There is so much energy and life here in Jaffa. Every Friday around sunset, this vast beach lined with grass, like a giant sprawling park, is filled, but not over crowded with families. They are playing with their children, grilling-out, they have blankets and lawn chairs too. Some bring hookahs and some bring their dogs. They are smiling and laughing, some play music.
They are Israelis.
They are Arabs, not Jews.
They remind me of the happy, singing, dancing Jews all over Jerusalem. They celebrate life and they are one with this place. Women in hijabs sit in a circle talking about their day. Men smoking shisha or playing cards are nearby. The kids are on bikes, scooters, skateboards and running, just like in Jerusalem.
Yet this is nothing like Jerusalem and that is what makes it magical. It is Israel. It is not the Israel you see in a Stand With Us video. It is not the Israel you see in a Hasbara propaganda piece. It is not a recognizable scene from the Ministry of Tourism either. It is Jaffa. It is the ancient port city of this land that has always had a continuous presence of both Arabs and Jews.
I can sit on my mirpeset, high above Yefet Street and look down at the restaurant where the men sit and grill meat from 6:00 AM until after 9:00 PM. I observe the bakery called Kahil, also kikar Kahil and he makes his famous ring shaped bread covered in seeds. The neighborhood is a bit economically depressed. There is no retail worth my time. There are tons of tiny corner stores that sell the basics. I do all my shopping in the Hapishpishim, not here, unless I’m buying produce of course or coffee; damn good Arabic and Turkish coffee. Across the street is a kosher butcher and a couple doors down are a halal butcher. I have sampled both. I don’t like pargit chicken regardless, even though it is an Israeli staple item. I will forever only love chicken breast. I really miss a big, juicy chicken breast…
I don’t really fit in here either. It’s funny, I never felt like I fit in the US, or Jerusalem for sure not- yet this isn’t about fitting in and I don’t think it really ever was. I think the only point of me maintaining my blog is to show you a bit of something you otherwise would not see. Maybe, just maybe it will spark something in someone.
I read the Israeli headlines each day in the news. It’s funny, no matter what country you live in; the media all takes the same approach- just stir the pot. Period. It’s almost always negative, or exaggerated or bullshit, which I find vanilla and boring. Honestly, like I give a fuck that the famous actor in Fauda married a Muslim woman. Honestly, like I give a fuck that Melania Trump feels bullied. I am interested in the everyday, simple human stories that are relatable and that touch the humanity in everyone. The stories that cross-economic, political, religious, gender, cultural boundaries are the only stories worth my time.
I want to get a digital camera. I’ve been thinking about it lately. There are moments that my iPhone just cannot capture appropriately. If I had a good camera with a zoom lens, you guys could’ve seen the moon tonight. It was a sliver- like a baby’s eyelash. The top right hand corner was orange and then white, the left corner was blue. I have no proof. I could and I do take close up pictures of people’s faces while they are going about their day and capture the mood of the air here. Priceless I tell you.
The police sirens here are much less than what I used to hear at Damascus gate. I hear sounds of life, but none of it is startling or disconcerting. The best part is the beach. No matter what kind of day I have had, no matter what my mood is, when I walk down the cross street each evening to watch the sunset, I am transported. I am soothed, content and happy to just smell the air and see the beauty of the sea. This is the softer side of Israel and it is mine.