the end of his reign he suggests that truth must be told, no matter how dark, in order to reconcile with the light – and then it all goes dark for the king as daylight kicks in the door, breaking the silence of those trying not to listen too closely to the lesson at hand.