Category Archives: Israel

The swing!

In yesterday’s post, I forgot to include evidence of another “first” for Alon – his first time in a swing! We spent last Saturday with family friends (2 grandparents, 3 kids + spouses, 10  grandchildren).  Their house, as you might imagine, is readily equipped for children of all ages, and Alon loved sitting in their (kiddie) porch swing:

Whee! Look at me!

He also held his own while interacting with 10 bigger kids.  I must say, I was pretty impressed.  Here he is checking out (and being checked out by) two of the boys:


By the way, I wanted to let those of you who will be seeing him in person in the next week or two know that while the cut is no biggie, Alon is definitely going to have a pretty big bruise on his forehead.  Just letting you know to reduce the shock factor…


Adventures in the Holy Land

Apologies for the laxness in posting on our part.  I had hoped we would be able to update you all a bit more frequently from Israel (since I know many of you at home who usually get to see Alon in person are relying on pictures and stories for now!), but, you know, life sort of gets in the way.  Life and work, which Neil and I have both been trying to balance over the past few weeks.

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I write this post from the apartment we are subletting in Tel Aviv.  Last Wednesday, Alon and I traveled from New York to Istanbul to meet Neil, who had already been there more than a week conducting fieldwork.  Alon handled the flight like a pro.  Following a minor [tiredness-induced] meltdown before takeoff [probably due to the fact that we were stuck in the airplane for nearly 2 hours before taking off], he slept through much of the flight and voiced no complaints about the very uncomfortable-looking bassinet provided for him.  In fact, Alon slept more than I did – despite the fact that we were in premium economy, with larger seats, more recline and footrests, I couldn’t really get comfortable.  Oh well.

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Wrapping up

Well, believe it or not, 9 months have passed, and it is time for my fieldwork in Israel to end – tomorrow morning I will be heading to the airport to get on a plane back to the United States.  I can hardly believe it myself – in fact, I can’t really believe it at all!

It is hard to sum up 9 months in a single post, so I thought that perhaps I would just leave you with some statistics about this year and my fieldwork (and various other things):

– number of days in the field: 263
– number of days in the field without Neil: too many! (215, to be exact)
– number of times I questioned what I was doing here and whether this project makes any sense: too many to count, but thankfully not a majority of the time.
– number of people interviewed: 103, not counting informal conversations with professors and practitioners
– number of interviews conducted: somewhere around 110, including follow-up interviews with some individuals
– number of hours observing: somewhere between 150-200
– number of nights chaperoning rowdy 15-year olds: only 2, thank goodness.  Those kids are great but I was really exhausted at the end of that weekend!
– number of bus/train trips to various parts of the country for interviews and observations: about 100.  I got to know pretty much every single train stop in Northern Israel this year.
– number of coffees drunk while conducting interviews in coffee shops: too numerous to count.
– number of times I was invited to a participant’s home and plied with food or drink: a lot.  I still can’t get over hospitality in this country.
– number of falafels eaten: I’m not sure, but on average, it probably comes out to about once a week.
– number of times I walked from my apartment to Yaffo and back: endless.  In fact, I probably walked an average of at least 6-8km on a daily basis this year, for fieldwork and otherwise.
– number of funny, interesting, and helpful people I’ve met throughout this year: almost everyone.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.  And now, with the number of hours left until I depart at just over 24, there are a few more things I need to tie up.  See you on the flip side!!

What do things look like from this angle?

I’ve received a few queries in the last week or so about how the situation in Egypt looks like from Israel.  If I stand on a tall building on a clear day, I can almost see Tahrir Square…no, just kidding.  We’re not quite that close to Cairo.

Actually, the view from Israel is a pretty depressing one.  While the rest of the world supports the will of the Egyptian people, Israel can’t seem to get past its own self-interests. The government has repeatedly said that keeping Mubarak in power is of utmost concern, not only for Israel, but for the West as a whole. The main concern of the Israeli government is the country’s peace treaty with Egypt and the strain it may be placed under, particularly should the Muslim Brotherhood find itself at the top of the Egyptian political food chain.

