Tel Aviv 2023
The BW asked where I wanted to go for my 75th birthday. Hawaii? Nope. Israel. I figure this is my last chance given the amount of walking needed to traverse the Holyland and my rapidly aging legs.
It took 21 hours to get here and that was without a single hitch in the process, but it is still a long ride from Bellaire, Texas to Tel Aviv via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. But politically, I feel right at home.
Just like in America, the political turmoil in Israel has spilled into the streets. This blog has written a great deal about the current Israeli government’s attempts to consolidate all the decision-making power in the legislative branch by diluting the power of the Supreme Court. Without a constitution and with a unicameral parliamentary legislature run by the chief executive, many Israelis fear a loss of true democracy here as all political power is in the hands of one man–Bibi.
We had dinner with friends who have been among the demonstrators and the emotions are running very high, but perhaps they ought to recall that their passion equals that of the January 6 rioters in the US, albeit the cause of the Israeli protestors is far more just. Let’s hope the demonstrators, mostly from the center and left in Israel, can keep up their stellar record of peaceful civil disobedience.
We started our tour in the Florentine District near Jaffa in the south of Tel Aviv on the border with Jaffa. This was the area first settled at the birth of Tel Aviv. It is undergoing a renaissance with gentrification from its former unseemly past, but its main attraction is its graffiti, the most famous of which is the 27 Club, a huge sketch of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse all of whom were great artists who died at age 27. The other famous graffiti piece is one styled after a photograph of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin in 1995. If there is any doubt that graffiti is art, this area of Tel Aviv will erase that doubt.
ANU is the new Museum of the Jewish People on the campus of Tel Aviv University and is a must-see, modernized trip through 4000 years of Jewish history with interactive exhibits galore. It is essential to understand where today’s Israeli Jews came from to understand the politics of the current crisis that to some extent pits the Israelis of classic Ashkenazi European origin against the Mizrahi Jews from northern Africa who are Sephardic. Israel, like America, is a bit of a melting pot. And, as in America, the various parts of the pot have not yet settled on a means of peaceful co-existence yet.
The Shimon Peres Center for Peace and Innovation sits on a sandy hill above the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv and is home to his history as an Israeli leader and as a tribute and home to the engine of high-tech innovation in the Start-Up Nation. The display of the companies being backed by the center includes one using high frequency sound waves to convert baby chicks from male to female while still in the egg. I have no idea how this works, but it would make obsolete the need for ‘culling’ male chicks who obviously will not be egg producers.
This country amazes on the very first day. Every time I am back, I am most impressed with the change. It is a constant hum and churn of life. It is why, once again, I am thrilled to be here where the air just seems fresher and the people more alive.
And to make sure I grasp as much as possible on day one, our guide, Gil Regev, takes as to an Arab neighborhood of Tel Aviv for a late lunch which stretches into an early dinner of Middle Eastern delicacies from hummus to falafel to salads too numerous to count.
I am back in Israel, my fourth home after Houston, New York, and Durham, NC. It’s always good to get home, even when home is in turmoil.
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