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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

The Difficulty Of “Belonging” — And Not Belonging — To Israel

by Kevin Douglas Grant, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

As we cruised southeast from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport to Jerusalem’s Old City, our Palestinian driver Yasser — “like Yasser Arafat,” he reminded us — pointed out Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, just to our left. The West Bank, we realized, was immediately adjacent to the Highway 443. We passed village after village, walled and fenced, the minarets of mosques visible in the distance. Ofer Prison, where a year ago 200 Palestinians "rioted" against the detainment of Fatah leaders there, slipped by. Its gray guard towers and barbed wire almost matched the rainy sky.

Yasser said he has the proper card that allows him to work as a driver, which means he “belongs to Israel.” As we passed another village, this one with uniform cement buildings lined atop a craggy hill, Yasser said that particular Palestinian area had achieved the same status from Israel. Later, two of us caught a ride into the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumium on the same Highway 1, invited to attend Shabbat dinner at the home of a Jewish peace activist and construction worker. The guard at military checkpoint outside the settlement waved us through without hesitation.

“Palestinians have to have a permit,” explained Leah Lublin, originally from Canada. She and husband Al immigrated to Israel with her husband 17 years ago. They chose Ma’ale Adumium because the cost of an apartment there was right, far cheaper than one in Jerusalem a few miles away. Over more than a dozen courses, the two took turns lamenting the way many of their neighbors fear Arabs, and said they’re working through their own ingrained mistrust:

“When the Arab laborers are working on the street, people get on edge,” Al Lublin said, explaining that he loses some construction jobs because he employs several Arabs. ”They’re just focusing on their work, but everybody gets nervous.”

Talk ranged from their children’s service in the Israel Defense Forces to Egypt to The Rolling Stones. Leah leads interfaith dialogues to try to bring Jews, Muslims, and Christians together without getting too mired in politics. The husband and wife said they both preferred to focus on day-to-day living and peacemaking, blocking out somewhat the fact that they live in disputed territory. ”I’m more spiritual than religious,” says Al Lublin. “For a Jew, living in Israel is more important than all the other 613 [mizvot, “commandments”]. So I have more freedom to focus on the people in my life.”

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Are You Familiar with Israeli Literature?

by Christin Davis, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

L.A. Book Club on Israeli LiteratureOnce a month, in and around Beverly Hills, a word-of-mouth club, comprised of all Israelis, meets at alternating members’ homes to discuss Hebrew literature by Israeli authors.

“It’s interesting because we all know each other so well,” says Orna Yaron, who along with her husband Meir, helped start the club and are the only remaining members of the 40 attendees of the first book club meeting in 1989. “We know each other’s political inclinations, personal and family situations. We analyze the literature, but everybody comes from his own experience. It’s like group therapy sometimes.”

The group is moderated by a professional, Deborah Steinhart, also an Israeli, who has a doctorate in comparative literature from UC Berkeley. Steinhart went through a few of the authors the club has studied, including Aharon Appelfeld, a prolific writer on the Holocaust; S. Y. Agnon, a Nobel laureate writer; Amos Oz, a journalist and professor of literature at Ben-Gurion University; A. B. Yehoshua, a novelist and playwright; and Amichai Shalev, editor for literature and art on Ynet.

Anyone out there read in Hebrew? Are you familiar with these authors or a fan of their work? What is the major premise of modern Israeli literature? What other Israeli authors should people looking for Hebrew literature be aware of?

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Film about Tel Aviv School Educating Marginalized Children Wins Oscar

by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Amidst the glamor and glitz of the Oscars, a short film on the children of migrant workers and asylum seekers in Israel was awarded a golden statue for best documentary short.

Strangers No MoreThe film Strangers No More highlights the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, which teaches 800 students from 48 countries. Some have fled violence in their home countries, while others migrated to Israel along with their parents, who were searching for work. All are united by a common language: Hebrew.

A screening of the film in Tel Aviv on Monday night brought a capacity crowd, including former prime minister Ehud Olmert. As The Jerusalem Post reports:

"Olmert said the school presents a model of how Israel can treat those who are different and those who come here seeking refuge. The former Prime Minister added ‘We must not allow these children to be deported.’"

Olmert was almost certainly just referring to the children of asylum seekers, and not those of migrant workers. The differences in treatment between the two groups — by society and by law — are among the issues we will be investigating in our coverage of the immigrant issue on the ground in Israel.

And you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll try to meet the students and teachers at Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv when we’re there in just under two weeks!

(photo: Karen Goodman)

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Many Angles to Reporting on Foreign Workers in Israel
by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student
Expert on the politics of the Middle East and USC professor Laurie Brand pointed me towards some interesting reading on immigration and Israel recently — namely, that the tension between Israelis and immigrant workers began in the late 1990s, when the Israeli government began allowing foreign workers in order to replace Palestinian labor.
This Guardian article from 2003 details how one contingent of Chinese workers were “forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job” and were “also forbidden from engaging in any religious or political activity.” Their work contract “states that offenders will be sent back to China at their own expense.”
Preventing assimilation into Israeli society was clearly the intended effect of such contractual stipulations. The Guardian further writes that “advocates of foreign workers, who also come from Thailand, the  Philippines and Romania, say they are subject to almost slave  conditions, and their employers often take away their passports and  refuse to pay them.”
Do such contracts still exist today?

Many Angles to Reporting on Foreign Workers in Israel

by Mary Slosson, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

Expert on the politics of the Middle East and USC professor Laurie Brand pointed me towards some interesting reading on immigration and Israel recently — namely, that the tension between Israelis and immigrant workers began in the late 1990s, when the Israeli government began allowing foreign workers in order to replace Palestinian labor.

This Guardian article from 2003 details how one contingent of Chinese workers were “forced to agree not to have sex with or marry Israelis as a condition of getting a job” and were “also forbidden from engaging in any religious or political activity.” Their work contract “states that offenders will be sent back to China at their own expense.”

Preventing assimilation into Israeli society was clearly the intended effect of such contractual stipulations. The Guardian further writes that “advocates of foreign workers, who also come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania, say they are subject to almost slave conditions, and their employers often take away their passports and refuse to pay them.”

Do such contracts still exist today?

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