Purely by coincidence (aka, via Facebook), I discovered today that a classmate of mine from Fletcher (the institution where I studied for my MA) is in Tel Aviv. (This is not surprising. The “Fletcher Mafia,” as the sum total of the institution’s alumni are affectionately called, spreads around the world. No matter where you are, if you look, you will find a Fletcher grad).
After a few email exchanges we progressed to a phone conversation, and she invited me to join her, her boyfriend, and a few friends for dinner. Over dinner my friend and I discovered that we have been more-or-less stalking each other this entire month. She has been seeking out contacts who might help her land a job here, and looking to volunteer and possibly study Arabic. I have been seeking out contacts who were active in coexistence programs here, and have been looking to volunteer and continue my Arabic studies. We’ve been in most of the same places, and met with the same people…yet somehow managed to not run into one another.
In any case, my friend invited me to join her in Haifa on Monday when she meets with someone she was connected with via yet another Fletcher student. As it turns out, this person’s name has been mentioned to me at least 3 times in the last week by staff at one of the organizations I am studying – he is an alum and a former staff member who apparently has much to say about the place. So I’m going to go with her and introduce myself, in the hopes of setting up an interview with him later on.
This particular set of coincidences makes me think about two things: one, how small a world the coexistence world is here in Israel. Everyone knows everyone else – which I guess is definitely good for me and my research here this year. The second thing is how important social networking is. I used to be a real skeptic, but more and more I am seeing the power of “who you know.” I still have my doubts about some aspects of social networking – especially as it undermines meritocracies – but for integrating oneself into a particular field, especially a small one, it is priceless.
as a follow up to what i wrote a few days ago regarding israeli warmth and willingness to help/make connections, here is a short excerpt from a conversation i had last night with my mom’s cousin (roughly synthesized and translated from the hebrew):
cousin: so, what exactly is your doctorate about?
me: [something about israeli jews and arabs, education, etc…]
cousin: oh, you know, my husband’s son is involved with something in that area.
cousin: yes, he’s finishing up his PhD and he also works for an organization that is involved in bringing israelis and palestinians together…
me: oh, what’s the name of the organization? i’m familiar with many of the ones here.
cousin: i don’t remember.
my aunt: well, what’s his name?
cousin: [names name]
me: oh! he and i have been emailing! we’re supposed to meet soon!
this person, who i reached via an israeli friend in bloomington, happens to be my mother’s cousin’s stepson. so typical for this country…
so, in any case – – i write this post from the apartment i’ll be living in for the next month. it’s located in the German Colony [in Jerusalem], a nice little residential/commercial neighborhood not too far from the city center. my apartment is located on a small side street off of the main drag. it’s nice to feel like i’m somewhat settled, and it’s wonderful to be back in Jerusalem – it’s been 15 years since i lived here. just walking home tonight, after meeting a few of my cousins for dinner, made me smile.
for those of you who have asked – i promise to post some pictures soon! i suppose that will require me to take some first 🙂
yes, Karen is already on another continent…bummer.
I hadn’t planned on blogging yet because: 1) I’m still in the U.S. and 2) we can easily communicate on a daily basis. However, what happened tonight changes this.
see, I was wandering the street with a map and a list of potential restaurants looking for dinner. I walked by one of the restaurants two times before I decided thrice is a charm. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was an Israeli? Jewish? [man, i still get confused on those terms] establishment. I’m positive I was the only goy. I overhead one family gathering where the conversation reminded me of our pre-wedding gatherings, “so glad you could be with us in the States…”. The complimentary food looked familiar, too – you know, those light, fushia slices of some kind of vegetable [hey, i even heard a non-goy wonder aloud what it was!] in one bowl, sliced califlower, carrots, celery [?] and olives in another.
I wanted to Tilapia patties that came with a special, spicy sauce. But, they have a run on that offering and were out of stock. So, I had beef stew – go figure! The mashed potatoes were calling my name. It was delicious [and i didn’t use my knife].
Anyhow, the point of this is that, somehow, I likely ate similarly to how Karen ate on her first full day on another continent.