Saturday, June 18, 2011

Exceptionally Normal

Here in Southern California, we're fortunate enough to be able to watch Israel's IBA News on the local PBS affiliate, KCET. I've taken an even keener than usual interest in news from the region this week, as my gorgeous and very, very busy wife Jackie is in Israel leading a Taglit Birthright Israel trip.

As I was watching the other night, I was almost mechanically tweeting the various headlines.  Here are a few examples:
Unlike American “news” programs, the IBA (Israel Broadcast Authority) news usually spends several minutes covering one or more important topics in depth with a guest. In this instance, the interview focused on the cottage cheese boycott. Around the time the anchors turned their attention to sports and weather, it dawned on me: there had not been one single terrorism-related news item, and only brief coverage of the peace process, featuring yet another prattling EU technocrat.  

Reviewing my posts, it occurred to me what normal stories these were, the type that could easily have been featured on the local news anywhere in America. Don't get me wrong: rising food prices are a serious matter. Unfortunately, the Israeli economy is still in some ways a prisoner to its socialist past, and perhaps to an overheated rush to deregulation as well. But compared to bus bombings, missile attacks, and coerced cross-border rioters, well... all in all, I found it rather refreshing.

Israel, like any country—indeed, like any human enterprise—is imperfect. The government, the society, the leaders: they err, they are tempted into corruption, they lose their way, and we do the Zionist cause no favors by pretending otherwise. So the evening news will, no doubt, continue to be filled with stories of individuals and groups failing to live up to our millennia-old, hope-sustaining vision of Israel as a beacon to the other nations of the Earth.

So I make this offer to the universe: give me news of visiting musicians and student competitions—I'll gladly embrace them, even if they are mere sidebars to headlines filled with consumer revolt and labor unrest. Take away the terror, the baseless hatred, and the nuclear saber-rattling, and I'll accept the scandals, the crime, and the poverty as unavoidable subplots to the ongoing story of a normal country struggling to become exceptional.

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