After a long day of walking yesterday, we were all grateful for a late start at 9 AM today. Together, we strolled through town to stop at the local flea market and grab pastries on the way to the beach. Although none of us ended up buying anything from the flea market, it was interesting to see the contrast with the other marketplaces we’d come across over the previous days. Most notably, this one was much less tourist-y and food-oriented. The phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” came to mind.
After about twenty minutes, the group headed down to the boardwalk to walk along the beach toward Tel Aviv. The weather, of course, was sunny and beautiful, and a little cooler than on previous days. When we reached the “Banana Beach” restaurant and beach area, we shoved some tables together and sat down for coffee and tea and discussion. Today’s topic was again one of reflection. Specifically, we reviewed the questions each of us had submitted to Ronnie via our first reflection paper prior to this trip. Most of them, it turned out, we had found answers for.
On the other hand, more questions were raised regarding the morality of the Palestinian resistance and whether or not Judaism and democracy can truly be combined – in theory and in practice. While we had differing opinions, most of us agreed that Israel was not living up to our expectations or original conceptions of what a democracy should be, not only because of the occupation, but also because of the government’s control over education and its promotion of the “Israeli narrative” without regard to that of the Palestinians.
Next, right before we ordered our lunch, we were forced to evacuate the table and move to a far corner of the Banana Beach set-up due to a sudden bomb threat. Someone had left a red backpack on the beach, and no one was around to claim it. Thankfully, it wasn’t actually a bomb – it turned out that some tourist had left their bag unattended, as the Israeli from the bomb squad appeared to pull out pants and other clothes from the backpack. Regardless, this experience proved to us just how fast the Israeli security forces can act and just how well they are able to establish and maintain control over a small area. Moreover, the way we were able to immediately return to our table for lunch as if nothing had happened served as a reminder of the luxuries in Tel Aviv. Here, we had the best protection and utmost dedication from security forces, whereas some innocent Palestinians are left to fend for themselves against attacks from Israeli settlers.
After lunch, we spent a little time walking along the shoreline and swimming in the Mediterranean before heading to a meeting with activists from the Coalition of Women for Peace. We learned about the struggles Palestinian women deal with on a daily basis, from racist treatment at bus stops and job interviews, to frisking, to finding ways to take care of children while their husbands or children might be held in jail indefinitely. We also learned in-depth about the façade Israel supports over gay rights; the upcoming pride parade, we were told, will be about half consisting of foreigners, and the Knesset has yet to pass some bills regarding gender equality.
At 4, we drove back to our hotel and had the rest of the afternoon before dinner to ourselves. About half of us, myself included, made a quick run to Jeff’s for gelato. Needless to say, Jeff will be missed greatly when we have to return home.
For dinner, Fred from Green Olive Tours invited us to his house for barbeque with a few of his daughters friends, who had somewhat recently left the IDF. Over hummus, chicken kebab, and grilled onion, we discussed a variety of topics, mostly relating to the IDF and its role in Israeli society. I was surprised that the IDF has certain units made up of people from certain parts of society, such as leftists, and that only illegal “black flag” orders can be refused. By dessert, however, it was clear that the IDF is extremely important for unifying Israelis both socially and politically and for exposing indoctrinated and optimistic teenagers to the reality of the conflict with Palestine. After thanking Fred and his wife for their hospitality, we walked home to Andromeda Hill tired, with the fact that Friday would be our last day at the back of our minds.