--frustration at not being able to maintain focus for longer than twenty pages (thanks, shpilkes/ADD/whatever);
--frustration at the slanted tone of the book;
--frustration at the slanted tone of almost everything I've tried to read to educate myself about Israel these days;
--growing impatience -- with myself, the book, and my inability to focus; and finally...
--suspicion that perhaps understanding the hot mess that is Israel may be better left to someone else with a better capacity to deal with the complexity and wade through the slant.
Maybe this makes me a bad Jew?
Maybe it just makes me weary.
Honestly, I know I am going to have figure out my stuff about Israel -- and all the related stuff about Jewish American life and class -- as I move closer to the center of things in my present work and communal life. To that end, I've been subscribing to various sources which now appear in my daily newsfeed:
--Times of Israel. The "my Israel, right or wrong" vibe served up pretty much straight, no chaser.
-- JTA (aka the Jewish Telegraph Agency). More in-depth than Times of Israel, and willing to explore differing perspectives. But the strong pro-Israel slant is hard to miss.
-- Tablet Magazine. The uber-chic online reader for an audience which Tablet itself identifies as "affluent, erudite and engaged". I like many of their articles, and appreciate their tendency to lean left; but I also feel slightly suspicious of any magazine which dares to be so blatant about its rather classist -- and too often New York-centric -- target market.
-- Mondoweiss. A recent addition to my newsfeed, reflecting the far left's worry about Israel's current treatment of Palestinians and the ongoing pissing match between the religious and secular segments of Israeli society. I greatly appreciate that they're not afraid to tackle other hard issues, like classism, racism and gender politics. Like JTA and Times of Israel, there's an air of assumption built into the writing that assumes I know and agree with all the same things they do. It is what it is.
--Moment Magazine. So far, this is one of the most balanced, open and thoughtful contributions to the whole discussion, trying to straddle multiple viewpoints respectfully while also daring to ask some hard questions about how and why Diaspora [read: US] Jews are to go about having a relationship with Israel. Also a tad more literary/artsy than the rest, with regular essays, book and music reviews, recipes and an annual fiction-writing contest.
The truth is that, while I know that pat answer will always be "go to Israel and find out for yourself," I also know that's not going to happen. Not on what I earn, and not now that I am too old to be the darling of the Jewish leadership's current Focus On The Youth. I don't qualify for anything, except my life as it is right now. So that is the place from which I am trying to educate myself. It's what I've got to work with. And I still can't get more than ten to twenty pages into a serious book on the subject before my eyes glaze over. In the end, this maybe makes me, if not a totally "bad" Jew, then an occasionally lame excuse for one. At least intellectually speaking. Or maybe it's the fatigue and I just need to give it a rest for now.
There is a song coming up inside me about all this, about the need to know more and to understand combined with the seeming impossibility of asking my own hard questions -- about Israel, about American Jewish life, about the seismic undulations of change happening right now in my world -- out loud. Right now the song is in the percolating stage, but it's definitely coming out soon. I can feel it.