On Being An Issue

Updated: Aug 20, 2018

„You wanting to come here is an issue for me!” Y. casually says sitting next to me in the car. Then qualifies asap: “It’s just relatively new for this country that people want to come. It’s not yet normal. So yeah, you're somewhat of an issue!”

But I wish he hadn’t clarified and just let his first sentence linger. It was just a throwaway remark, and while I may hurt for a little moment, the honesty feels good. It gives a good perspective to hear that even someone as worldly as Y. distinguishes between insiders and outsiders in this little country on some level. And one can trust Y. as the average Israeli, because he always strives to be the most Israeli person on duty at every moment. Good to know, secondly, that it’s not a taboo topic that’s sugar-coated by the people that I trust. But finally and most of all, I appreciate that Y.’s throwaway remark gives me some agency back after some painful days of feeling like an idiot. It’s my 3rd week here, a couple of days ago some government dude told me that he would never want a Jewish man to „murk the bloodline with me“, the foreigner. I was neither surprised nor offended, just thought that was a rather funny way to put it. Pretty “blood and soil” for my German soul. But spot on message for a guy that speaks on behalf of a Jewish state. Then I told several friends from different groups about it, and while I am super touched at how protective they are and how outraged on my behalf: somewhere along the lines their outrage turned me into a weak "damsel in distress" that fell victim to the "bloodline villain". Or, much less prosaic, it made me feel like a bit of an idiot. Like I should have stood up for myself, but hadn’t. Like I had been totally duped, but was too stupid and naive to even realise it. Like a real 'freier'. And every Israel newbie can read in a thousand online groups what that means: the absolut worst! Being an “issue”, however, that’s different, it’s an active role. You can’t be a passive victim, if you’re causing the problem. You cannot at all be the damsel in distress, if you are the issue. Best of all, if you’re so all wrong here all the time anyways, and an issue even to your friends, you’re free. Because you don’t have to worry about fitting in. So I’m gladly and happily an issue, because, having spent most of my first 3 weeks constantly worrying that I am looking like a complete booby, that’s pretty liberating news.

I collect great beginnings. Beginnings of songs, of movies, of great articles and books.

This quote by Buzz Bissinger is the most beautiful beginning in my collection. It also captures perfectly what it feels like for me to research and write newspaper articles about Israelis and Israel. The short notes below describe the experiences behind my published texts. They are the fun, silly, absurd, baffled or sad real beginnings of those stories. They sketch what happens before or after I write the actual piece and send it off to the editor, and they are taken from my diary entries about rummaging up and down that little country and its people for no other reason but pure curiosity. 

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