Day of Reflection

The goal of the day was to discuss and reflect on the sights, narratives, ideas and experiences we’ve been exposed to thus far. We started our breezy yet sunny Saturday morning indulging in a traditional Israeli breakfast! This consisted of some freshly squeezed Jaffa orange juice, Turkish coffee, cappuccinos and herbal tea to drink, accompanied with an omelet served with three different types of bread and a platter of small dishes including tuna, za’atar, hummus, goat cheese, green olives, cucumbers with tomatoes and more.Our guide from Green Olive Tours, Itamar, met up with us and we began walking along the doc past a lively crowd and some fisherman using traditional netting to catch fish. We progressed along the edge of the Mediterranean in Jaffa, getting splashed by a wave along the way, until we found a nice spot in the sunshine to sit and discuss. We were supposed to be sitting in front of the Perez center for Peace, but we mistook it for a gym. The center was created in the name of a former president of Israel, Shimon Perez, with the intent of being a think tank for peace building ideas. Our discussion following was honest, intriguing and enlightening.During our discussion, we focused on what we have learned so far regarding the cleavages within Israeli society. There was a consensus among the group that before coming to Israel, we had the pre-conceived notion that the Israeli Jews were one cohesive people. We’ve learned that there are several cleavages within Israeli society itself, such the orthodox versus the seculars and the Ashkenazim versus the Mizrachim. Between Israel and Palestine we’ve also gathered more of what it is like to have to live in an occupied territory and what they are truly fighting for. It’s hard to imagine, but living a life where you can be arrested at any time for no reason and held without receiving a lawyer for any amount of time is unfathomable. They are also restricted form leaving their territory and if they are lucky enough to have a pass, they still must go through checkpoints that can last hours on end. The majority of occupied Palestinians seem to be looking for equal rights and freedoms and an acknowledgment that the Nakba occurred and the Israeli military and government were wrong in doing so. Overall, we are beginning to see the dissonance within Israeli society and between Israeli Jews and Palestinians.After our discussion we continued along the beach and received our first true Israeli rain storm, two minutes of light sprinkles. During our walks we discuss the surroundings we’re experiencing and ask questions about the architecture, area and any other thoughts that come to mind. We arrived in Bat Yam, an area heavily populated by emigrant Jews from the former Soviet Union. We had lunch right on Tayo Beach in a modern restaurant with mainstream club music filling our ears.After being given some free time to explore the beach, the town, the pool, or just complete some course work, we headed out for an Azerbaijani restaurant named Baku. The murals covering the ten foot walls enclosing the gated area were beautiful. We also had the treat of eating outside and enjoying the cool weather of the night. It was interesting to see the oven was conveniently located in the front of the restaurant giving us a good look at how our food was being made. The food was incredibly tasty and there were very friendly Russian servers accommodating our group after their big event during the day. I hope they read this blog and know how much our group enjoyed their skewered filled meals and their well ran business!

All in all the day was very insightful and relaxing before we gear up for a long few days in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

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