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A Peculiar Silence in Tel Aviv

As is often the case in July, I find myself sitting in my favorite cafe, MIA, in the Neve Tzedek in south Tel Aviv area.

It’s a neighborhood that has, in the last 15 years, evolved from forgotten little houses to resurrected restorations. With book stores, cafes, restaurants, and boutique stores. It’s where, on a Friday morning, or a Saturday afternoon, suburban couples come to, drift around, and have a cup of coffee.

Just a few years ago all conversations were about politics, peace negotiations, and the hope and lack of hope  in the Middle East. Now, even in the context of a nuclear Iran, there is a peculiar silence–a sense that people just don’t really want to talk about what’s happening around them.

It’s not necessarily an ostrich mentality nor is it necessarily a widespread indifference, but rather a type of political burnout–something that’s most apparent among the moderates.

For many years you would sit in any cafe and people would talk about the ‘mazaf,’ or the ‘situation’–a catchall word to describe the political security and social turmoil that is embedded within the country.

A number of years ago this was a focus of discussion in all homes. Today, it seems the energy has been depleted and discussions seem to wander away from anything relating to national politics.  Speak to any moderate and they’ll tell you, “I don’t listen to the news, it’s the same thing over and over again.”

Two days ago I had occasion to sit with a widow who lost her son in one of the wars and when the conversations turned to something of political substance, her response was simply, “What’s there to talk about? Nothing ever changes.”

When I spoke to a well known artists, he could talk about his art, an upcoming exhibit in Dublin, and his grandchildren in Los Angeles, but he echoed the same line when the conversation bent towards politics: “I don’t listen to the news, why bother?”

This mindset has shifted my little coffee shop from being a place on intense conversations to a place where people go after yoga lessons or a forum to discuss an upcoming trip to Bulgaria or a sailing expedition to Crete. Just about anything that allows them an escape from the ‘mazaf,’ the situation.

As moderates become more and more silent and go on more and more trips and take more and more yoga lessons the world is shifting.

Yoga classes might be increasing, but political involvement is decreasing.

Still, how different is this from any other place around the world? Have of all us moderates become exhausted?



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