Walking Through History
I was filled with excitement when I saw the CIIS email months ago about an Israel summer course. I believe the best way to learn more about the culture and history of an area is to get out of the introverted protection of textbooks and instead travel there. Admittedly this is not the first time I have taken a trip to Israel, but that one other trip did not ensure me all the knowledge about the intensely complicated Israel/Palestine conflict.
And how could it?
As anyone familiar with the topic knows a lot goes into understanding the conflict. It is not a simple black and white situation. If it was we would not still be struggling with it seventy years after the state of Israel was declared. When studying the conflict, you have to learn about the history and culture of both Israel and Palestine.
Lucking out with a cool eighty-something degree day, we went on a walking tour of the heart of Tel Aviv to learn more about Jewish history and how it led to the country of Israel we know of today. Starting at Independence hall, we listened to the story of how Israel declared independence; hearing valuable little tidbits such as the fact that on May 14th, 1948 when Israel declared independence the people there signed a blank piece of paper because the official document was still being drafted and would be printed onto the signed paper later.
Next, we walked to the Shalom Towers lobby where an exhibit of early life in Israel was. Here our guide talked about the Sabras. These are Jews that are “tough on the outside but sweet on the inside.” Sabras did not want to be associated with the helpless image Jews picked up in Europe during the Holocaust. The photos in this lobby were of the first generation of Sabra Jews showing their health and success in their new land. I felt captivated by the photo of a young man with the strength to hold the woman above his head while she has the athletic ability to do a backbend. This generation was determined to change the narrative. Jews were not going to be the victim anymore.
As we walked, we were fed with continuous facts about Israel’s history since independence was declared. Arriving in Rabin Square, I listened intently as the guide told us the history of Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel in the 1990’s that was assassinated for his attempt to make a peaceful two state solution. During his time in office was the closest the conflict has ever got to a two-state solution. It is hard to picture what would have happened in terms of the conflict if Rabin had survived. Would there have finally been peace? Would another war over the land erupted?
Ending our tour with the topic of the IDF, we observed the squared off area of IDF buildings in Tel Aviv. It was here we discussed the many benefits those who serve receive. We also discussed how not every Israeli has to serve if they can prove a legitimate reason to not be drafted; though it might be in their best interest to serve. My mind was filled with questions as we made the journey back to our hostile. There is still so much I do not know. I look forward to going to bed tonight in order to wake up early in hopes to understand a little bit more.