Time for another Good News Friday installment.
This week we begin with a story of Israeli identity with a slightly unusual twist in Finding an unexpected Israeli identity: (emphases are mine):
At first, the young man’s story sounds familiar: Tall, green-eyed, he walks the corridors of his university and his peers often shout at him, “Jew, go back to where you came from!” But we are not in Eastern Europe in 1881, and the student, Mohand, is not Jewish — he is an Arab Israeli studying in Jordan. His story is not exceptional. Although most, if not all, Arab Israelis in the country face some sort of hostility because of their nationality, the reaction of students like Mohand is unexpected: “Coming to Jordan” he told me, “not only did I not embrace the anti-Israeli attitude people freely express here, but being here actually strengthens my pride of being Israeli.” Yet the reality Mohand reveals is more complex than this one sentence might convey.
In recent years, Jordan has become a magnet for Arab Israelis who want to study abroad. This past decade, their number has quadrupled to more than 6,000. The students I spoke with testify that being in Jordan has helped shape their identity — strengthening its Israeli component. Here they acquire a new and more complex perspective on life in the Arab world. Whether at the university or on the street, they often face hostility that isolates them. Comparing their lives in Israel with their lives in Jordan, they suddenly feel more connected to the land lying west of the Jordan River than they did before.
“The first difficulty we come across,” said Saleh Ghanem, a round-faced and kind-looking student from a village near Akko, “is when presenting ourselves. One must not say ‘Israel’ here,” he explained. When asked, he answered that he is a “48er,” a neutral term meaning that his family was in Israeli territory since its beginning and that his family members are citizens.
“Once, while riding in a cab,” he continued, “I mentioned Tel Aviv by mistake. The driver, who overheard me, started screaming, telling me never to say Tel Aviv, only Yaffo.” But even when presenting themselves as 48ers they do not feel accepted, and it is difficult for them to blend in with the Jordanians of Palestinian descent, who make up the majority of Amman’s population.
[...]Mohand tried to explain the cultural barrier between Israelis and Arabs: “On many levels we are much alike; at the same, time their way of thinking is almost foreign to us.” When asked to articulate this difference, however, he struggled with his words, admitting, “I do not have Jordanian friends. They are not as free as we are.”
“Freedom” is a leitmotif in conversations with Arab Israelis here; many of them mention it as the reason for preferring Israel to Jordan. Although relatively modern, life in the Jordanian monarchy requires one to be careful; one can get arrested for using the king’s name in an offensive way. Coming from a country in which it is more common to criticize the government than to talk about the weather, they feel oppressed.
Not all is rosy however, and the article goes on to describe the difficulties that Israeli Arabs face back in Israel too.
Universities in Jordan are appreciated in the Arab and Muslim world and draw students from Bahrain to Pakistan. For Yusuf, a Christian dentistry student from Nazareth, meeting people from all over the Arab world is the most interesting part of living here. “Did that strengthen your sense of belonging to the larger Arab world?” I asked him. “No,” he answered firmly. “If anything, it shows me how distant we are.”[...]
The rejection and isolation that 48ers feel, and their comparison of Jordan with Israel, leads them to feel more Israeli, but it also helps them shape their unique Arab-Israeli identity. In Israel they all come from different places, south and north. Some are Christian, some are Muslim. These differences, important in Israel, are much less significant here: They have an opportunity to make region- and religion-crossing friendships.
Although there is much to regret in this article, I find it good news that Israeli Arabs feel so much more Israeli on the other side of the border and how much they appreciate their freedom. It gives me hope that they will be able to show both their friends in the wider Arab world and their relatives back home in Israel how good their lives are here and how much freedom they enjoy, even under the “evil Zionist regime”. Perhaps they can even give a little lecture in patriotism to some of our anti-Israel Arab members of the Knesset.
The next piece of good news is a giant BDS Fail: Famed Canadian singer Alanis Morissette defied taunts and bullying from the BDS Brigade and arrived in Israel to give an excellent concert. (h/t Israellycool):
A varied crowd lined up outside the Nokia Arena on Monday night to see Alanis Morissette’s first concert in Israel since 2000. Despite social media threats demanding that she boycott Israel, the 38-year-old Canadian-American singer-songwriter performed to a sold-out crowd on Monday night in Tel Aviv.
In contrast to several performances cancelled in light of international political pressures, most recently by singer Cat Power and musician Stevie Wonder, Morissette stuck to her planned tour stop in Israel. Her concert comes just a couple of weeks after the end of clashes between Israel and Gazan terrorists during the IDF Operation Pillar of Defense, which drew worldwide criticism.
Throughout her performance, Morissette expressed support to the Israeli people, and at some point in the concert the band organ played the traditional Hebrew song, “Hine Ma Tov” (Here Is What’s Good) which the audience immediately recognized and sang along to.
Morissette made sure to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem a day before her Tel Aviv performance, while touring the Holy Land with her husband, rapper Mario ‘MC Souleye’ Treadway, who was also her supporting act throughout her tour.
The concert came to an appropriate end with the song, “Thank You.”
“It’s been a great 2012, Morissette told the audience in Tel Aviv, adding that “we love you, we’re with you, America, Canada, all of us.”
Thank YOU Miss Morrissette, for withstanding the bullying and criticism of the haters, thank you for your support and thank you for coming here at a difficult time and for giving a great concert. Would that all artists and performers had your courage and principles.
My last piece of good news comes from Israel’s flourishing bio-med sector (via the No Camels blog): Israeli researcher invents replaceable spinal discs:
Damaged spinal discs cause a great deal of trouble for people with chronic back problems, and a burden on the economy due to absenteeism from work and financial costs of treatment.
Sufferers are told to rest, take painkillers and – if these don’t help – undergo operations, but these are not always fully effective. One-tenth of people suffering from degenerated discs suffer from longterm pain and disability.
But some scientists are trying to find ways to alleviate the problem of damaged discs. Dr. Sarit Sivan of the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology’s biomedical faculty is one of the three winners of the European Commission’s new Marie Curie Prize for outstanding achievement in spinal disc research, announced at a ceremony in Nicosia, Cyprus. She won the prize in the “Innovation and Entrepreneurship” category.
Sivan was selected for her work on materials that can restore the biomechanical function of degenerated discs in spinal columns. Disc degeneration caused by the gradual loss of some of their main components, mainly due to aging, leads to a decrease in biomechanical function affecting the spine. During her Marie Curie fellowship at the University of Oxford in the UK, Sivan developed and successfully tested biocompatible gel-like materials that could replace, through a non-invasive injection, the lost disc components and mimic their functioning.
Spinal discs are made of collagen, water and proteins called proteoglycans; when the discs begin to degenerate, the amounts of proteoglycans and water decline and the damaged disc moves down lower, causing it to rub against others. This makes blood vessels and nerves enter the collagen, resulting in pain that increases as the disc becomes more diseased. A biological approach to fixing discs faced problems because calcification of the disc makes it difficult for collagen cells to survive, which results in the blockage of access of nutrients to the cells and the removal of waste.
A potential solution, suggested Sivan, would be rigid, synthetic discs with properties similar to natural ones. However, inserting them by cutting the collagen ring that binds to the spine can lead to the disc’s expulsion due to body weight.
Sivan developed synthetic injectable material that overcomes this problem and can cope with weight the same way natural tissue does.
I know many members of my family and friends who would be delighted to benefit from Dr. Sivan’s discovery. Kol hakavod to her and to her co-researchers who have made this extremely important discovery. May they bring relief to millions of sufferers of back pain.
And with this, I shall bid you all Shabbat Shalom! May we all have a quiet and peaceful weekend.