Interview: 21 Years in Israel (2)

[Interview with Paula Gaon, part 2.]

-I am interested in your take on the recent events in the Negev and South TA.

OK, my take on recent events in the Negev & South Tel Aviv. I take it you're referring to incidents involving refugees/immigrants from Sudan. In all honesty, I have not been following the news closely. And when I do catch snippets on the radio, can't help but wonder how accurate the stories are. Also, since I live in the Negev, don't have much feeling for the reality in Tel Aviv. But will give you a few impressions.

From what I see here in this little Negev town, most Sudanese are young men, some with families. From the hours they come and go & the buses they take, looks like they are working in service jobs at the Dead Sea, probably hotels and food services - not jobs people are anxious to take. I have no idea what percentage are employed, or if employed how legal it is. At any given time of day, young men are hanging around the downtown area and in apartment residential areas. But in all honesty, have no idea if they are employed or work night shifts.

When the Sudanese first came here about three years ago, people were suspicious and wondered if they were really refugees or illegals fleeing an awful situation. It looks like some have left, either sent back or decided to go back. But now I get the feeling, at least here, that on the whole, they are hardly noticed. My personal theory is that since this town is more than 40% immigrants, most from the former Soviet Union, residents feel more empathy with people who, for whatever reason, have been displaced.

As you can imagine, Tel Aviv is much more upscale than any town in the Negev. There are a lot more people with a lot more money, more upscale hotels and places of entertainment, more places that would require low-wage employment. The neighborhoods where the African refugees live, as far as I know, have always been poor Israeli neighborhoods with the reputation that many poor neighborhoods have. Get the picture? It doesn't take a great leap of imagination to see the potential for some serious friction.

According to news reports, African residents were attacked by young Israelis. Having worked in the school system, I'm not surprised by this. From my experience, politically correct has taken a strange twist here. Schools, for whatever reason, do not teach or enforce the idea of appropriate behaviour in the appropriate place. The idea of impulse control and expressing one's self inteligently, refraining from insults or attacks was not consistently taught or enforced. I've even heard Israelis aged 50 and above say the same. Why this has come to be - can't tell you exactly. But have gotten the feeling that this is a result of tensions in Israeli society among the different Jewish ethnic groups and has caused a kind of 'despair' regarding matters of discipline in the educational system. Nobody wants a fight, or risk an accusation of being against any Jewish ethnic group, so those in the educational system walk on eggs and make excuses.

In any case, it's terribly embarassing. Of course the USA has severly criticized Israel's racism. How soon they forget... But we do expect more from the Jewish State.

OK, now back to why I came to the Negev. It's very simple, actually. I've just always dug the Negev, Here's an interesting piece of trivia my town is almost the same latitude as Tucson.

On a more serious note, I moved to Jerusalem for perceived job opportunity. But personally, I find Jerusalem unlivable. It's terribly expensive. The cheaper areas are far flung, requiring long, nerve-racking bus trips - cars cost 4 times US price. And the security issues are abssolutely grinding. The Negev is cleaner, cheaper, and low-stress. I have a higher quality of life for a little less money.