May 20: A Relaxing Day in Jaffa and Bat Yam

Random horses trotting through the park

View from a deck in Bat Yam

After a late night of gelato and readings for class (yes, we’re actually doing work here!), many of us felt groggier this morning than we had thus far. Conveniently, today was the first day we all sat down for breakfast together, at the same Arab-Israeli café where we had dinner on the 18th. Cappuchinos, Turkish coffee, and orange juice made from local Jaffa oranges were the perfect refreshments to help us wake up. Even as someone who isn’t a fan of most orange juice in the US, Jaffa orange juice tasted more delicious and fresh than I could have imagined. As for the food, we started with a variety of breads and condiments such as hummus and za’atar (surprise, surprise), and finished with light omelets.

Straight from breakfast, the group, led by our guide Eitimar, walked down to the beach and along the boardwalk toward the city of Bat Yam (meaning “daughter of the sea”) in the distance. About halfway there, we stopped for a discussion at a large park behind the Peres Center for Peace, named for Shimon Peres, a former Prime Minister and President of Israel. Once a right wing general who was a war hawk and early supporter of settlements in the West Bank, Peres later evolved into a “dove” advocating for peaceful compromise with the Palestinians. His personal history as one of transition and evolution made the setting at that park perfect for our own discussion on what we had learned so far and which of our perceptions about Israeli politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had changed. Main points we talked about included similarities of discrimination against Arabs to discrimination against African-Americans in the US and similarities of Palestinian displacement to Native American displacement. This led to sharing our own experiences regarding minority treatment in the US and, eventually, to questions about how Israelis perceive President Trump and his potential influence over the conflict. The answer? Better than Obama, for the most part.

Finally, after once again expressing mutual exasperation over the scheduling headaches Trump’s upcoming visit to Israel was giving Ronnie and our tour guides, we continued on the walk to Bat Yam. Despite clouds and a few sprinkles of raindrops (which, as Ronnie predicted, lasted no more than five minutes), it was a beautiful walk. The landscape, a boardwalk on a hill that made a steep drop down to a wide, sandy beach, is almost exactly like my home in Redondo Beach, California.

We made a quick tour of the Mizrachi Jewish and Russian neighborhood upon reaching Bat Yam, then headed to a beachside restaurant. While it offered more familiar dishes such as hamburgers and schnitzel (which, to Matt’s dismay, was actually more like chicken fingers), the real excitements were watching surfers and waiting for the service to get our orders correct. In Ivy’s case, never! Nevertheless, we headed home on the bus feeling full and happy. With two containers of extra food.

Back at the hotel, most of us worked our reflection papers and a reading to prepare for tomorrow’s change in schedule, a visit to Jerusalem before Trump’s arrival. A few hours later, we headed back via bus to the Russian neighborhood in Bat Yam for dinner. While the food could at best be described as “interesting,” a quick stop for baklava on the return trip to the hotel saved the night.

 

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