Sophia's Peace Work

Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Mediterranean Sea: I love that big salty sucker ...

Just returned to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. It was nice to have a few days off for a change and ah, to swim in the Med! Heavenly, even with the crowded beaches. My earliest dream was to live between the mountains and the sea (sounds like my home in Port Townsend, Washington). But in Washington the water is far to cold to stay in for very long ... the Med is a different story though. Oh la la! It was only strange to be in Tel Aviv and Jaffa (one of the the oldest sea port in the world ... we're talking Jonah and the Whale here ... Perseus plucking Andromeda from the rocks with his winged-friend Pegasus). Tel Aviv is just a western city ... with few elements left of Arab or Middle Eastern culture. Jaffa, which has the most Arab flavor, is a tourist attraction. Here is what the Lonely Planet has to say about it's history.

Jews had lived lived here since atleast 1840 and by the end of the century, Jaffa had become a major gateway for boatloads of arriving immigrants. There were tensions between the new arrivals and the existing Arab community and, in 1921, these boiled over into full-blown anti-Jewish riots. The riots were to recur every few years (this is also the time of the Hebron Massacre) until the decisive fighting of 1948, which saw the defeat and subsequent flight of the majority of Jaffa's Arab population, leaving the ancient town in Jewish hands.

I've been told that there are Palestinian families in the West Bank, Gaza and in refugee camps scattered through out the surrounding countries that still have the keys to their old homes in Haifa, Jaffa and other cities and towns of Israel.

What is also striking about these coastal cities is the obliviousness that hangs over everything. Aside from the odd graffiti about Sharon, Arafat or the Occupation, there seems to be little awareness of what is happening only a few miles away to the East. I don't mean that people don't talk about what is going on ... it is all over the newspapers ... it's just that an hour away is a form of Apartied is going on but here it's nightclubing and sunbathing, bare arms and midriffs. It's bizarre and disconcerting to travel from one place to the other.

I have to admit though that after months of walking around in a fish bowl it is nice to be just another anonymous Westerner. Tomorrow I'll attend the service at the Lutheran church in the Old City and head back to Hebron.


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