Staying on the move in Israel and the Palestinian territories (and beyond) through a month of trial. And today: Spanish sojourn ends. Autumn begins.
Take a bunch of secular Israelis on a trip to a land exploding with pork products, and you’re going to witness some excitement. Here is Maoz showing off the chorizo rojo he bought in Jerez to Ben-Dror and Lea who are waiting outside the hotel.
We are setting off back towards Madrid and the airport. Traveling through mysterious rocky landscape,
and stopping at the city of Segovia to catch a glimpse of its Roman aqueduct. rising high over the town’s rooftops, it is by far the most impressive Roman remain I have ever seen. No mortar was used in its construction and all the stones are held together by weight and pressure. Unlike everything I saw yesterday, this doesn’t make me flash back to Beit Shean.
The world is wide and wondrous, but I think I’m satisfied with it and ready to return. Of all places, it is lavishly beautiful Segovia where I find myself reciting in my mind The famous lines Spanish-Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi composed a thousand years ago. “My heart is in the east, and I am in the furthermost west.” In that poem he describes himself as longing for Jerusalem so strongly, that he fails to enjoy the food he eats. I still enjoy Spain’s food,
but my heart really is back east. As Israelis we are conditioned to have a Dorothy complex. You’ll often hear us saying: “Paris is gorgeous, but there’s no place like home.” I personally believe many places top the homeland in many respects, but I really miss Ruthie.
Before heading back to her in earnest, there are a few hours to kill in Madrid and I have a mission: To meet the city’s Arabs.
Lavapiés is where they are supposed to be found, as reader Sam suggested on a comment to part 16 of the journey. On fist glance it looks like a perfectly mundane downtown neighborhood.Lavapiés is is the site of central Medieval Madrid and the city’s Jewish quarter resided here before the expulsion, and situated a five minute walk south of Puerta del Sol, its most central square.
On second sight Lavapiés reveals itself to be a diverse immigrant neighborhood, diverse even as immigrant neighborhoods come. There are literally people from Everywhere here, particularly the Indian subcontinent and Africa, but also other European countries and Latin America.
The Arabic speaking population rears mostly from Morocco, but I do discover a Lebanese cafe and head in for ye olde hubly bubbly. I’m the only costumer and Mohamed, who works the afternoon shift, joins me for a smoke.
He grew up in Nabatiyeh, just north of the strip of South Lebanon which Israel occupied between the years 1982-2000. Back home we would never have met. The border is a solid barrier before both of us. Europe provides a neutral venue and also a medium of communication Since my Arabic is weaker than my Spanish (neither is very strong, to be honest), we speak in a language that has little to do with our part of the world. Meanwhile the TV is alight with an American film broadcast from Qatar.
Mohamed remembers the Israeli military checkpoint that stood south of the city throughout his early childhood, and how reluctant his parents were to cross it. He brings up the thousends of Lebanese lives lost during that period, but besides a reluctance to have his photo taken, doesn’t seem to have anything against me as an Israeli. “In this world there is no justice.” he says, “That’s how it is.”
Later, on the way to the airport, talk of Nabatiyeh brings up other memories. It is from this town that mortars were shot at the IDF post located in the Beaufort, the old crusader fortress overlooking it. More lost lives right there. With a head full of views from both banks of the Litany river, I cross the river of rush hour traffic gushing down the Paseo del Castellana, and head to the sky.
Two pieces of good news greet me as I the red eye lands at Ben-gurion airport and I go online again. The first: Tine made it through that same airport’s security check swiftly and with minimal harassment. This should be no wonder, since she literally did nothing wrong, but we were still both worried, especially once I got called for investigation, and this is a load off my homecoming chest. Now I can at last give her full credit for illustrating so wonderfully part 11 of this journey. She is the one and only Tine Fetz.
The other piece of good news is that my truly beloved readers came to my defence on the comments section. Earlier in Madrid, when I checked for comments on the 17th portion of this travelogue, only one was there, made by a person named Sylvia. “This has to be the most nauseating piece of trash I’ve read in years” wrote Sylvia, “I have to go vomit.” On returning home I find that two other readers, whom I believe to be a Jew and a Palestinian, took an issue with such nonconstructive criticism.
