I've been in Israel over a week and I decided that i wasn't going to write any more blog posts until I had something positive to write... That was a week ago. I feel awful. I have a terrible virus, I'm dizzy, coughing, pukey, weak, achey, sweaty, tired and worst of all I have this weird viral conjunctivitis which means my eyes are all gunked up and my vision is more blurry than usual. I've been in bed all day. My spirits are so low.
Even worse is that every day brings more and more suffering! Yesterday we were woken up at 6am, we spent all day at the holocaust education centre being put through this really strange 'experiential teaching method' which focuses not on historical and factual analysis but instead attempts to replicate the emotional process of holocaust victims. Our lunch was a can of soda, a cheese sandwich and a tangerine. At six thirty we left there and were taken straight to the Israel Museum where we went on a two hour guided tour. Then at nine in the evening we sat down to dinner with the minister for the diaspora who paid for our trip. I was feeling very very sick, I didn't eat anything and left the table several times to vomit it was truly awful.
We got back to our hotel after 11pm but unfortunately that wasn't the end of the day for me. I was taken aside by the director of our school and told that I was one of a group of students who had been complained about by the teacher at the education centre. Apparently my crimes are not confining my toilet breaks to the prescribed times and being perceived as part of a core group of students who are resistant and overly critical.
I feel pretty traumatised by it all to be honest. I feel like I have come face to face with the most negative parts of Israeli society, in this instance its the use of 'sacred' holocaust narratives to validate and justify certain (mostly Zionist) political agendas and ways of living and when you critique this, or are even perceived to critique it, you are accused of disrespecting the victims of the holocaust. Its one of those accusations that, at least in this current framework, the more you deny it the more guilty you look! At one point one of my classmates was accused of denying the holocaust (something which in many European countries is quite rightly a crime) because she criticised the Zionist elements of the museum. The verdict on us has been "if you're going to criticise then get out!" Which I think sends the message loud and clear that theres no room for dissenting opinion when it comes to the monopoly on interpreting the holocaust.
So I spent today sleeping, since it was decided that some of us should stay home and 'rest', and actually it was the best thing I could've done. Its half past ten at night and my fellow students are still 'learning' despite leaving this morning at half seven. Physically I'm not sure if I feel any better, I think (and hope) that I'm entering that phase on the tail end of a flu where you just feel really weak and dizzy and that in a few days I will be at least well enough to... Smoke a cigarette? Actually I am thinking about giving up but thats another story....
I'm really surprised by the amount of conflict at the moment, I really wasn't expecting it. I have been working really hard with my teachers and classmates to communicate effectively and so far its worked really well. I guess the problem is in Israel they are keeping us on a much tighter leash and I'm not the kind of person who does very well in that kind of environment. I guess the question now is how will the rest of the trip be? We are only half way through after all. Also, what will things be like when we get back to Stockholm,will the feelings of suspicion and accusations follow us home? I know I feel like there has been a lot of trust lost between myself and the staff of my school, I know a lot of my classmates feel he same. Its not a very good basis on which to head back to Stockholm and start the most intensive part of the program...
I know its cliche but I always struggle this time of year, so its a pretty potent combination of crappiness. The good news is I'm looking forward to getting back to Sweden and seeing my friends and facing down some challenges.