Excuse my long absence! After the excitement of the many wedding activities Stephane and I were participating in, I found it hard to find a spare second to write until now. As you know Ben and Bar’s wedding was a magical night for everyone involved, and Stephane and I were so happy to be a part of the celebrations. Only a few days after their wedding we were back to Ashdod for another one of Stephane’s many cousins nuptials, which was lovely, but had a much different feel. Needless to say when we get married I hope for it to be a bit more “Western” than his family is accustomed to, because I think if my American family and friends see people coming in jeans and t-shirts and not even paying attention to the ceremony because they are fighting over buffet food, the night won’t go down very well :-). But anyways, since the weddings quite a few things have gone on so excuse the lengthy post! I’ll try to be more regular with updates from here on out!
Gay Pride Comes to Tel Aviv
Pride was finally upon us. The only event that could possibly rival Palm Spring’s White Party Weekend is gay pride in Tel Aviv, and having missed out on the last two years, Ida and I made sure we scheduled a sissy date for the purpose of attending the festivities. After a leisurely morning of movies and leftover sushi, Ida made her way from Herzliya to meet me at my apartment in Tel Aviv where we proceeded to doll ourselves up and then head down to the center of the city for the parade.
When we got off the bus in the center of town the scene was quite indescribable. Hundreds and thousands of people from all over the world were gathered in a collective celebration of the LGBT community, further illustrating that Israel is truly a beacon of hope in a widely intolerant Middle East. People from all over the world were in attendance: Americans, Australians, South Africans, Europeans, Middle Easterners, Palestinians, Sudanese, and more, each adorning both the flags of their countries and the iconic rainbow flag that has come to symbolize the LGBT movement. There were costumes, and floats, and complete mayhem, but it was such a fun event to attend. Some of the things we saw were a bit questionable but I guess that’s what happens when you have hundreds and thousands of young people who are running wild on the beaches of Tel Aviv! Some of the unsuspecting tourists got an eyeful though! Regardless, a great time was had by all, and we ended up walking the entirety of Tel Aviv which gave me exercise and a nice tan; so I really couldn’t complain!
Tragedy Strikes Israel
The Gay Pride Parade illustrated the best aspects of life in Israel; tolerance, acceptance, understanding, unity. However, another event took place around the same time illustrating the worst aspects of life living in a country saturated with conflict and surrounded by enemies. on June 12th, mere hours before the pride celebrations began, three innocent teenage boys were kidnapped on their way home from Yeshiva by Palestinian terrorists. They have yet to be found…
I have always prided myself on being open and accepting of all cultures, and with my extreme love of both the Arabic language and culture, I feel I have a very unique outlook on the conflict in general, but it is hard to advocate for, and sympathize with, a group of people who dance in the street handing out candies to celebrate the brutal kidnapping of innocent young boys. We can only pray they come home safely, and I encourage you to read the articles I have posted here.
The reality of the situation in Israel is that we do live in a conflict zone, and have to deal with the repercussions that come from this fact on a daily basis. This is no easy task, and, having lived in both Palestinian East Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv, I find myself bitterly frustrated on numerous occasions at how this conflict is portrayed on the world stage.
To start, I’m one to place blame where I see fault, and though Israel is my country and my home, I am not shy to express when I see things that I don’t feel are right. I remember when I was in the occupied West Bank on an olive harvest with some of the most gentle, welcoming Palestinians I have ever met, and Israeli soldiers, unprovoked and for no reason, started chasing us in their tanks brandishing their weapons. I was horrified, but after time realized how limited these situations are. In fact there are numerous places in the majority of the West Bank where Israelis (including soldiers) aren’t even allowed, and where no signs (barring maybe economic) of occupation can be felt. I would know, I’ve been there.
I also remember being in Tel Aviv when Hamas hammered us with rockets, running scared to get to shelter as I saw rockets explode right above my head. I remember playing with my boyfriend and his little brother outside when the sirens went off signaling another rocket attack, and I remember his 11 year old little brother asking “Why does this always happen when we try to have fun?” as we ran to hide under a stairwell. I remember my boyfriend’s mother coming to get me from Ulpan because a bus was bombed on my route home from class, and I see how Israelis in the south sometimes don’t even flinch when the sirens go off because rockets fly into their backyards almost daily. But most people don’t hear about this…
Most people hear about Israel retaliating on “innocent Palestinians” despite the fact that terrorists just kidnapped three innocent young boys, or entire chunks of Southern Israel were just bombarded with bombs and rockets… Most people hear about the arrest of “innocent” Palestinians even though they just tried to cross the border into Israel with bombs strapped to their chests. Most people hear about Israel being an apartheid state even though I have Palestinian neighbors, co-workers, and friends who prosper and thrive in the state of Israel. I’m not separated on the bus from the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who are also traveling… I don’t sit in different sections of restaurants…I don’t have any different rights than other Arab Israeli citizens, and even in the West Bank, where I have traveled numerous times, I see places like Ramallah and Bethlehem that look more prosperous then places within Tel Aviv. But the world cries Apartheid because we don’t have open borders, or rights of return, with a people who’s majority want to wipe us off the map.
The situation isn’t perfect. There are settlements, and territory disputes, and a small country trying to survive while another country is fighting to be established. It is messy, and hard, and I’m not sure if a solution is possible, but it certainly doesn’t help that most of the world continues to ignore the fact that our “partners in peace” are the ones bombarding us with rockets, handing out candies in the streets to celebrate the kidnapping of three innocent young boys, publishing posters and illustrations mocking our pain, and are continuing to recruit and train martyrs to cross our borders and wreak havoc on our citizens.
I can only hope for eventual peace and the speedy, safe return of the three boys to their families. Though there is so much bad that happens centered around this conflict, I have to believe that the majority of the citizens on both sides want peace, and want to co exists and maybe eventually even interact with one another. I look at all of the time I spent living in Palestinian Jerusalem and visiting the West Bank with such fondness, and I hope that one day more Israelis can experience what I have experienced. I look at the profound privilege it is to live in Tel Aviv and I hope more Palestinians can experience the beauties of Israel in the future. Each side has an overwhelming amount of hate to work through, but maybe one day, with God’s help, peace will happen. I like to think that I will be around to see it when it does.
I miss you every day, friend, and love you forever.
Until we meet again <3,