israeli snapshots…

well, i’ve been here about 48 hours – – long enough to have several amusing anecdotes to relate which will give those of you without much knowledge of this place some insight into the israeli psyche.

yesterday morning began with a bus ride to jerusalem, which for me is always a good way to catch up on the latest sign-age, since political slogans seem to be posted anywhere and everywhere they might be seen. yesterday was no different – among the most interesting was one rougly translating as, “if there’s removal [of settlements], there’s no government” (it rhymes in hebrew – definitely a catchier slogan in that language), and a poster depicting Barack Obama wearing a keffiyeh in the style of Yassir Arafat, with the words – in hebrew and english – “jew hater, anti-semite.” nice, eh? oh, and a poster – posted all around jerusalem as well as on the way – urging “bibi [prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname] – protect our country!!!” no slogans from the political left, though.

i’m not sure how long these posters have been posted, but my guess is that they are a response to the broader situation in Israel since Obama and Netanyahu took office, as well as more specifically to Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4th and the response given in the form of a speech by Netanyahu just a few days ago, on the 14th. Netanyahu’s speech has been all over the news since i arrived here, as well – there is lots of discussion about whether his speech actually was a step forward, whether it was just verbal maneuvering, etc. etc. personally, i don’t really know. but it’s interesting to note that among the people i have spoken with, most of the ones who are here within israel think that Netanyahu’s words actually meant something, while those who are elsewhere in the world are pretty dismissive. i wonder what that means…

anyway, that’s it for the posters. now for a snapshot of what i saw when i got to jerusalem’s central bus station: soldiers with M-16s, muslim women with head scarves, secular israelis – fairly scantily clad females, in particular, orthodox jews of every shape and form (american, modern orthodox jews in their fashionable just-below-the-knee skirts; hassidic jewish men in all black…you name them, they were there). and that was just in the bus station! that snapshot was repeated all throughout the city, not to mention today during my trip to jaffa [just south of tel aviv] – – although with fewer hassidic jews there.

in any case, i spent the day in various parts of jerusalem, had my first arabic lesson, and checked out the apartment i will be living in as of next week. all in all a successful trip, i would say. it was followed today by a couple of dissertation-related meetings, one of which depressed me immensely, while the other renewed my faith in both academia and the potential for social change here in israel. but that’s for another blog post…

for now, let me end with one last anecdote that for me captures perfectly a certain segment of israeli society: i was sitting on the bus back from jaffa when a woman got on with a small child in a stroller – he was probably about 1 and a half or 2. the boy seemed to be in a pretty good mood, but periodically let out some really loud yells. to be expected, right? anyway, a few minutes after this boy and his care-giver got on the bus, an older man boarded as well, and was standing immediately behind them. the first time the boy opened his mouth and yelled, the older man screamed at him “be quiet!!!”, to the astonishment of the boy’s care-giver (and several others on the bus, including myself). the boy and his care-giver got off at the next stop, and the man, far from being embarrassed at his outburst, proceeded to lecture anyone who was listening about the need for quiet on public buses. seriously. makes you wish you were here, eh?


One thought on “israeli snapshots…

  1. Neil

    ok, i do wish i were there, but not on that bus. yikes! if that man wants quite, he should get a cab, no? but this "it was followed today by a couple of dissertation-related meetings, one of which depressed me immensely, while the other renewed my faith in both academia" – i think that this is a common situation in academia – roller coasters. try not to let the heavies, the ones trying to block your path – get you down. take their sensible critiques and then follow your path. miss you much.


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