Published: December 6, 2006
A few days ago, my girlfriend and I were talked into doing a favor for her sister, who told us at the last minute that she was desperate for someone to take her up to their synagogue so she could watch her friend give a presentation.
I, being the self-centered worm that I am, was against the idea of once again having to sacrifice my precious weeknight to appease the brat.
That night I learned a valuable lesson: if you’re ever stuck doing something you don’t want to do, run with it. It could be your next column, in which case the person that you have begrudgingly assisted has actually done you a great favor.
The ambiguous presentation that sister had eluded to was actually a panel discussion by three young men and one young woman who are from the country of Israel, and have come here as emissaries to the American Jewish population.
The four guests opened with PowerPoint presentations about their lives in Israel. Each had a different side of Israeli life to talk about. The pictures I saw of Israel were absolutely gorgeous, like a beautiful oasis.
The Pensacola emissary came from a secular area of Israel, but is now becoming more active in Judaism. The New Orleans emissary is from a family of Moroccan immigrants, and retains certain customs from that culture in addition to the customs they’ve inherited from living in Israel.
One of the two emissaries from Alabama is an American born Jewish man who decided at a very young age that he felt Israel was his home. The other is an Israeli Jew from a very deeply religious background who has chosen to now lead a less religious life, a bit of the opposite of Pensacola’s envoy.
After giving a little background on themselves, the four ambassadors took questions from their audience about their experiences both here and in Israel.
One of the major points of discussion was how every Israeli over the age of 18 is conscripted and meant to serve a stint in the military before moving on to college. The Israeli men are given three years of service, while the women serve two.
For someone like me, a total pansy who grew up around the military and wants nothing to do with it, it seems pretty unreal to have mandatory service almost as a sort of right of passage.
However, according to the four speakers, military service was just a part of life. One even said that he wants to raise his future children is Israel, one of the reasons being the mandatory military service.
Other topics of interest were the system of education, relations between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis, intermarriage, and speculations on the cultural and political future of the nation.
They each spoke with the warm, smooth accent of the Israeli people, which to my ears sounds like a cross between French and something a bit more exotic, perhaps African? They each came across as being very satisfied with their experiences in America and the communities that they are visiting.
I envied them a little for being my age and having the experience of living in a different country as a kind of ambassador, and getting to learn its culture. It’s something I’d love to attempt.
Maybe Israel could use someone to go there and speak on behalf of self-centered worms.