2015-02-27

Half-month trip in Japan

I left Israel for Japan on February 12, spent about half a month there, and returned here yesterday (on February 26). Though the main purpose of this trip was to give an invited talk at a special meeting of the Japan Society for Jewish Studies in Tokyo, the trip turned out to be a timely opportunity to escape, though only for half a month, from Israeli society, or to be more precise, from the abundance of insensitive people living there. I was simply on the verge of a nervous breakdown as my immunity to such rampant insensitivity was running out.

During this half-month trip in Japan I didn't encounter but one insensitive person, and he happened to be a native Israeli living in Japan. But upon my return to Israel I encountered several insensitive people in one day on the first day. In Japan insensitivity is an exception, while in Israel it seems to be a norm. All the emotional energy I recharged in Japan thus drained away in a single day in Israel! Of course, I socialize in my private life here only with sensitive people, and fortunately, there are enough of them, but they are concentrated in a very small number of specific sociocultural groups comprising Israeli society.

One thing that I reappreciated in Japan this time is the existence of big bookstores, especially in big cities. By scanning through shelves there I cound find a number of new books, not only in Japanese but also in English, I might not have noticed online. Some of them seemed to me very helpful in my attempt to cope with my emotional high sensitivity (and the problems resulting from it here). Big phyical bookstores can't be substituted yet by online ones, at least as far as new books are concerned. Unfortunately, we are deprived of such intellectual stimuli in Israel with no big bookstores around.

I have to single out the following two events as the most touching and unforgettable experiences I had not only this time but in all the ten annual trips in Japan combined since my immigration to Israel in the summer of 2004. One was a class reunion of one alma mater of mine. Out of about 50 students I studied with about ten turned out. I met most of them for the last time about 11 years ago. It was like riding a time machine. I was especially moved by the fact that they kept caring about me all these years though we didn't remain in touch. I left them, promising to see them again during my next trip in Japan.

The other unforgettable event was a talk I was invited to give at another alma mater to the audience of teachers, about 500 students and some of their parents. I talked about Jewish ways of teaching, learning and thinking, summarizing what I myself have learned first-hand. This must have been a culture shock to all of them, not only because of its content but mainly because of the way I spoke. I consider it a great success if this talk of mine can affect even one student in his or her decision of his or her future path.