Tikkun Magazine, September/October 2010
How to Have a Civil Conversation About Israel
by Josh Kornbluth
1. Give up.
2. Devote a large portion of your life to avoiding the subject.
3. Respond to a mid-life crisis by seeking comfort in tradition while at the same time avoiding the constraints of religious practice.
4. Watch Fiddler on the Roof and sigh at the memory of your grandmother playing "Sunrise, Sunset" on the record player while crying her eyes out about how your father ended up so rotten.
5. Consider going to temple.
7. Renew Golda biography from the library again. Promise yourself that you will read it.
8. Remember how the last time you tried talking about Israel was with your friend Peter, who started yelling and driving erratically while you sat in silence and pondered your own mortality.
9. Wonder how Peter has been doing these past fifteen years.
10. Re-renew Golda from the library.
11. At a social event, subtly broach the subject as follows: "So the [LOCAL SPORTS TEAM] sure aren't doing too well this year, huh?" When your interlocutor replies, "Tell me about it!" follow up with a casual, "And how about that situation with Israel?" From this point on, agree with everything your interlocutor says, occasionally inserting such phrases as "No, they never get it right, do they?" and "And so it has been for thousands of years!" End the conversation with a big embrace and the mutual promise that you will not rest until there is a just resolution to the Middle East conflict.
13. While working out on an elliptical trainer, psych yourself up to possibly disagree with someone about Israel. Become distracted by the thought that your beliefs seem to be elliptical as well -- initially bold ideas that inevitably get derailed by doubts and confusion and fear of being yelled at, until finally they trail off into nothingness ...
15. Seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly become seized with a terrible existential fear that this idea you never really took seriously -- this thing that you thought you could take or leave -- might actually vanish, be wiped away from the face of the earth.
16. Simultaneously be seized by a terror of this now-beloved thing being appropriated by those who would see you as "the Other."
17. Call Peter and arrange a meeting, specifying that it should not take place in a car.
18. Prepare for the meeting by doing deep-breathing exercises and visualizing agreement.
19. First ask Peter about the [LOCAL SPORTS TEAM] and strenuously agree with his assessment. Then inquire as to how Peter has been doing for the past fifteen years: work, family, etc. Finally, raise the subject of Israel.
20. Listen to Peter's lengthy response.
21. At an appropriate moment, interject, "But what about--" and then be cut off as Peter's voice rises in ever-increasing indignation. Later, interject, "But you have to admit that--" and then settle in for a long while, sipping water or coffee as needed.
22. Bid farewell to Peter with a curt handshake and without meeting his eyes, realizing you will probably never see him again.
23. Slouch homeward.
24. Pick up Golda biography; admire its heft. Put book aside and lie in bed, unable to sleep. Recall the time when you brought your prized Super 8 projector to your second-grade public-school classroom and showed your classmates a silent movie about Israel. Recall their delight at the footage of a man floating on his back in the Dead Sea with his coffee cup and saucer floating right there next to him. Think of how you felt -- a combination of pride and wonderment that such a place existed.
26. Wake up. Make coffee. Sit down at the breakfast table. Read articles and blog items and emails about Israel. Decide that from now on you are going to say exactly what you think, regardless of your insecurities and fears. Go stand in front of a mirror. Begin, and never move.
Josh Kornbluth is a monologuist who lives in Berkeley with his wife and son and their cornsnake, Snakey. His latest solo show is Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? You can follow his doings at JoshKornbluth.com.
Source Citation: Kornbluth, Josh. 2010. How to Have a Civil Conversation About Israel. Tikkun 25(5) 96