Lessons Learned (April 18, 2009)

I have been in Tel Aviv for all of 36 hours and I have already answered the following questions:

1. How exactly will my body respond to absinthe?

I have read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises numerous times. It is one of my favorite novels of all time, misogyny and all. In it, Jake Barnes and Brett, the romantic leads, ingest this naughty beverage, declared to cause hallucinations, more than once. Bobby offered a me a shot last night before we went out and I could barely contain my excitement. I am sorry to report that absinthe did not live up to the hype. It burned my throat approximately three times as much as it provided any strange effect. And this is when I was already severely hobbled by jetlag. Sad.

2. Do Israelis bear the same level of intolerance for Arabs as has been historically shown to them?

To my great despair, the answer seems to be “yes,” and what’s worse is that I actually understand where Israelis are coming from. Basically, they are under constant attack from all countries that border them except for Egypt, and that includes: Lebanon, Syria, Palestine (Gaza), and the West Bank (sort of an undifferentiated home for Arabs). I being the naive and optimistic Nancy that I tend to be, always hope for a peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews in the region, but now that I have begun to grasp the politics and nuances at play, it is hard not to feel hopeless regarding the lasting chances of peace in the region. For example, while watching the local news today, I heard a leader from the West Bank declare, to loud cheers, that Arabs will “never accept the State of Israel.” That seems highly counterproductive as the country has already been in existence for decades. There are as many peaceful and loving Arabs as there are Jews who just want to live unharmed. Unfortunately, it would seem that the leaders of both sides have their own rhetorical and personal agendas which preclude this process from ever getting off the ground. Obviously, much more so than the absinthe disappointment, this is just sad.

3. Is Tel Aviv the dangerous, bombed out hovel that was shown to the USA on TV in the 80s and 90s?

Everything I have seen since I arrived goes dead set against the stereotypes of the City as a shellacked and dangerous war zone. Like Chicago, it has trendy areas that are being gentrified with new housing developments and shops, homeless folks, crowding, issues with property taxes – in other words, all of the issues which plague every major world city. I saw the long, pristine beaches of the Mediterranean Sea today, and, much as I love my hometown, Tel Aviv has some amenities that Chicago may want to consider: sandlot gyms, open air cafes, shops and bars. Everything here is very European in look and feel. I took almost 30 photos today itself and will post some of them on these pages as I return.

4. Can I drink the local tap water without getting sick?

The answer to this, apparently yes. However, I chalk this finding up to pure fatigue and laziness, rather than science or bravado. Also, the results have been duplicated more than once, so I feel fairly confident.

5. Are my skills compromised at bar entertainment trivia games when I am in a foreign land?

Indeed no. Bring it!

Tomorrow is only Day 3 of my nine day Israeli adventure. There is, as yet, so much more to see and learn. But I have had my eyes opened (not just closed with hash and absinthe) so much already.

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