July 22nd: The Beginning of the End

This morning began with a delicious Israeli breakfast spread, courtesy of the Ruth Daniel Residence. Before class began Anna, Maggie, Fran, and I had a chance to talk with Professor Friedman about the effects of the conflict between Israel and Gaza on his family. He shared with us that his wife works Ashdod, a city very close to Gaza that faces heavy rocket fire. He also told us that his young son’s daycare was moved to a bomb shelter. When we asked him about his views on the massive civilian casualties in Gaza due to the Israeli incursion, he responded that it’s a great moral dilemma because Hamas stores missiles in places that are heavily populated by civilians, like UN schools and hospitals. Hamas knows that it can’t win this conflict militarily, but it can win with regard to public opinion. Each time Israel bombs a civilian area of Gaza, the international community loses a great deal of respect for the IDF and the country as a whole. We also discussed how Hamas is completely isolated right now in the world. Hamas used to have the backing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but after the 2013 coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi from power, this support was lost. The current President of Egypt, General Sisi, has zero tolerance for Hamas, rendering the organization isolated and ally-less. Professor Friedman suggested that perhaps Hamas is making noise now in order to regain a foothold in Egypt.

After this enlightening discussion, it was time for class. The topics of today’s lecture were majority-minority relations and the relationship between religion and state in Israel. The breakdown of Jewish and Arab Israelis respectively is 75% and 20%. The Israeli majority is quite affluent due to the fact that Israel is an ethnic democracy. The country is a Jewish state, meaning that there is a core ethnic nation within the state. The state is ruled by members of that core ethnic group (Jews), and non-core groups are accorded incomplete individual and collective rights. There’s no argument that Arabs are discriminated against in this country, and this built-in discrimination can be seen in the form of the lack of resources invested in Arab communities within Israel. Israeli Arabs also feel ignored by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which does not support them because they live in Israel-proper. 

Toward the end of class, the air raid siren sounded and we hurried to the secure room inside the hostel. After waiting for a few minutes and hearing the telltale boom of the Iron Dome intercepting a missile, we returned to class and finished up our lesson. From here we piled into taxis for a field trip to Independence Hall. There we learned all about the creation of the state of Israel. As we sat in the room where Israel was declared a state, we listened to a recording of David Ben-Gurion speak and heard another recording of the Israeli national anthem being played for the first time. For a moment, we were transported back to a fateful day in history. Once the recording ended, we snapped back to present-day, and our enthusiastic guide Zohar informed us that we were currently sitting in a bomb shelter. (It was only noon and we were already in our second bomb shelter of the day. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.) Why was the state of Israel declared in a bomb shelter? I’ll let you have three guesses. Anyway, I guess not much has changed in the near 60 years that followed the declaration; the rockets are still flying, and the shelters are still very much necessary.

The rest of our afternoon was spent in the company of Elan, who gave us a tour of historic Tel Aviv. We saw a mosaic depicting the four developmental stages of the city. The first panel represents the old city, the second shows the fresh start of beginning a new city, the third depicts the arrival of the British and immigrants and the building of a city and culture, and the fourth shows Tel Aviv becoming a buzzing metropolitan area.

Elan teaching us about the mosaic depicting Tel Aviv's history

Elan teaching us about the mosaic depicting Tel Aviv’s history

We had the evening off, so I went for dinner on Jerusalem Boulevard with Anna, Maggie, Gabrielle, Stephanie, and Tedi to a restaurant called BBQ. We had a great meal and then returned to the hostel, where the rest of the night was spent talking with friends and catching up on blogs. At around 1:30 AM I was taking a shower. I had just put conditioner in my hair when my roommate Tedi knocked on the door and yelled into the bathroom, “Um, Jaclyn? We’re getting evacuated. Get your passport and come downstairs.” I interpreted this to mean that we were leaving right then and there, perhaps being airlifted to Jordan. The hostel could have been under siege for all I knew. I jumped out of the shower without rinsing the conditioner out of my hair, threw on the first dress I saw, and hurried downstairs with my passport. What I found when I arrived to the lobby surprised me: about half of our group was sitting there, sleepily chatting in a circle. “Aren’t we leaving?” I asked, only mildly befuddled. “Yes, probably not tomorrow, but maybe the next day once the suspension on flights to and from Israel is lifted,” Lori answered me. As the situation became clearer, my heart rate returned to normal and I ran my hand through my sticky, albeit quite well conditioned, hair. Then came the question of why we were being evacuated. Had the situation worsened? Lori explained that because of the rocket that exploded a mile from the Tel Aviv airport and the FAA’s ban on flights to and from Israel, Northeastern was nervous. The university feared that we would get stranded in the country, and they wanted to get us out before that could become a reality. So basically, we’re leaving because it’s currently impossible for us to leave. Logic. I hope that airlines start flying out of Israel again soon, because I’m going to feel pretty guilty if Joseph Aoun loses one more night of sleep over us. We all took photos of our passports and emailed them to a Northeastern official who would buy us plane tickets to…somewhere outside of Israel. The whole “where” part was still pretty much up in the air. There was talk of flying to Jordan, or maybe Amsterdam, or we could take a boat to Greece and spend a week there. I, personally, was pulling for the third option. Hello, sandy white beaches, nice to meet ya! It became clear that nothing was going to be resolved before the morning, so at around 2:00 AM we were dismissed and returned to our rooms to get a few hours of sleep before our 9:00 literature class in the morning.

Nothing like a nice head massage during an evacuation meeting, am I right?

Nothing like a nice head massage during an evacuation meeting, am I right?

– Jaclyn Roache

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