Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The Many Faces of Tel Aviv
Talia and Sara reporting from the Ruth Daniel hostel in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. It is 10:45 PM Israel time and we have had an extremely long but interesting day! To start off the day we divided into three groups and set off on a scavenger hunt by foot around Tel Aviv. The hunt was a mixture of learning about Tel Aviv history, being brave enough to talk to the locals, and being able to navigate a map by ourselves. We spent about four hours exploring the city, which was hard on our feet; however, our individual leadership strengths helped us finish all of our tasks. Some of us were able to buy gifts for our Hanukah swap in the pedestrian mall, Nachalat Benyamin.
After the scavenger hunt was over and the winning team was declared (Ori, Emily, Sabrina, Andrew, Josh, and Julia), we all filed back on the bus and took a very short ride to a very different part of town. Our destination was south Tel Aviv, in the neighborhood of the Central Tel Aviv Bus Station (did you know it can house 200,000 people in a bomb shelter in case of nuclear war?!). This neighborhood is one of the poorest in Tel Aviv. Most of its residents are refugees or asylum seekers from Africa, especially war-torn countries such as Darfur and Eretrea. We were led on a quick walk around the streets by Michael, the guide from Bina, a secular yeshiva located in the middle of the neighborhood. Bina is an intellectual center for secular Jews to come and study Jewish texts while volunteering in the Bialik school in the neighborhood. The volunteers work with the kids of immigrants while the adults are at work, providing a much-needed service for the struggling families.
While we were standing listening to Michael, many of us were uncomfortable because we felt as if we were intruding on the reality of their lives. There was a surprising amount of people conducting business or just hanging out on the streets for midday in the workweek. Michael explained to us that most of the residents don’t have regular jobs; instead, they pick up whatever work they can from construction or day jobs. Michael also took us to an outdoor communal library. It has books in a huge variety of languages so that most of the immigrant community can take advantage of them, and the books are categorized by how they made the readers feel. The library is one of a few outreach programs by Bina in the community.
After dinner, we headed to the Palmach museum, which takes the viewer through a series of interactive videos that show the lives of soldiers in a Palmach unit, who fought for Israel’s independence. The museum helped us understand better the experiences of people who fought in 1948.
Our first full day in Israel was long (many people nodded off on the bus!) but of course exciting and informative. Shout out to Aaron Kraus, our leader of the day!
Love you all,
Talia and Sara!
(p.s. we are in the desert tomorrow so no internet access!)