Saturday, January 2, 2010


While sitting on the plane, an Israeli man approached us. He asked us where we were headed in Israel and what were we doing there. Despite the numerous warnings we had receieved about the gruff nature of israelis (a rumour I am increasingly believing to be false), he was extremely friendly and began telling us his narrative about israeli security.
“The IDF... they aren't so nice” he put gently. “But it all depends on how they're feeling that day. You have to understand-- Israel must protect itself”. He continued to explain the search procedures, emphasizing to tell the truth because they will know if you're lying, and then explained the separation barrier.
Actually, he called it a wall. This was surprising to me. The typical israeli narrative tends to step lightly near this issue of the barrier, since it's so contraversial to outsiders. For those of you that don't know, there is a barrier-- sometimes a fence, sometimes a wall, that separates Israel from the West Bank. This barrier is, to the israelis, a security feature-- one which they credit the recent decline inviolent attacks.
As the man continued his story, weaving in all sorts of features, I began to think about-- once again-- the importance of the words we use to describe our situations. The sheer multitude of ways to describe the same factors in the same situation:
fence-- wall-- security barrier
town-- settlement
village--refugee camp
The thing is-- the thing that I think we forget-- is that underneath all the politics, all the negative publicity, all the fear and anger-- this is not just a conflict zone. It is a home.The problem is, it seems, that it is a home for two nations of people who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the other. It is a fight which is painful to watch, but now that I'm here, it is becoming a little easier to understand.
We arrived in Tel Aviv and quickly toured around nearby Jaffa. Jaffa, a beautiful port side town, is a mixed city-- something our professor, an Arab living within Israel, pointed out quickly. This is one of the few cities within Israel where Arabs and Israeli Jews live side by side. There are many cities with "Jewish" neighborhoods and "Arab" neighborhoods, but Jaffa is one of those unique places where the cultures are integrated. The streets were filled with people out for a stroll (the shops were closed, as it was a saturday), speaking lilting Hebrew, but the buildings had soft whispers of Arab accents, hidden like pearls along side the arched alleyways, enclosed courtyards and narrow steps. 
"This used to be a main Palestinian port" said our professor, and I felt a pang of sadness. Things change. Time, people, wars change everything. But a big difference between the culture here and the culture in the US is that there is an essential separation between politics and everyday life. Especially so in places like Jaffa. In the end, it seems, people simply want a peaceful place to call home.
 As a side note, I apologize for the lack of content in this post, as I'm writing it with extreme jet-lag. We are going to Beit Natufa Valley tomorrow, which gets into the water conflict, so hopefully that post will be much more interesting (and with pictures!)


  1. Hey Jess! I am looking forward to reading more!

  2. Hey Jess! I am looking forward to reading more!