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Bored to Death

June 6, 2010 – 9:53 pm11 Comments
flotilla australia

When one thinks of a "flotilla" in Australia, this is more what comes to mind

By Keren Tuch

Oh the irony, that so many Israelis dream of nothing else but to live in utopic Australia, whilst others, myself included, consider living in a war torn country where peace is a seemingly deluded dream.  Australia is a beautiful, peaceful country of which I am certainly privileged to be a citizen and will be proudly supporting the Socceroos in a couple of week’s time.

Yet I find this place so idyllic it can often be…well, boring.  To put it simply, one can live the dream here – beach, education, job, beach, money, security, beach.  But what often prompts me to look abroad is when my mind turns numb from reading front page newspaper articles about the misconduct of football players.  Or when the conversation at the work lunch table turns to discussing an article from a woman’s magazine on 39 ways to lose calories from an Easter egg.  Or when talk show hosts have nothing better to do but lambast the provision of new cycle ways in Sydney. Or when engaging in a discussion on refugees and asylum seekers, everyone has an opinion, yet most educated people have not had any contact with a single person from the “hordes” that are flooding our shores.   Sometimes life seems to be a succession of chai lattes – fun and enjoyable yet devoid of any substance.

But this week it would appear that Australians care about more than just Celine Dion falling pregnant at age 42. It appeared that we do care about the humanitarian plight of individuals in the Middle East.

As the drama of the flotilla unfolded, I was hooked to the cyber world, reading article after article, commentaries, opinion pieces and live video footage until it made me sick.  Sick from the hysteria and the hostile reactions it invoked worldwide.  Sick from the strategic blunder the Israeli military made.  Sick from ignorant citizens unwilling to hear how Israel could possibly have a legitimate excuse to use their firearms in self-defence.  In the cyber world, there was no escaping this mess.

At lunch at my work place, I was expecting a remark of some sort about the flotilla that has dominated the news this week.  Perhaps even a discussion where I was patiently waiting for an opportunity to hear what my colleagues had to say.  I had the link to the video footage on hand ready to disseminate if there was a hint of curiosity.   But that conversation never came to fruition.  Neither did it initiate with my non-Jewish housemate who knows my long-standing connection to Israel.  In fact, when an educated colleague saw me reading an article about the flotilla, I thought it was a good time for an open dialogue.  I received a blank stare followed by a shameful shake of the head when I asked ‘you know about the whole debacle that has erupted in the Middle East….’  Apparently not.  I had made the assumption that because it consumed much of my thoughts, everyone else cared.

It occurred to me that perhaps a lot of people at my work hadn’t heard about it.  It is quite plausible that they react no differently to the flotilla than they do to the weekly deaths of Pakistanis and Iraqis by suicide bombers, or the death of protestors in Thailand.  For every person who vehemently commented online, I wonder how many people just couldn’t give a damn, or don’t even know?

To my astonishment, this sobering thought calmed my fraught nerves from the heavy news of the week.  Although I was prepared to discuss the flotilla at work, it’s times like this that I’m truly appreciative of the light-hearted lunch conversations and the self-indulgent attitude of the average Australian to distract me from the brutal reality that exists beyond our borders.

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  • frosh says:

    Hi Keren,
    Funnily enough, a couple of people at my work have asked me about the flotilla – I’ve found it a little awkward to be honest.  It’s not easy to discuss matters that concern one greatly with people who don’t really have any attachment to the issue whatsoever.  Also, I struggle with the challenge of explaining Israel’s position, while not sounding like an Israeli propagandist, considering how divergent my take is from the version they get from The Age that lies in the staff kitchen/lunch room.

  • ariel says:

    I’ve had a couple of awkward looks at work, but nothing more.
    What’s amazing is i went into the kitchen to get a drink and saw two Sri Lankan women discussing the flotilla. One of them – a devout Catholic and Judeophile -was saying something like, “why did they try to barge the blockade? how stupid to try to barge a military blockade! they could have gone via land from the north (israel) or south (egypt) to bring the supplies.”
    She saw me and gave me a smile. I had to leave quickly otherwise my expression of joy would have blown my cover…

  • I have found myself in a few conversations at work but, given that I’m employed by a synagogue, I’m not so sure that should surprise you! I’ve also found myself in some conversations at home, and they have been less comfortable. Despite having made clear on numerous occasions the fact that I do not automatically support Israel, one of my flatmates can’t quite seem to get it into his head that I’m not an Israeli. This was one of those few occasions when I could only fault Israel from a PR-perspective, and I defended that aspect of the fiasco that everyone else (at the time) was condemning: subsequent to having boarded, the fact that the IDF opened fire. Naturally, he mistook my defence of Israel for the result of my being Jewish, and just nodded: tightlipped and silent.
    I’m going to raise his rent for that.

  • talula says:

    I’ve been expecting all week for any of my non-jewish colleagues to ask me about what’s happened.. not that i was even sure what i  would say…
    silence. Nobody even brought it up. Some aussies are so afraid of confronation that they don’t even want to get into political discussions.
    I got used to being the “token jew” at the office, as they always seem to ask me why the bagel store is closed.. invariably a jewish holiday, which i have to explain the story of…
    Yet, when i once brought up the fact that my relatives had rockets from gaza landing in their neighbourhood the night before – all i got was blank stares, and they turned back to their computers immediately.

  • ariel says:

    talula (inadvertantly) brings up an interesting point.

    why do we (and Israel) refer to these projectiles as “rockets”?

    rockets are friendly things that fly through outerspace.

    we should be calling them what they are: missiles

  • Rachsd says:

    Hi Simon,
    I agree – raise the rent.
    On occasions when people have dismissed my opinions as just ‘because I am Jewish,’ I have always found this to be incredibly condescending but also racist. (After all, if my opinion is influenced by my Jewishness, then theirs is surely influenced by their experience as well.) The first time it happened to me (explicitly, I mean), I just took it quietly and made a mental note not to hang out with the said person in the future.
    Since then, I have discovered that it can be quite satisfying to call it for what it is. E.g., to ask the person in question whether perhaps their white, objective being could enlighten me on what the ‘truth’ about the situation is. (In my experience it has always been a white person…) This approach seems to get people quite riled up but it’s just desserts.

  • Joel Lazar says:

    I think the reason why so many in our workplaces and places of study are not brining it up when we expect them to is because they’re sure that we know ALOT about it and will likely crush them with all the logic and factual evidence at our disposal. (they don’t know that we’re all crushing each other with different facts and different logic). It can be intimidating no doubt to engage in a debate about Israel with a heavily involved Zionist. They’ve got a an article or two fom The Age. We have 10 years of any combination of youth movement, Jewish school, community, familial debates from which to draw. It’s a machine gun up against a knife. No irony intended.

  • ariel says:

    I agree Joel.
    As Sean Connery said in The Untouchables when a mafia hit man came to his house to stab him: “Trust a wop to bring a knife to a gun fight!”
    (No racism against Italians intended: it’s a direct quote from a movie. I love Italians and want Italy to win the world cup again!)

  • frosh says:


    That was exact same scene that came to mind when I read Joel’s phrasing.

  • Anonymous says:

    Now I really wish I had seen that  movie!

  • ariel says:

    you can get in on dvd pretty much anywhere…

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