My Israel transition day

April 13, 2008 in Israel, It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (0)


You know that whole thing about six degrees of separation?
Well, here in Israel that’s more like .025 degrees.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I awoke this morning to a rather startling discovery. I had lost my voice.
But this wasn’t one of those raspy, Lauren Bacall-sounding vocal issues, this was a flat out, phone rang, I picked it up, tried to speak and nothing came out. Not even a squeak. This was most distressing because I was due to speak on a panel at The Marker COM.vention in a few hours time.
What does this have to do with degrees of separation?
On further thought it’s more like one degree of separation meets a strange game of telephone.
I called Brad Reddersen, the key point person for the TravelingGeek squad, to tell him of my dilemma and say that I’d be arriving at the conference a bit late as I wanted to try and salvage some voice for the panel.
He offered words of comfort, said I should call if I needed him to do anything, and that he’d see me later.
Thanks to a lengthy steam in the shower, buckets of hot tea with honey and a half pack of throat lozenges, I regained enough vocal capacity to head for the conference. And after a 20 minute taxi drive through the muggy morning I arrived.
That’s when it began.
Conference organizer Nathan Lipson greeted me at the door, his arms open for a hug and a deeply concerned look upon his face
“Cathy, I heard you’re sick? Are you okay? Can I do anything for you?
Smiling, I sidled up to him so as to avoid speaking too loudly and quietly whispered that I felt fine, just needed a bit of vocal rest, some more vocal hydration and I’d be ready to rock.
I headed for the conference cafe to hydrate, and had gone no more than 5-10 yards when I ran into Nimrod Kosklovski of PLYMedia.
He looked worried.
“Cathy, I heard you were sick. Are you okay?”
With a smile, I gestured that I’d merely lost my voice and was heading to get myself some tea. He smiled back. “Ah, a little too much singing at Kinnernet, eh? Well, let me know if I can get you anything.”
I continued my walk to the tea concession, and had made it about another 5 yards when I ran into French investor, Marc Goldberg.
He looked worried.
“I heard you were really sick, Cathy. Are you okay?”
Again, I smiled, pointed to my throat and started to whisper that I’d lost my voice. Marc immediately offered to go and fetch tea for me.
I declined his gracious offer and made my way the remaining few yards to the table. In the time it took to get there, get the hot water, pick the tea bag and sort out whether I wanted honey or lemon no less than a dozen additional people stopped and inquired as to my health, offered to help with fetching beverages or lozenges and most all of them teased me about the fact that I – of all people – was rendered nearly mute.
This cavalcade of concern continued throughout the morning.
The part of this I found amusing – besides the part about Chatty Cathy being semi-silenced – was the fact that I’d made one call. I’d spoken with one person. And he was largely unconnected to most of those who said something to me. But somehow this one call propagated like a veritable conversational kudzu vine.
While amusing, it’s actually not all that surprising. The truth is that this experience is a perfect example of the larger gestaldt that is Israel.
This is a country where it’s not unusual for entire towns and cities and even the whole nation to go into mourning when someone dies. Because, more likely than not, you are merely one degree separated from them.
It’s not just about its size, which is certainly a factor, it’s about something far deeper. Because let’s face it, there are places far smaller – cities like San Francisco for example – where people don’t even know their next door neighbors.
In Israel, for as much conflict and contradiction as you find, there are equal and in some cases even greater aspects of connectedness with the history and the land, but also between the people. There’s a sense of being in something together, almost a personal compact that living here is a team sport.
I do not mean to make light of the fact that there are serious chasms between cultural, religious and ethnic groups in this part of the world, but as with so many things the images and messages projected to the rest of the world lean heavily on all that is sensationalistic.
The truth is that, while there are unquestionable moments of drama and chaos, the day to day experience in Israel is a highly connected one.


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