Monday, February 7, 2011

Living at the Epicenter: Israel in the Middle East, by January blogger of the month Claire Gahm

I would not consider myself informed or qualified enough to write an editorial on political situations anywhere, let alone the Middle East. So take this perspective - from a person trying to synthesize news and personal experiences while living in Beer Sheva, Israel - with a grain of salt. 

The general state of war and peace in the Middle East has been at the center of the world’s attention for as long as I can remember. It is the epicenter of three major world religions and therefore it is no surprise, as Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersect, to find life defined by an unyielding tension hovering on the precipice of a revolution for truth.  It was quite a change to come from the States where the post-modern battle for tolerance and ‘whatever you believe is fine for you’ is underway to Israel where God undoubtedly exists is met with a fervency to do what he says in all circumstances.

One of the chief concerns for my family in coming here related to questions about my safety. How could it not when the news is laden with horrific images of blazing buildings, missile strikes, and war-torn peoples? When the only resolution to the ‘racehorse’ mentality for uprisings seems to be another round of talks and negotiations?  And now with the violent protests in Egypt calling for Mubarak’s resignation, leaving Israel with questions about its future allies and the world with questions about the ramifications of the situation, it is reasonable to be concerned with the future. I believe things will get much worse before they ever get better.

Agur Winery: I would like to Skype lectures from
this house!
But all of that is said on a macro scale of breaking news headlines that I would fail to notice if I did not read the news.  The city of Beer Sheva is nestled into a small-city routine only occasionally disturbed by the sound of planes roaring overhead on their way to the Israeli Air Force base near here or choppers delivering patients to Soroka landing outside our classroom.  I walk around town at night frequently (it’s hard not to when I leave class at dark on Sundays and Tuesdays) and never worry about my safety. I was cautious, alert, and always nervous in July when we first arrived, but now I might be a little too relaxed because I’ve never felt threatened or in danger.  Sometimes I think about my impression before I came and am convinced some of the news is propaganda - the day-to-day life of Israelis in Beer Sheva is not full of fear and sirens – there’s shopping at the market and the recess bell that plays nursery rhyme tunes and honking in the street and leisurely Shabbat walks. 

Tzuba Winery.
My goal here was hopefully to affirm that we’re very safe and cared for, taking our cues from the locals (who don’t even flinch at the thundering sounds we eventually discovered were planes), and MSIH holds the students best interest in mind.  All of that said, the tension I’ve described is the color and culture here, it is giving me a more complete perspective for my work as a physician, and it is teaching me how to understand and relate to my patients in an incredibly unique way.  So much of the experience that I believe will make me a better doctor will be fruit from living in Israel!

Listening to Shuki, the winemaker at Agur.
[Here are a few pictures from a Friday a number of us spent touring vineyards outside of Jerusalem. Tsuba and Agur are boutique wineries.  It was a perfectly sunny day and we loved the atmosphere!] - by January blogger of the month Claire Gahm

Evan (on the right) next to his beautiful wife Katherine, she organized the tour and she is a food
writer and amazing cook too!