It's so simple to be wise.  Just think of something stupid to say, and then don't say it.     Sam Levenson (1911-1980)

Monday, August 4, 2008

In This Together?

This year three countries are celebrating 60 years on independence -- India, South Korea, and, of course, Israel.  

A recent festival in a smallish town in California brought people from all three of these communities together to celebrate.  Although I no longer consider myself a member of the local community, and haven't for many years, I was curious about the festival, and wanted to attend in support of these cross-cultural efforts.

It was easy to recognize who was who:  A majority of the Indian women present, including those not performing, were beautifully dressed in bright colored Punjabi suits and saris.  The Koreans, of course, had the facial features of Koreans, and several of them wore traditional costumes as well.  And the Israelis?  Why, they were the ones wearing t-shirts and jeans, talking on cellphones.

Among the attractions were information booths from local Indian, Korean and Jewish/Israeli organizations and religious centers, food booths (of course!), including kosher falafel, and performances by local singing groups and dance troupes.  Among my favorites:  kids as young as three, doing a very decent imitation of famous Bollywood dance routines, and a group of Indian tabla drummers, ages seven to fourteen;  even the youngest of them played solos, and they were fantastic (see here for a picture and description of  the tabla).  

For me it was nice meeting and chatting with some Israeli women who have been living in California for many years.  One woman I spoke with, originally from Hertzelia, had just returned from a month-long visit to Israel.  She told me that if it weren't for her husband's hi-tech job in the U.S. (for an Israeli company, of course), she would move her family back to Israel in a second.  She was worried over what would become of her son in two years, when he would be drafted into the Israeli army.  

For her, there wasn't a question of whether he would serve -- it was obvious to her that he would -- but she was worried that he would be a kind of hayal boded (a "lone" soldier, a Hebrew term usually reserved for kids who immigrated to Israel without their parents).  It got me thinking:  now that so many Israelis are living abroad, there must be a huge number of Israeli-born, American/British/etc.-raised soldiers who are serving in Israel but have no family to come home to, since their families are in the diaspora.  I wonder what's happening with all of them...

What gave me the biggest pause for thought was the observation that during the Indian performances, almost all of the audience members were Indians.  Same for the Korean performances (there were hardly any Jewish/Israeli ones).  At times, my kids and I were the only non-Indian or non-Koreans present in the audience, which felt strange.  Not because we were suddenly a minority-within-a-minority, since everybody there was.  Rather, I was intensely disappointed that people were interested in seeing performances from their own cultures.  And that is a real shame -- there were a lot of interesting things going on there, and I was glad my kids could see and learn from all the different people around them.  I wish more of the adults could.

Keep the balance,



Anonymous said...

hi,just checking if i can figure out how to leave a comment!

Anonymous said...

okay, it finally worked, i think. so,now i do not feel so technically challenged or shall i say that you , my dear friend, have finally made your site user friendly?

A Living Nadneyda said...

We are very user-friendly (that is, yes, I allow anonymous comments).

Welcome aboard Q!


Maya said...

Glad you posted this one--I normally teach an Israeli novel my course called "literature of states born in the 20th century," but I took out the Amos Oz this year since the course is supposed to be called "Third World Lit," a term I hate. Maybe I'll put it back in. After all, I've got the Indian and Korean...And, by the way, I find that, unlike the live audiences, my lit students really get excited about the other cultures, as they're always looking for ways to link themselves and each other together through commonalities.

ilanadavita said...

Thanks a lot for sharing.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Maya: I'm really glad to hear that. The Arts are a fantastic way to inspire, share, teach and learn about the cultures beyond our own. It's great you're taking full advantage of your medium for this purpose. I wonder how many of your students would otherwise be exposed to different cultures from and insider's perspective.