Gather the Jews?

Finding intimacy in far-away places is mind-boggling.

On Thursday I attended a  Jewish Salons’ reunion. It was a chance to reflect on the amazing friendship formed  eight years ago out of a shared vision on what Jewish life in the Twenty-First Century could be like.  The Jewish Salons was a global network of cultural events that drew inspiration from the intellectual salons hosted by Jewish women in the early 1900s in Berlin.  So there we were: two Israelis, a Serbo-Croatian, a Viennese and a Mexican – all part of a shared project and reminiscing around old times.

Benny Bailey, the original founder of the salons, works as an academic in the northern part of Israel. His research is on domestic violence against men. According to him, feminist and female empowerment groups like the WIZO have such power and tradition within Israel that women sometimes have the upper hand.

Itay Mautner is now Creative Director of the Jerusalem Season of Culture. He talked to me about the many tensions pulling Israeli society apart. I was here last year when riots broke out among the Ethiopian Jewish community.

I remembered walking through the streets of Tel Aviv, two years before that and running  into a graffiti on the wall which shocked me. We all know the photograph of a Jewish child getting stopped by the Nazis. More than half a century later, the image had been repurposed to make a statement about the status of illegal immigrants within the Jewish State.

Itay told me that thousands had been deported. I am not sure that this sort of fundamentalist nationalism is what the founders of Israel had in mind.

This is, after all, a country created by refugees, for refugees.

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