This is one in a series of entries about my recent trip to Israel. I was there from July 17-29, 2012; these entries are being posted a few weeks after the experience. Everything is transfered directly from my notebook and is only edited for grammar and spelling. All words that appear on the blog were written on the trip. More Israel entries are available here.
25 July 2012 — Shorashim; Jerusalem
We began the day at a meeting with a speaker who began her description of the history of Arab minorities with an explicit mention that we take what she says with a grain of salt. Not the first nor last time we’d hear that.
The theme for the rest of the trip is inequality/inequity. We are exploring it through a look at the minorities in Israel, all while staying at the nicest hotel in the city. I actually think their choice to put us in this hotel is very purposeful.
We met with some middle- and high-school Arabs at a community center. We (ten of us) asked the kids (three of them) probably 40 questions in 25 minutes. Their answers were short and usually lower-order thinking. Other groups had very deep kids but our just weren’t the same.
The conversation afterward, though, with a female Arab teacher, was really enlightening. I sat two seats away and before the session began, I tried to shake her hand. She smiled and told me no, she doesn’t shake hands. Annie was sitting right next to me and the Arab woman, though, and the woman said to her, “Oh, but I can share your hand.” It was a glimpse into unequal treatment (putting aside the reasons for discrimination) of different people.
I asked her if she’d send her child (she’s pregnant) to a Jewish daycare. She said she had reservations, specifically about language and also about culture being lost. In response to Matt’s (Katie the facilitator’s boyfriend [now fiance!] and high-school history teacher) question about what she wants American students to know about Israel and the Middle East, she said she wanted them to know two things: that Muslims are not terrorists and that terrorists were bastardizing the name (my words) of Islam; and that all she really wants for her family and self is peace.
We had a Druze lunch. (Druze are a minority within a minority, a religion that split from others and has 200 thousand followers in Israel.) It was very hot but the food was excellent. In Larry David fashion, I taste-tested the Arab hummus and it was the best we’ve had so far. I got interviewed by The MediaLine, a print and audiovisual newswire for Jewish and Arab news sources. I was wearing my Venture Prep shirt!
We arrived to Jerusalem and before checking in to our hotel, marked the moment (with same prayer as I marked mine with) and heard about the plan for the next morning, which includes an extensive walking tour of Old Jersusalem.
After quick showers, we met up at 8:30 and headed out for an evening on the town for food and drinks. So many classic group-eating situations that I could have predicted last month…
- asking concierge to make a reservation and then showing up to a literally empty restaurant with fourteen people. (I moved the group away)
- a girl complaining she’d have to spend her own money over and above the 70 shekels ($17) we got for dinner
- our side of the table choosing the split the bill and watching the other side not have nearly enough money and therefore stiff the tip
- street hawkers who lied to get groups sitting at their hookah bars
I got fish, had some sangria, and then got an Israeli stout, Shapiro, at a bar afterward with Alyse, Zach, and Katie the corps member.
I was so delirious when returning to room I couldn’t see straight—not from drinking, but from the sheer exhaustion of our cumulative experience.