My concerns about Tel Aviv have proven true thus far. However, I have reconsidered my concerns, (mentioned in my first blog post), through a new lens: David Ben-Gurion’s vision of a secular Jew. Of course, this ‘vision’ has many implications in itself, many of which I cannot delve into here. But, with the intention of linking Tel Aviv and it’s culture to the idea of a Jewish state is something quite interesting. I had this thought while I was enjoying Brunch at a crowded restaurant on Sabbath morning, observing Israelis photographing their food presumably to post on Instagram. It is not that there is a problem with such a thing it is rather that it is a shocking reality against the background of the Jewish state where just 45 miles from Tel Aviv sits the city of Jerusalem whose streets remain mostly empty on the holy day Shabbat. That said, Ben-Gurion understood Judaism as a national culture extending beyond religion, based on the humanistic-political principles articulated by the biblical prophets, which had served as a moral compass throughout Jewish history. He claimed that he hoped these principles would also guide Israel to develop into a model society. Although there are many points of contention in this evaluation it is discernible to say that Tel Aviv was successful in executing Ben- Gurion’s vision. Tel Aviv congratulates itself on its culture of acceptance. And while it is indisputable that Tel Aviv enjoys certain liberties I feel as though it’s reputation overshadows it’s reality at times.
I say this because I have witnessed such blatant racism in Tel Aviv. When I confronted these remarks I was met with the response that I am too sensitive and a typical American who is obsessed with politically correct culture. It is interesting how the bipartisan fight over freedom of speech in the United States has penetrated Israel.
It is easy to find criticisms in a country that is not your own. Your inherent discomfort that comes with your lack of familiarity highlights that in which you find wrong or different. That is to say that what I’ve encountered in Tel Aviv is not unique and has subsequently made me more acute to the similarities in racism that plagues the US. It has inspired me to think more about what I can do to combat racism at Northwestern by way of rejecting the Israeli occupation through student organizations such as JStreetU. Below I’ve attached a photograph that shows a group of Northwestern students who were taken to Israel by Hillel with whom I met to discuss how I would like to translate my observations of Israel into actions on campus. This meeting led to a few Skype calls with Northwestern students throughout my trip in which we started to organize Shabbat dinners that aim to bridge different communities on campus!