Monday, September 18, 2006

Tel Aviv Protest

Ah, the big city...!! Last weekend some friends and I went to Tel Aviv to go to the beach before it gets cold. We were wrongly thinking that the climate in Tel Aviv is similar to Birzeit where it's already cooling down significantly in the evenings. But we realized as we made our way down to Tel Aviv that the whole two and a half hours, you are going down, down, down. Silly me, I had left my passport at home so I was frantically making up a story in my mind about how to plead with the Israeli guards at the checkpoint to let me though. Thankfully, this time it was a young guy who would undoubtedly have been denied entrance to a rated R movie, and he looked scared to death. He barely glanced at my driver’s license and didn’t even ask to see a passport, so we were home free!

In Tel Aviv, we first stopped by the huge apartment of an American guy who works for USAID. He’s the friend of a friend and offered me to stay the weekend at his place. He recounted the frustrations of his job at USAID ever since Hamas won the elections. He’s responsible for funding projects for the West Bank and Gaza and since the USAID has stopped all funding since Hamas won the elections, he literally has nothing to do. Interestingly, he mentioned how difficult it is to make friends in Tel Aviv if one is not Jewish and doesn’t speak Hebrew.

The view of Tel Aviv from his apartment building was stunning and the city looks very beautiful at night. (see pictures!) During the day, however, the city is suprisingly dingy and run-down. There’s also not much to do besides the beach.

As we left my friend’s apartment, we noticed policemen lining the streets and some roads blocked. It turns out a massive protest against the management of the war against Lebanon was being held a block away. We went over there to see what it was about and got in some interesting conversations with Israelis. Most were there because they disagreed not with going to war against Lebanon but with the execution of the war. One lady said, “I don’t feel any safer today than yesterday. They said they would get rid of Hizballah; they didn’t. They said they would get back the two soldiers and they didn’t. This is not right I'm no general but I know they should have managed this better!”

We then got in a conversation about the settlements with this lady and her son. Her son said the Arabs simply have to go; it is the Jews' land. At least he said they should probably be compensated for the land. The Mother was against the settlements, but said that any state settlement must include all of Jerusalem for Israel for "historical purposes". The next day we had a conversation with a guy with long dredlocks at an ice cream stop, whose grandparents had emigrated to Israel from Morrocco. “But I don’t speak a word of Arabic and I hate Arabs”, he said. “Why?” I asked. “Long story, if you grow up in Israel, you of course hate Arabs.” He said he was born in Jerusalem but much preferred living in Tel Aviv because life is freer and you can do and dress anyway you like. It was pretty shocking to hear that kind of mindset emanating from even the most chill hippie dude on the street.

After the protest, we had delicious Thai food and went to a bar on the beach that was blaring hip-hop music. It was surreal…we all felt like Tel Aviv was in a bubble. My American friend agreed…he said you would have never even known that a war was going on last month because life just continued apace in Tel Aviv. The only way one had an idea were the constant warships passing by the beach. Surreal, indeed.

After a lovely day at the beach and some shopping for things we can’t get in the West Bank, we wearily boarded the bus back to Jerusalem. I was eager to get back home. I had missed it!

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