Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Limmud

Ugly trouble in the Holy Land

I’ve started getting email invites to the Limmud Conference 2011. Last year I was “the alternative voice” and I presented a talk (to which 10 people came). I have not been invited to participate this year and it comes as no surprise. The bald reality is that my kind of thinking, while occasionally seen as necessary in order to prove the existence of the lunatic fringe, is not welcome or encouraged. And I cannot tell you how depressed this makes me.

I am not in a good way about South African Jewry at the moment. Two debates have made me shudder with revulsion, one of them being the hooha about UJ severing ties with Ben Gurion University. The response by South African Jews has been beyond any rational thought.

I am forced to acknowledge that while I believe in human rights, most Jews who support the Israeli government do not. I am forced to realise that the huge majority (probably 90%) of South African Jews have paranoid, anti-Muslim feeling. I am forced to understand that it is an absolute reality that most South African Jews are conservative, Apartheid-style apologists. And lastly, I am confronted with the horrifying reality that there are many of them and terribly few like me.

I think what gets me the most is the assumption by other South African Jews that I should share their opinions, narrow minded bigotry and self righteous excuses. What gets me is that there is the assumption that Jews should stick together and support the Israeli government (no different from the ideology that instructed all whites to support the Nats under Apartheid).

The saddest thing is, in contrast, that there are many, many Israelis, in Israel and abroad, who absolutely do not support the current government and its racist policies; who are vocal and active in their dissent, powerful in their arguments and dedicated to doing right. But here on the Southern tip of Africa, that pro-government, Zionistic, paranoid, aggressive, militant, anti Palestine/Arab/Muslim mentality is the most common and pervasive. And it freaks me out.

Sunday brain hangover

Last night the true reason I came to the Limmud conference revealed itself. And, like with everything else with me, it happened in the most unusual, left-of-field, charming way.

After a formal session, my last of the evening, which was pretty much a list of Jews in South African theatre, I had a two hour chat with a man who had done my improvisation workshop. And I found out all about his extraordinary life, and he asked me questions about mine. It was a brilliant, liberating, enlightening chat in which we revealed ourselves in a completely relaxed, unthreatening and interested way. Thank you Vivian.

I came back to the room I have been sharing and the children who had kept me up with their shrieking, banging, laughing and shouting the night before were at it again. I was at the point of being totally enraged and doing the mad woman fish wife, hysterical banshee thing, but something made me change my mind, and I knocked on the door and offered the first teenager I saw an ultimatum. I told them that they had to make a choice; either to shoosh and let us sleep, or I was coming in to find out what all the hooha was about. They invited me in and I spent the next delightful, entertaining, informative and amazing hour being charmed by the Herzlia grade elevens! What a turn around for me. I have been particularly harsh in my criticism of Herzlia kids, even here at the conference, but this dozen hotel room of kids were amazing. It was an hour of genuine engagement that not only shifted my atitude, but also reminded me how I love young people and how they think, and how they do things. If this is the only amazing thing for me to come away with (and it absolutely isn’t) then my time here, at Limmud has been totally well spent and a real learning curve for me.

There is nothing I can do about the fact that there is no real coffee though. And I’ve only had 4 hours sleep. And there is a whole day’s worth of session I still need to try and get to. I have already completely missed the first one.

Writing my life

I have been so caught up with writing other stuff that my blog has taken a bit of a back seat this last week. I have been busy with a couple of proposals, ideas for new things keep popping into my head (and I have to write them down, however obscure they are, in case they have some value or resonance later on) and I have been preparing a presentation that I am giving at the Limmud seminar this weekend.

The truth is, I love writing. I love words. I can’t always get them to do what they should, like Humpty Dumpy could by paying them at the end of the week, but I enjoy trying to get them to say how I feel and what I mean. I practice saying words and making up weird titles for things at gym on the stair master machine. I have taken to using my crappy cellphone as a dictaphone when I don’t have a pen and paper or Mac-a-tiny with me, like when I am walking the dogs. And I am practicing my writing. I think it’s good practice. But here is how Humpty Dumpty sees things. I will take my cue from him I think.

`I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

`But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master – – that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs, they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

`Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice `what that means?`

`Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

`That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.’

`Oh!’ said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

`Ah, you should see `em come round me of a Saturday night,’ Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: `for to get their wages, you know.’

(Alice didn’t venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can’t tell you.)

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