Shavuot and Eastern Jerusalem

So the last week or two has been a little difficult. I’ve been battling with some homesickness and why-do-I-still-have-no-friends sickness. But I’m okay. Living at Marissa’s is wonderful, I love her apartment, I feel comfortable and at ease and happy which feels good.

Work, again, has been interesting. There are ups and downs, some days I get bored, but for the most part it’s great. And my bosses are absolutely lovely. Last week one of them told me to go to the Danish Embassy party at the Peres Center for Peace. The view from the building. OH.MY.GOD. It has got to be one of the nicest sea-views I have seen in Tel Aviv. The party was fun too, fancy finger-foods and weird contemporary dancers. My favourite part was this thing they had with mini-vegetables. The veggies were baby root vegetables (like carrots) stuck in “dirt” in pots. The dirt, however, was edible, and beneath it there was a green sauce – no clue what it was – that made the dirt stick to the veggies. It was so cool, like pulling the carrots straight out of the soil and eating them. Adorable!

On the 8th, it was Shavuot. A harvest festival where you eat lots of dairy. One of my bosses invited me to his kibbutz for the festivities, which were lovely. The kibbutzim all came out and sat on the grass and watched the entertainment – this consisted of little kids dancing, young girls doing a harvest dance and a choir. All the kids had flowers in their hair. I think my favourite, though, was the part where each family went up with a basket representing what they do and the MC announced how many tons of dairy, wheat, turkey etc. the kibbutz had produced that year. It ended with all the families whose children had been born in the last year (since last Shavuot) presenting their babies on stage to the kibbutz. 16 new babies this year.

The kibbutz used to be a communist entity, and my boss told me he had been opposed to its changing until one year there was only 1 newborn on the kibbutz. It was then that he went and told the board that it needed to be changed – instead of the kibbutzim giving ALL its earnings to the kibbutz and receiving an allowance, they now just give a percentage to the kibbutz, sort of like a kibbutz-tax. Another change was that before, new members would be given a house by the kibbutz; now, they need to be able to afford to build it themselves (though the land is provided by the kibbutz).

Friday was less exciting from an anthropological perspective, but fun anyway. I went to dinner at my main boss’s sister’s house to celebrate his birthday with his absolutely lovely family.

I’ve stopped exhausting myself during the work week by meeting people every night and only met two lovely girls for drinks this last week.

Yesterday was fascinating. One of my coworkers who is a specialist on the border (the same one that led the first tour I went on) was leading another tour this week in Eastern Jerusalem (not East Jerusalem, it’s different). The tour was in Hebrew, but another coworker came and translated for me. It was absolutely fascinating. It is very difficult to explain what I learned without being able to show it on a map – but the least I can do is share some photos 🙂

This is the view of three Palestinian villages that are surrounded 360 degrees by Israeli settlements in the area of Eastern Jerusalem. For them to get anywhere, they need to take a road that tunnels under the settlements and comes out the other end! One tunnel goes to Ramallah, the other goes the other direction (basically, one to your left, one to your right).

During the second intifada, there was a lot of violence on roads in the West Bank. A lot of Israeli families in cars were shot at, and as a result, many highways now have walls. This wall, however, separates a road for Palestinians and a road for Israelis – one leads into Arab Jerusalem, the other into Israeli Jerusalem, to avoid huge traffic jams and such at checkpoints.

A view of Old Jerusalem, with the Dome of the Rock, and less bright but on the left, the al-Aqsa Mosque.

This is an Israeli settlement built in the Arab area of Beit Yonatan. This building houses 60 apartments which will house Israeli Jews. The buildings need to be guarded by the IDF and essentially are aimed at pushing out the Arabs and establishing a Jewish majority in the area. So far, the majority is still Arab.

The separation wall on the Israeli side. It was built along the Jerusalem municipal lines and separates an Arab village (or two villages from each other) but more than a humanitarian crisis, the building of the wall sparked economic problems on both side: falling GDP on the PA controlled side, increasing cost of living on the Israeli side.

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