Friday, April 28, 2006

Michael Totten in Israel

Michael Totten has been reporting from the Middle East for the past 6 months--but not in the same way as other reporters there. Totten has been conducting an experiment as a free-lance journalist on his own time, posting to his website and relying on reader contributions. He has been in Israel too, and if his readership responds favorably in supporting him, he plans to go back.

Yesterday, Totten put up his first post about Israel, “You Just Can’t Believe Anyone Hates You That Much”:

He writes about first impressions, starting with those from the air:

Arab countries have a certain feel. They’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish. I knew I had been away from home a long time when being around Arabs and Muslims felt comfortably normal and Jews seemed exotic.

First impression are just that, though. They tend to be crazily out of whack and subject to almost instant revision. Israel, I would soon find out, is a lot more like the Arab and Muslim countries than it appears at first glance. It’s not at all a little fragment of the West that is somehow weirdly displaced and on the wrong continent. It’s Middle Eastern to the core, and it has more in common with Lebanon than anywhere else I have been. The politics and the history are different, of course. But once I got settled in Tel Aviv I didn’t feel like I had ventured far from Beirut at all.

The rest of the post is his time spent sitting and talking with Lisa Goldman--a journalist who made aliyah and has been writing for the Guardian lately--about life in Israel and specifically about "The Conflict."

“Hamas propaganda requires dehumanization,” she said. “When you meet someone face to face you become a real person. Then they can’t hurt you.”

But some of them can. The worst of them do. It takes a special kind of moral, emotional, and physical bravery to venture regularly into the West Bank and Gaza - as an Israeli civilian - and forge meaningful lasting friendships with people who say they want to destroy you. Lisa does it. I like to think I would, too, if I were Israeli. But I honestly don’t know if I could, not if I lived through the terror and rage of the intifada as she did. That’s one reason I wanted to meet her.

Take a look at Totten's site.
Read what he's been writing.
See what you think.

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