• Beyond Redemption
  • Beyond Redemption
  • Beyond Redemption
  • Beyond Redemption

Beyond Redemption

by added on 1 August 2015, No Comments on Beyond Redemption , filed under Artistic Process (Israel)

It doesn’t matter what religion you are or what society says. First and foremost you are a person.

– Mai Daas
Photos and artwork by Mai Daas (BFA), at The Faculty of Arts – Hamidrasha at Beit Berl College graduate exhibition, July 30, 2015


It’s late Friday afternoon and the entire country has shut down. Most businesses, including restaurants and cafes, have closed for the weekend. We escape the heat by ducking into Assaf Artisanal, a restaurant with a beautiful backyard garden tucked into a southeastern neighborhood in Ramat HaSharon. I’m with my weekly Friday afternoon date – a PhD in political science (NYU) and writer for Haaretz.  “Did you hear what happened today?” I ask her. Of course she has. I’m goading her because I want her angle. 

An extremist Jew stabbed six people at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem. “He just served ten years in prison for doing exactly the same thing!” she exclaims, “Exactly the same thing! He gets out of prison and does it again! Can you believe it? And the baby? Did you hear about the baby that was killed?” I had, but I asked her to tell me what she knew. Some lunatic Jewish settlers who live near a Palestinian village attacked a home and killed a baby. “Maybe someone will go to jail, but nobody’s house will be demolished,” she says, “You know what they would do if a Palestinian killed a Jewish baby? First, they would try and get as much political capital out of it as they can. They would cry to the U.S and say, ‘see what they’re doing to us!’  Then, they would flatten the Palestinian home.” She flips her palm down and slices the air, “Right to the ground so there’s nothing left! They would never do that to a Jewish home.” She’s right. 

We’ve been meeting every Friday for several weeks and have argued and discussed just about everything on Israel’s long list of crimes against social justice.  I think I have a handle on it, but she doesn’t think so. “It just keeps growing and growing!” she insists, spreading her hands wide apart. I imagine a large ball of mangled electrical wires.  While she aspires to emigrate to either the US or Canada, I constantly try and persuade her to stay and fix what’s broken, “Israel needs a charter of rights – a human rights code. They need it spelled out.”  “Yep.” She emphatically agrees. “You should write it” I say. “Nope.” she shoots back. 

As we munch on a basket of fish & chips and sip pink grapefruit juice, she reveals what’s really on her mind,  “You know -” she slowly wades in,  “I just finished writing an article that deals with segregation and Ethiopian Jews – It’s a book review, actually. The authors are going to hate me.” As part of her research, she placed an ad in the paper inviting Ethiopians to contribute their opinion on segregation. She recalls a person who contacted her, a man who recently found out his child was being segregated in daycare.  Did you know that Ethiopian Jews are often segregated in grade school, and even university?  “Today?” I ask in disbelief. “Yes, it’s going on now. Today. Segregation is packaged like a benefit. A benefit! Can you believe it? By Academics! These people have their PhD’s in Education. It’s unbelievable.”

A vision of Rosa Parks drifted through my mind’s eye. I could see her on the bus – what year was that? Sometime in the 1950’s? What year are we in now? Snapping out of my stupor, I ask her,”Where were these Academics educated?”  Maybe they were educated in mountain caves or jungles, with no electricity or computers? Maybe they’ve never heard of Rosa Parks? “All over,” she replies. She cites different countries around the world, from South America to Europe. There is no particular school or country that spits out racist Academics. These mad scientists end up in Israel, and nobody stops them from performing their demented experiments on live human beings! Perplexed, she exclaims, “These are supposedly educated people! And they don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong.”

I ask why the government allows it. Surely it violates some section of Basic Law on Human Dignity? She replies by giving me a short history lesson on the first and second immigration waves of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. During this time, the government’s Ministry of Absorption used private money –  money that was donated by wealthy Jews to help Ethiopians settle and integrate into Israeli society – to segregate them, instead. The government exploited their financial dependency – “by using private money!” – to oppress, bully, and force Ethiopian Jews into segregated living quarters, “like a trailer park.” If they moved, they wouldn’t receive their check.

“Ministry of Absorption?” I ask her. “Yeah,” she explains, “like, if you made aliyah and moved to Israel, you would work with the Ministry of Absorption. They would help you get all your documents together, your health insurance and all that.  Sometimes they get people to live in a specific place for two months so they could access things like Hebrew classes. They have a separate category for every country, with different benefits depending on where you came from. But when the Ethiopian Jews arrived, they kept them segregated for up to two years!” For two years they weren’t allowed to move from their trailer camp, and the ministry even forbid family members, who lived in different cities, to visit them.  (This all seemed very creepy to me. I didn’t realize there was such a thing as a Ministry of Absorption!? It was like a sci fi movie, or the Borg from Star Trek. )

When she worked at the UN in New York, her colleague used the phrase ‘beyond redemption’ to describe the inept, corrupt, and hopeless state of the United Nations. “I like to borrow her phrase to describe Israel,” she says. She leans back in her chair, folds her hands on the table and looks at me, “This country is beyond redemption. We need to break it all up and start over. It really is. Beyond. Redemption.”