Politics, in a narrowly defined sense, is what we avoid at SLN where possible, although clearly some posts do have a more general political thrust regarding issues like feminism, Free the Nipple, and LGBT rights, issues we support without being party political.
2016 has been a seismic year in the political landscape, with divisive votes in the US Presidential Elections and the UK’s vote to leave the EU, but we’ve sat on the fence regardless of our own views.
However, matters in the Middle East have rumbled on and on and on, with the focus less on Israel/Palestine this year than they were firmly focussed on Syria and what we hope is the imminent defeat of the inhumane, bloodthirsty, crazed minds of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh. We can but hope that they are destroyed in 2017; that would be a good news story for all of us, not least the Muslims living under their yoke of terror.
But let’s swing back to Israel and Palestine for a moment.
I was at a naturist sim the other day when I encountered Ofra, an Israeli avatar who is currently serving in the Israeli Defence Forces, often on patrol along the border with Palestine. ‘Hang on’, she interjects, ‘sometimes I’m doing really mundane stuff. It’s not like I’m dodging a bullet every time I’m out of barracks’.
Like everyone else in Israel, Ofra must serve in the army as part of her National Service and despite going into the process with a deep hatred of ‘uniforms and authority’, she has found she’s rather enjoying the experience.
‘I don’t enjoy it in the sense of us being in a state of readiness, and under attack, all the time. I enjoy the camaraderie, the friends I’ve made. I would much prefer to be in Palestine in peace, as people’s friend, helping, rebuilding, rather than being seen as an instrument of hatred. Almost all my friends feel the same way. It’s something we have to do, but it’s something we’d prefer we weren’t doing, and just coexisting peacefully’.
Ofra refuses to be drawn on the rights and wrongs of the situation.
‘That’s for the politicians. We get attacked, we step up security in a hard, proactive manner, the Palestinians resent us more…attack us more…it’s a never ending cycle’.
We meet in a bar in SL to talk, and her sense of weariness at the situation is palpable. ‘My parents did National Service. Eventually I’ll have children and they’ll do National Service, and the situation will largely remain the same, I expect. I’m caught up in that just as much as people in Gaza are. In the main, they’d love it all to stop, as would I, but we’re left in this awful situation for all of us because of the politicians’.
But we didn’t just come to talk politics. As I said earlier, I met Ofra in a naturist sim, and of course I asked if she was a real life naturist. She laughed and said she’d gone skinny dipping in both the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea, but there wasn’t much opportunity for naturism as SLN would understand it. And it was Spencer Tunick who sparked her interest in naturism.
‘He came to Israel about five years ago and did a shoot. I so, so wanted to take part, but I was only 16 at the time, hahaha and was rejected when I applied’.
‘I would have loved to have been part of that. He came back again, but it was on a smaller scale and by this time I was doing my National Service and even had I been picked I might not have got the time off.’
‘If he ever comes back I’m determined to be part of it, whether I’m 25 or 65!’
Now intrigued by the whole aspect of being naked outdoors, Ofra says that she would go off to isolated beaches when she learned to drive and would swim naked. ‘It’s such a wonderful, freeing, liberating feeling’, she tells me. ‘Sometimes I’d go with friends, sometimes alone. When I was 18 I spent the whole summer obsessed with being naked as often as I could. I would go out to a place called the Beit Zayit reservoir (East Jerusalem) and swim there. Don’t forget Israel is a small country. Ashdod, on the Mediterranean coast, was only an hour’s drive from where I lived, so it was easy to get to isolated beaches on the coast. One of my friends in the army is from a place called Nir Am, which is about 2kms from the Palestine. We still spent the afternoon sunbathing topless in her garden, haha. I know people have this weird idea about Israel but most of the time it’s pretty normal. Less normal when you’re in the Army, but still pretty mundane. It can have its moments though’.
The Arab she has the closest relationship with her in her life is through Second Life! ‘And I bet I’m the only Jew he’s spoken to at length. I was walking through Second Life Israel one day and another avatar IM’ed me. That was Omar. He’s been a great friend in SL for about a year now.’
‘He’s not Palestinian, I won’t say where he’s from, but we got chatting and we’d more in common than divided us. Naturism was one of the key common interests. Omar had spent a summer in Europe and had experienced communal naturism first hand. I was very envious, hahaha. Strip away the politics and the clothes and we’re all just human beings. We’ve shared quite bit of time at different SL naturist sims over the past year. If we’re both online at the same time it’s generally where we’ll meet up’.
Naturism as a common denominator?
‘In our case, yes. Naturism transcends me being Israeli and Jewish. Naturism transcends Omar being Arab and Muslim. It’s not going to work for the whole world. Maybe if it did we’d have a more peaceful world!’
Ofra guards a mall in SL Israel.
Ofra on helicopter training
Arabs and Israelis. United in naturism?