Seeing a New Side of the Israeli People

We started our day with a walking tour of the orthodox Jewish city of Bnei Brak where we were able to see a side of Israel that we had not yet seen during the trip. With help from our tour guide, a once orthodox Jew who is now secular, we learned about the basics of the orthodox Jewish Israeli society. We learned about religious traditions, the dress of the people, gender roles in the society, and the religious atmosphere that has allowed for the tight knit community of beliefs to remain, such as the lack of outside influences and unified school curriculums.

Throughout the tour, we were lucky enough to enjoy some classic Jewish foods such as kigel, cholent, and delicious challah bread. While trying each dish, we were able to learn about Jewish traditions, such as the Sabbath, when these foods are usually eaten. The tour through the orthodox city allowed us to learn much more than any presentation would because we had the opportunity to be absorbed into the culture while seeing the traditions of the people at work.

Following the tour, we returned to Jaffa for a conversation with a secular Tel-Aviv resident who was also a member of a prominent peace activist group, Imagine Peace. Our speaker, Ruti, expressed her ideas that Israel cannot call itself a democracy without equality in all aspects of life for all members of the society, regardless of race or religious background. She also discussed her past in Jerusalem as a secular resident in the religious center of Israel. She told us about the internal cleavages in Israeli society that have arisen between the Jewish people and the secular residents, which ties into some of the larger questions we are trying to answer throughout this course.

Both of our main activities tied into larger discussions we have been having about the cleavages in Israeli society. The tour of Bnei Brak showed us another side of Israeli life that we have not seen as much in Tel Aviv and our discussion with Ruti demonstrated a divide that is forming between the secular and the Jewish Israelis.

We ended the day with a trip to a traditional Arab restaurant where we were able to enjoy even more delicious food. Our discussions did not stop as we ate dinner and toured Jaffa to explore the culture and the nightlife of the city.

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