When my mother shows up at my apartment it's always a surprise. Will she get on my nerves today? Will I just want to hug her and tell her she's the best? This time, it turns out, it was a very pleasant visit, and to top it off she handed me a letter addressed to my father from the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto. I opened it to find a copy of a letter I wrote in confidentiality to the consulate a week earlier, as well as a cover letter to my father: "Please find enclosed a copy of your son's letter to me. I thought you might find it interesting."
It's been about a month since I got off the plane from Israel to Toronto, returning to a life of comfort and mellowness after riding the current of Middle East politics for over two months. A friend recently asked me about culture shock and all that comes with that. "Culture shock?" I replied. The only thing that's been running through my mind is how lucky I am to be living in Canada, and how good it feels not to discuss politics every three and a half minutes.
Still, I cannot escape what I witnessed in those months, and I must share this with others. I don't care if people don't want to listen so long as they can never say, "We didn't know." The "we didn't know" times are long over!
So I wrote a letter to the Consulate General of Israel here. I introduced myself as an Israeli Canadian growing up in Toronto, visiting Israel throughout my life. I mentioned my father, an outspoken Israeli community leader in the city. I wrote about my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and her openness in sharing the stories of her past. I went on to mention what I had witnessed this summer:
"It made me really sad to see village roads closed, blocking people's ability to make a living. I saw entire olive plantations lost behind the new security barrier." I went on to list other rights violations I saw, like Palestinian homes being destroyed because the owners did not have permits, which are next to impossible to obtain.
I urged the consulate representative to be an outspoken critic of occupation policy and to realize that ending the occupation is the most pro-Israel thing there is to do now.
In my passion and conviction, I produced a five-page handwritten letter I'm rather proud of, addressing Israeli concerns about security. It was both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. I licked my good ole Canadian stamp, shoved the puppy in the mailbox and went on with my life.
Within a week I received a long and pointed e-mail from a consulate rep explaining the Sharon strategy of security at all costs and the usual rhetorical spiel. After gloating about Israel's compassionate approach to Palestinians, followed by some blatant misinformation about the apartheid wall, the rep handed me the typical "you should be ashamed of yourself" line. But somehow the victory was not sweet enough, for she went on to say that she was forwarding my letter to my father!
So, listen up, "self-hating Jews." There's a new PR weapon in the armoury of Israeli consulates everywhere. They will tell your daddy everything.
Avi Zer-Aviv is a Toronto-based student who spent his summer in Israel and the West Bank working with the International Solidarity Movement and other peace groups.