I was born in India but I’ve lived in Singapore all my life. After completing my Bachelor’s degree in London, the conventional options would have been to further my education in the US or to stay in the UK. But instead, I decided to apply for the MA Government programme in IDC Herzliya in Israel.
For most of my life, I’ve taken the safe, “tried and tested” path. But I’ve come to realise that success and innovation cannot be achieved through formulaic living. Day by day, I’m trying to learn how to embrace risk in a sensible manner – which is difficult for a risk-averse person like me.
That’s why I came to Israel – to be like the young chick that falls off its nest to learn how to fly. I’ve had a tremendously fascinating experience so far, and there’s still more to explore. The out-of-classroom learning experience has been invaluable – something I would have missed if I had gone to the US. Sometimes, even the most mundane activity seems like an adventure, like jostling with old Israeli grandmothers in the supermarket, bargaining with Arab salesmen in the Old City of Jerusalem, or arguing with the landlord about utility bills. Add to that the fun of balancing English, Hebrew, and Arabic, and you’ve got a real balagan of an experience!
Of course, being in one of the most controversial countries in the world, I’ve also struggled with difficult questions about Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, the blockade of Gaza, and the compatibility between the “Jewish” and “democratic” identity of the state. But there are difficult questions relating to Palestinian society as well, such as the deficit of democracy, the alleged inability to produce a coherent peace plan, the anti-Semitism taught in many schools, and the duplicity shown by politicians (applies to some Israeli politicians as well). There’s also the great tragedy of violence experienced by both sides. Though there is never-ending debate over the legitimacy of actions taken by the IDF or Palestinian jihadists (not to mention the “terrorist/freedom fighter” discussion), it is undeniable that Jews and Arabs are victims of violence and burdened with fear. And the sad reality is that the conflict and confusion in Israel/Palestine pales in comparison to the immense tragedy in Syria, just a few hundred kilometres to the north-east.
My response to all these perplexing questions is to focus less on taking sides and to focus more on understanding narratives and searching for answers.
There’s so much to write about. I should have started blogging about my experience in Israel much earlier. But it’s better late than never. I hope to blog regularly. I also hope that you enjoy reading my blog as much I enjoy sharing my thoughts!