Sunday, August 16, 2009

Tel Aviv'n

Don't get me wrong, I love the desert. However, sometimes it's also nice to...y'know...go to a restaurant, or have a beer on the beach, or just be in a crowded place.

I was feeling a little stir crazy last week, so yesterday, I spent the day in Tel Aviv. I went to the Jordainian embassy and the bouldering gym [oh, how I do miss rock climbing!], ran some other errands that require a certain degree of urbanity, and met my friend Zoe for a beer at an outdoor cafe/bar on the Mediterranean. The weather was perfect, the beer was cold, the people were tan and beautiful, and the view was amazing. The beach in Tel Aviv is an easy place to love...

Traveling in Israel is a unique experience. Here are two things that happened yesterday, both of which, although very common occurrences here, might not seem so normal least not where I come from.

#1 Israeli guys are forward...very forward.

Bus ride from Tel Aviv to Be'er Sheva.

There's a guy sitting beside me...Israeli, mid to late 20s, doesn't speak hardly any English. We kindof chit chat for a few minutes [it's not easy considering the combined state of my Hebrew and his English] and then, he invites me to come visit him in Dimona, where he lives. I thank him for the invitation [thinking to myself...the only thing I know about Dimona is that there is a nuclear reactor there. Go figure, this story was in the news today.] I must not have seemed interested enough, so he began making more concrete plans. He explained that it would be best if I came this Thursday...I could stay with him Thursday night, have Friday dinner with him and his parents for Shabbat, and then we could go to the Dead Sea on Saturday. His friend runs a hotel, he told me, so we could stay there.

Woah...wait a minute...let me get this straight...we met maybe 15 minutes ago and can barely communicate with each other. Your pick-up line isn't...'can I get your number' but rather 'do you want to spend the weekend with me and have dinner with my parents?' Yikes.

At this point, I didn't really know what to say; I just [sortof awkwardly] thanked him again for the invitation, but told him I didn't think I could make it this weekend. And then...he went on. 'You need job in Israel?' 'What?' 'Work. You need work?' I told him that I actually already had a job here, at which point he let me know that he could get me a job at his friend's hotel at the Dead Sea and I could 'stay in Israel forever.' I had, he assured me, 'met the right guy.'

See what I mean? Forward...also incredibly helpful and welcoming...but really really forward...

#2 Racial profiling is totally normal, and apparently not a big deal.

Full bus on the ride from Be'er Sheva to Tel Aviv.

Bus pulls into the Cental Bus Station; security guard flags down the bus and climbs on board. He walks up and down the aisle and over to the two kids sitting in the seats behind me. The kids happend to be Arab guys, maybe 18 or 19 years old. The security guard demands to see their tickets, which they show him; then, without saying a word to any one else on the bus, the security guard leaves.

No one, including the two Arab guys, seemed the least bit surprised or annoyed. Just a normal part of life, I guess.

I was trying to imaging what would happen if I were on an American bus filled with mostly white people and two black kids...and if a white cop randomly got on the bus for no reason and demanded that the two black kids show their tickets. Obviously the reaction would depend on where the bus was. I'm pretty sure that in Philly there would be some vocalized attitude, at the very least. I hope that in Cambridge, people would at least take note.


  1. Pretty big difference between your two examples.

    Maybe if a certain group of black people had been systematically trying to bomb the shit out of the white people and kill them because they claimed that Cambridge was their holy land, you might have a point. But while I agree that it's racial profiling, it's not necessarily outright racism - which is what your black/white example would be.

  2. Point taken...maybe the comparison I made is an unfair one.

    I'm not necessarily saying that the racial profiling here in unwarranted, I just think there is a certain degree of acceptance of, and numbness to it that doesn't sit that well with me...and I realize that this has a lot to do with my own background and biases...and a certain distance from the situation.

    I think it's possible to understand the reasoning behind this kind of racial bias, without endorsing it as a good thing. I mean, when you look at people as representatives of a group different from yourself...instead of seeing them as becomes easier to justify actions taken towards or against them. I mean, those kids weren't bombing the shit out of anyone...they were just riding on the bus.

    Also, it's a fine line between "racial profiling" and "outright racism." All I know is that it's socially acceptable here to treat a group of people differently. I also think one of the positive things about racial tensions in the U.S. (at least black/white) is that we've gotten to a point where we can see it as "outright racism"...instead of justifiable profiling.


  3. You have spent quality time in Tel Aviv; similarly my trip was full of fun and entertainment. I enjoyed the water sports on the beaches with family and friends. Then I moved on to pubs, to enjoy the nightlife of this wonderful place to the fullest. I must say the Boutique Hotel in Tel Aviv, where I stayed added to my enjoyment and comfort.