While encouraged by this, I can also see why Sylvia was moved to make her comment at the time she did. The 17th post is indeed a little less reserved than others, something Lorcan got into me in Spain, I exposed my own emotions as I haven’t done previously. So be it, every journey is also a journey of the soul. September is changing me, as well as the way I see and convey what is around me. While I do not intend to turn this project into a long chain of my own rants, I advise Sylvia to stop reading now for the benefit of her gastrointestinal well being.
Anyway, here’s Tel-Aviv at dawn with clouds beginning to gather over it.
And here it is at noon.
The first rain is an annual moment of catharsis in this land. We usually get no precipitation between early April and late September. This year was different, it rained once in August, but soon the sun dried up our spirits and the anxious wait for tiding of a more refreshing season resumed. This season is here. In four days we will be celebrating the Jewish New Year.
First, however, another catharsis awaits. Tonight President Abbas is to hand the request for a full Palestinian UN membership to the Secretary General. Immediately afterwards Abbas and Netanyahu will both speak before the general assembly. Thousands of Palestinians are gathering in Ramallah to watch the speeches on a giant screen. At Jerusalem’s Damascus gate, a few more thousands are gathering, and a mounted police force was sent there to deal with potential violence. I will be reporting on the action from a venue no less relevant: The Israeli home.
We are joined here with Noa Galili, the spokesperson of “Israeli Children” an organization helping the children of work immigrants, which Israel seeks to deport. Arriving directly from the international quarter around the bus depot, she arrives with boxes full of peculiar Filipino sweets.
Tonight, however, is all about drink. Some Israeli clown (actually it was innovative activist Tzvika Besor) whipped up a drinking game to adjoin the Netanyahu speech. We’ll be taking a gulp whenever Netanyahu mentiones the following terms: “Jewish state”, “the only democracy”, “Terror”, “Jihad”, “the right to defend itself/ourselves” “the bible” and “the Holocaust”.
First, however, we raise a toast to Palestine. Ironically, the only brandy Noa could find in her house was produced near the settlement of Ariel. Oh hell, Lechaim.
Abbas’s speech, with its powerful points in favor of peace and mutual acceptence and thunderous “Palestine is being reborn”, brings the girls to their feet.
Netanyahu’s speech begins with an attack on the UN and continues with an attack on Islam as a murderous culture, drawing on the September 11th disaster for maniupulation. Later he brings up Gilad Shalit and mentions his parents: Noam and Aviva. I can’t think of two people who hate more this man, who didn’t follow through with any opportunity to free their son. Finally Netanyahu contradicts Abbas’s claim that all nations will be equal in a Palestinian state, by forseeing that state as being “Judenrein” (Jew-free).
We regard “Judenrein” as a reference to the Holocaust, thus the final inventory is:
Holocaust = 4 shots
Jewish state = 6 shots
Only democracy = only 1 shot
Bible= 2 shots
Right of Israel to defend itself = 3 shots
Terror = 3 shots
Finally, there’s no mention of “Jihad” per se, but Netanyahu dwells lengthily on militant Islam, likening it to an “unsatiable crocodile.
militant Islam= 6 shots.
The speech overall is defensive to the extreme. If this is the spirit of our nation, we are headed for our twilight.
Ruthie, Noa and myself are heading into this twilight a tad intoxicated, but determined. We will contiunue to be who we are. We talk to people from Nabbatiyeh, we want a Palestinian state to come into existance in all the occupied territories, including my hometown of East Jerusalem. We think our government is treacherous, irresponsible, and corrupt. We love our Jewish heritage and eat Chorizo Rojo nonetheless (except Noa, who’s vegetarian). once you manage to cope with that, dear Sylvia, you’re welcome to have a drink with us in this very house.
Thanks for reading and taking part in the adventure. If any of you would like to pitch in for my travel and food, please do so using the “donate” button at the top of this page. Please be sure and specify that you are contributing to Yuval’s September Journey. I’m deeply grateful to those who already donated. Thank you so much! This trip would have been impossible if not for you.