© 2016 by Avigail Manneberg

Unwilling Ambassador

 

We experience and so we question and compare. I grew up in a different place from where I currently live. My reactions and instincts are linked to my past. And so I search for the meaning of these connections between time, place and circumstances. 

 

 When asked about Israel, at first I reacted defensively to these questions about my country and thus myself. I then felt increasingly confused about my culture and background as I gained a new perspective from different surroundings. A melancholy feeling of loss linked to letting go of prior emotional anchors has now given way to a need for action.

I am examining two related phenomena, “cultural obliviousness” and the “unwilling ambassador” through the case study of Israel. I expect this analysis and exploration to portray complex and critical portraits of both myself and society more broadly. 

By “cultural obliviousness” I am referring to group of people who base their cultural identity on narrow historical events and current political motivations. This lack of broader awareness creates a notion of a bubble or living in a dream without having a collective openness for self‐criticism. 

Israelis have both a complicated historical relationship with the identities of majority and minority populations, as well as a challenging present-day international context, and this situation inhibits a view of the larger picture. My project began as a direct response to strong feelings I couldn’t ignore. Guilt, responsibility, pride, betrayal, morality, ideals, truth and identity were constant themes present in my mind. It started in the form of a documentary film that engages with questions of migration and overlapping identities--national, cultural, religious and class--and focused on the context of Israel and Israelis abroad.

Through stories of people I meet I look for stereotypes as well as feelings of responsibility and even obligation towards the concept of homeland. I am conceptualizing this ambivalent situation as that of an “unwilling ambassador.”

I'm looking at the question of the relevance of national and cultural identity in today’s postmodern world through the case study of my own history in relation to Israel. In our contemporary world of continual flux and endless choice I feel that national and cultural identity is an object of exploration and a place of unending complexity. 

Being an outsider inspires me. I hope to contribute to a larger discussion about the concept of homeland, immigration and identities.