In my opinion, this is an extremely problematic position for Israel.  How is it that the country that claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East” will not support democratic regime change among its neighbors? [This is a rhetorical question, of course.  Israel’s concern for its own security is a pretty safe bet].

Legitimacy of the State’s security concerns aside, explicitly giving support to Mubarak is making Israel even more of a pariah among the industrialized nations that it seeks so badly to be allied with.  It saddens me that the needs and wants of the Egyptian people seem to be entirely ignored by the government here.  And that those who do care about the Egyptian people are being villified.

I am waiting with great anticipation to see what happens next in Cairo.  I’m sure you can guess on whose side I’m on…

Complex realities

Emotions have been high here the past few weeks. Not for me personally, but for the country as a whole.  Nothing new about that, I suppose, but since I’m not usually here to observe it, the past few weeks stand out to me in how they embody the complex realities of this place.  This is what I mean:

1. Shortly after Neil left, a group of several dozen Israeli Rabbis issued a religious ruling prohibiting the sale or rental of apartments in Israel to Arabs.  Their ruling caused a huge uproar in both the secular and religious communities here, with a group of Yeshiva students signing a petition opposing the ruling, the publishing of “compromise rulings/letters” [trying to assuage the enraged public], and general remarks about the racism in this country.

2. Shortly after this, a rally was held in the city of Bat Yam [just south of Tel Aviv] to continue the protest against renting/selling apartments to Arabs and to protest against Arabs dating Jews.

3.  Following this, just yesterday a group of Rabbi’s wives wrote an open letter pleading with Jewish women not to date Arabs, suggesting that doing so “removes them from the Jewish people.”

4.  Thrown into this mix is the increasing tension in southern Tel Aviv between veteran residents of the community and groups of Sudanese/Eritrean refugees – a tension manifested in one demonstration by the southern Tel Aviv community calling for the government to move the “infiltrators,” one demonstration by the refugees [and their supporters] calling for the government to take better care of them, and various meetings/newspaper editorials/film festivals/etc.

These issues permeate daily conversation and paint a pretty bleak picture of what’s happening here and in what direction Israel is headed.  And when there’s so much ignorance and hate, how much of an impact can education have? I went on a trip yesterday with one of the groups I’m observing to a Catholic church in Jaffa.  Two of the Jewish girls balked at entering the compound, citing a prohibition for Jews to enter non-Jewish holy places.  Whose prohibition? As an adult in the group gently pointed out, it’s important for them to think for themselves before accepting as ‘law’ the interpretation of a rabbi/group of rabbis.

I was thankful to hear his words, but skeptical about how much of a difference they made. This is not an easy place to be an independent thinker, especially not at their age.

Another first…

Well, the day finally came – I wore shoes. Real, true, closed-toe, lace-up, non-sandal, shoes.  The event? A trip to Jerusalem yesterday for some interviews, where the temperatures dropped into the mid-50s in the evening [I was COLD, people.  I know, I’m spoiled.  But it’s true].  But really – I think summer is finally ending here. When I woke up today it was raining and overcast…and cold.  Brrrr.

In other news, it’s Chanukah here [and everywhere around the globe, I suppose].  What does that mean? Lots and lots of sufganiyot [doughnuts].  Here are a few samples of what bakeries around here look like this week:


...and more sufganiyot

The ‘standard’ fillings are red jam [no idea what flavor it is supposed to be], chocolate, halva [a sesame-based sweet], dulce de leche, and vanilla.  But I’ve seen – and tasted – others as well.  Yesterday I had a sufganiya with blueberry – yummy! And apparently at one of the higher quality bakery chains they make a marshmallow-filled sufganiya.  I’ll have to go seek that out before Chanukah ends on Wednesday…

UPDATE: I stopped by the aforementioned bakery chain today.  Sure enough, marshmallow sufganiyot were an option…as were pistachio, Belgian chocolate ganache, and whipped cream.  I have to say though, I was not impressed – these doughnuts were nothing but vehicles for fancy fillings and toppings [ever see popcorn on a doughnut? Believe it!].  I do not subscribe to the ‘ vehicle’ perspective.  For me, it’s all about the dough…