I hesitated for so long on whether to publish something from this trip. It’s a while since I was in Ra’anana, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But I just didn’t know what to call it. Palestine? Israel? Are they one or are they two countries? Which country did I visit? It requires so much contextualisation to write anything about these two countries. Travelling is always political, even though I had no political intentions with this visit. I remain an activist, a supporter of the Palestinian strive for freedom and a friend of Ahmat, Sheila and Yasser’s. This has not changed. But my view on the situation broadened during this visit that included the Israeli towns of Ra’anana and Tel Aviv. It was good for me to stay in a friend’s Jewish-atheist home and meet wonderful people from this side of the wall too.
The most striking thing was how peaceful and chilled everything felt in Tel Aviv. Spring breezes, people chatting in the sun, people cycling around, hugging under a tree and eating good food.
Absolutely amazing hummus. In Tel Aviv as well as in Jerusalem.
And my friends and I chilled in the sun like everybody else.
Bauhaus architecture, a sculpted choir on a yellow balcony… Arty graffiti… All the things you find when you walk the different neighborhoods of Tel Aviv for a day. Some musts being Florentin, Neve Tzedek and the bauhaus surrounded Rothschild Boulevard.
It was so peaceful that I really started doubting where I was. Could this really be the same country as the one I’ve visited before? These amazingly helpful strangers who translate Hebrew signs for me, a girl even paid my bus ticket and people who share their stories and falafels. Are they the same people who during their military service in the checkpoints refuse Palestinian ambulances to reach the hospitals? Who in this very moment refuse Palestinians access to Old Town Jerusalem? Who arbitrarily refuse Palestinians to reach their workplaces in the morning?
I seriously started doubting on these pictures that I took in the narrow streets of the Palestinian refugee camp city Shu’fat refugee in 2006. Could I have misunderstood something? Luckily, a friend was in Palestine during the same week as I chilled in Tel Aviv, and she reported about a situation very similar to the one I had seen on the Palestinian side. How these two realities can exist only kilometres from one another is insane. Absolutely insane. Yet not really different from the inequalities and contrasts we see in Colombia, the US or Sweden these days. Sadly, I realised that I easily would have fallen into the same apolitical apathy if it was me growing up in Tel Aviv. There are many reasons, of course, to why the occupation is allowed to continue. But I discovered that it’s almost impossible to believe that the near horrors of the occupation are real when one walks around in a flowering, sunny Tel Aviv.