I arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday. Getting through immigration was nerve wracking. The lines for “foreigners” were really long and slow and several people in front of me in my queue were waved off to some room to the side after long questioning at the window. One was a young couple with backpacks who I imagine were setting out to do some sort of peace team (CPT, etc.) intervention in the West Bank. If they know that’s what you’re heading to do, chances are you will not be allowed in. I have no idea whether they ultimately made it through or not, but it was enough to get my nerves up. I was worried that I would be grilled about returning to Israel as a non-Jew after having just done the Holy Land Trip less than a year ago. I had my alibi down pat. I told the man questioning me that I was there as an elder law attorney, gave him my credentials as a board member of different elder law groups and told him about my planned meeting with a professor of elder law in Haifa. That was all cool, and easy for me, because it was true. He then asked me if I have friends in Israel. I do, and actually have plans to meet with one tomorrow, but wouldn’t you know it, the brain freeze set in and I found myself completely without his name. I stuttered and stumbled and finally pulled out my little notebook and told him. At that point, he seemed more amused than anything and waved me through. Phew!

My rough nerves were not to be soon quelled. I had decided that renting a car would be the best bet for my first couple of days in Israel. Well, that turned out to be not the best choice. First of all, my international calling plan did not include data so I was without GPS. Anyone who knows me, knows that if there is a way to get lost, it will find me, and I am totally dependent on GPS. So, I pretty much winged it getting to my hotel which is in Jaffa. Jaffa lies on the Mediterranean just below Tel Aviv. The signs to Tel Aviv from the airport were easy enough to spot and follow, but Tel Aviv is BIG city. Once inside Tel Aviv, all I knew was that I needed to head to the sea, and the sea was west as was the setting sun. Believe it or not, that did finally get me there with just one stop along the way to ask for directions, but rather than as the crow flies,   probably more like tacking a sail boat when your going into the wind.

I had been to Jaffa last year with my Living Waters tour group, so I didn’t feel I needed to take the time to see the sights, although it would have been lovely to do so. My hotel, Ruth Dan Residence is an architecturally interesting, older building. It’s comfortable, but not fancy and has a hostel feeling to it.

P1120304

P1120307In fact, it is quite inundated with teenagers on group tours. I was chatting last night with some American kids who were here for some sort of a physics competition. When I first arrived, there was also a big hoopla going on in the cafeteria that was apparently for some Tel Aviv City celebration. There was loud music reverberating through the entire open stairway. The music sounded very Arabic to me and at one point there was even a woman feigning to belly dance. I think she might have had one too few, but the crowd seemed to enjoy it. In fact, the crowd seemed to be having a lot of fun. Maybe it was my jetlag, but oddly, that made me sad.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with my daughter, Sophie about a week ago when she was referring to cultural misappropriation. This is a term I had heard, but never really conceptualized.   In essence, it is the notion of adopting aspects of an indigenous culture as one’s own. So, what’s wrong with that, anyway? Serendipitously, here is an article I stumbled upon shortly after the conversation with my daughter about belly dancing. In my opinion, this woman is taking the notion way too far, to the point of giving sardonic bite to the term “politically correct.”  http://www.salon.com/2014/03/04/why_i_cant_stand_white_belly_dancers/

But, watching these happy Israelis partying down with Arabic music topped off by a woman attempting to belly dance to it really got to me. For those of you who don’t know, Jaffa was probably the most bustling city of Palestine before the partition creating Israel. It was a port city with a thriving middle class. Tel Aviv literally grew on top of it. There are many stories, movies and tales – all based on truth – of how Palestinians were routed out of the city by the early Jewish forces, most of them never to be allowed to return.  One of my favorites is The Salt of the Sea – a fictional but very realistic account. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salt_of_this_Sea (you can rent it at Netflix)

The old city of Jaffa has been carefully restored and retains much of the old Palestinian character, but that was done in deference to the Biblical importance and tourism rather than to preserve Palestinian culture.

To the contrary, the ongoing trend since the creation of Israel has been to erase traces of the people who were there before – to “de-Arabize” the country.This is also from the vista of the balcony of my room. I zoomed into what appears to be an old Palestinian residence. It is likely now inhabited by Israelis. P1120302I am sure I will be writing much about that particular issue, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Another part of my sadness was watching this large group of Jewish people really enjoying themselves oblivious, I am quite sure, about anything remotely akin to what I was feeling. They are here now. They own this place. It is their home. In spite of cultural misappropriation, they certainly have their own culture to claim. Much of what I see in Israel is lovely and admirable. If I could have a wish it would be that each and everyone of them could spend a couple of weeks in the West Bank living among Palestinians, without fear; that they would experience first hand the hospitality and beauty of Palestinian culture and experience Palestinians as people rather than “the other” or worse “the enemy;” and that a light bulb would go off in all of their heads about how their presence here was paid for, in large part, by the Palestinians whose lives were upheaved by the formation of Israel and those whose live their government continues to control.

In my opinion, this woman is taking the notion way too far, to the point of giving sardonic bite to the term “politically correct.” LINK

But, watching these nice Jewish people partying down with Arabic music topped off by a woman attempting to belly dance to it really got to me. For those of you who don’t know, Jaffa was probably the most bustling city of Palestine before the partition creating Israel. It was a port city with a thriving middle class. Tel Aviv literally grew on top of it. There are many stories, movies and tales – all based on truth – of how Palestinians were routed out of the city by the early Jewish forces, most of them never to be allowed to return. The old city of Jaffa has been carefully restored and retains much of the old Palestinian character, but that was done in deference to the Biblical importance and tourism rather than to preserve Palestinian culture. To the contrary, the ongoing trend since the creation of Israel has been to erase traces of the people who were there before – to “de-Arabize” the country. I am sure I will be writing much about that particular issue, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

I know that  picture is worth a 1,000 words, but I haven’t figured out how to transfer pictures from my iPhone without data service or if it’s even possible. I do have camera pics, however, for my next post about Haifa.

Another part of my sadness was watching this large group of Jewish people really enjoying themselves oblivious, I am quite sure, about anything remotely akin to what I was feeling. They are here now. They own this place. It is their home. In spite of cultural misappropriation, they certainly have their own culture to claim. Much of what I see in Israel is lovely and admirable. If I could have a wish it would be that each and everyone of them could spend a couple of weeks in the West Bank living among Palestinians, without fear; that they would experience first hand the hospitality and beauty of Palestinian culture and experience Palestinians as people rather than “the other” or worse “the enemy;” and that a light bulb would go off in all of their heads about how their presence here was paid for, in large part, by the Palestinians whose lives were upheaved by the formation of Israel and those whose live their government continues to control.

After note: As I prepare to check out of the Ruth Dan Residence, and having been curious about who Ruth Dan is/was I found this plaque in the lobby.  How apropos to my journey.  P1120305

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