Safe on the Train
At 5:50 am we boarded the 166 for Haifa
and with some help, after the bus went by our stop, made it back to the
Lev Ha Mifrats train station. Our fears were confirmed that the
train (13 minutes) to Ben Gurion Airport was not running, and was
replaced by a 45 min shuttle bus. We were sure that we would miss
Will at the airport.
We boarded the train to Savidor Center in Tel Aviv, expecting
some kind of sign to the shuttle bus that we could understand, but it
was all a mystery. We did find it eventually, and when it filled
(ten minutes ahead of schedule) it left. We arrived close to 9
am, and found that Will's plane was a few minutes late. We had
time to buy minutes for his cell phone, visit the toilet. Will arrived a few minutes later and then with
some efficiency we returned to Tel Aviv.
We had made plans to meet with Amos Gvirtz, a long-time peace activist
and colleague of Adam Keller and Jeff Halper. We met at the Henrietta
Cafe, right by the Savidor Center, and he gave us a clearly-planned
lecture on how the history of Israel fits into the current
negotiations. He divided Israeli Zionists into two groups - the
existentialists and the zealots. He saw little hope for the
latter, and little hope for the country if they gained control.
He pointed out that Israel, a small country in often unfriendly
surroundings, always needs the help of a super power. Back in the
Suez Crisis days it was France, but since the 1967 war it has been the
United States. Israel will only compromise when Super Power
support is in jeopardy. In 1979 Israel gave up Sinai not out of
kindness but because Carter was willing to put US Support on the table
as part of the bargain.
Now, in the present situation, Israel came to the table only because
the US entered into negotiations with Iran. But, since US support
is not on the table, (says Amos), Israel will never enter into a
negotiation seriously. The government will try to do its best to
look like it is negotiating, but all the time it will continue its
steady usurpation of the West Bank and parts of Israel itself (e.g.
confiscating Bedouin land in the Negev.)
Amos used the last bit of time he had with us promoting BDS (boycott,
Divest, Sanction), emphasizing that only this kind of campaign has a
chance of undermining Israel's support by the US and other major powers.
Amos promised to send us some of the short papers that he has been
writing, and he has been true to his word. Here are links to three
that I think are particularly significant: "Understanding War"
, "An Open Letter to President
, and "Another Acre Another Goat"
Old Jaffa Clock
Old Jaffa Flea Market
We took the number 10 bus to Old Jaffa,
being a little uncertain as to where to get off. There were a
couple of "foot-loose youth" sitting with their guitars across the
aisle, and it was apparent that they were going to the same place.
First I asked the driver and he said "Yafo Sha-on". When I
looked puzzled he said "Clock", and went back to driving. I asked
the FY's and they said "Follow us". The bus wound through the
comfortable-looking neighborhoods along the sea shore, and then we saw
something unusual - a very large crowd of African men moving northwards
along the side walks and spilling into the streets.
This was the second day of demonstrations by mainly Eritreans and
Sudanese who have entered Israel as refugees. Many liberal
Israelis support them, but the conservative the government calls them
migrants and infiltrators.
In fact Former interior minister Eli Yishai said that the
government should take advantage of the migrants’ mass protests
to round them up and deport them.
“The State of Israel must act with unshakable motivation in the
face of the danger of becoming a state of infiltrators, and there is no
other solution than to to put every single one of the infiltrators in
detention facilities, take their work permits, put them on airplanes
and send them packing to their countries or a third country,”
That may be a formidable task, since there were 10 - 20 thousand
participants at the demonstrations.
We continued on down the seashore, and the scenery changed abruptly. The sign on the bus changed to
which I could recognize as Yafo, or Jaffa, and we were
approaching the clock tower pictured above. The FY's gathered up
their guitars. We passed the tower and there were about 20 young
people sitting in front of it sort of hanging out, and there were
plenty more like them walking up and down the streets. It took me back
45 years. The guitar-players were kind enough to walk with us through
the flea market, and pointed out a three-story square building that
seemed to take up half a block. "That's the Old Jaffa Hostel, but
the entry is on the other side".
We thanked them, and walked around to the door. Will made it
clear that he didn't need our help, so we left him there - we probably
were being too over-protective of our 20-year-old grandson.
That's how grandparents are, I guess.
Old Jaffa Fruit Stand
The Famous Carpet Another Line of Tourists
We were feeling a little pressed for
time, and were just making our way through the Flea Market when we
passed a carpet dealer. On the sidewalk in front of the store was
a small, tighly-knotted red carpet, that was clearly Nomad and perhaps
Iranian. Sadly, Sam fell in love with it, and we did buy it,
after appropriate haggling, for an undisclosed sum. The entire
transaction was classic, even if the dealer was Jewish. Maybe the
carpet is a jewel - maybe it is a throw-away. I (Sam) only hope
that it does not cause any marital friction in the future.
We left the shop and managed to find the bus back to Savidor.
Again we had to pass through security at the train station, but
the agent waved us through saying she remembered us from the knife
incident in Haifa At the ticket window we fidgeted in line for an
extra five minutes while a very proper Scottish man worked out, with
the aid of a partially bilingual interpreter, his ticket with a
decidedly mono-lingual clerk. When we asked for two tickets to
Lev Ha Mifrats, she paused and asked us about taking a bus.
("Just give us the tickets", I thought.) We rushed to the
platform only to see the Nahariya Express leave as we went down the
escalator. We caught the next one, knowing that this might mean
missing the 166 to Ibillin.
Getting home suggested a conspiracy like the one encountered by Cary
Grant in "North by Northwest". We could not tell if we had missed
the last 166, so we embarked on the 167 to Shefaram, along with two
others going to Ibilin. We did want to see if the transfers
worked. Just after the bus made the decisive turn to Shefaram, it
stopped, and the driver sent a person back to tell us "This is your
stop". We looked around and noted that the other Ibillin
passengers had disappeared. We also knew that we were five miles
from Shefaram, and not much closer to Ibillin. We tried to
explain that we could transfer to the 343 or walk from Shefaram, but
everyone on the bus was insistent - "This is your stop, just get off
and walk that way".
We had no choice. It was dark, and this was not a scheduled stop.
We disembarked, and began walking "That way", watching
another bus (was it the 166?) pass by and take the turn to Ibillin.
There was a young woman standing on the sidewalk. She
seemed to be expecting us. "I will help you" she said, and we
followed her around the corner. There was a car waiting.
She said "Please get in, this is my father".
They dropped us off at the traffic circle in front of the schools. Was it a conspiracy?
60 Jabbour Street
Elias Jabbour and Friend
Amos had suggested that we talk with a
man in Shefaram name Elias Jabbour, who lived at 60 Jabbour Street.
We called him the next morning, and he offered to pick us up, but
we thought we knew where Jabbour Street was and siad we would walk the
mile or so to his house.
We walked to the old city and discovered no street signs that said
Jabbour Street, so we asked. As is also the case in New England,
there are no signs for the street that you are on, and that was Jabbour
Street. We asked where "60" was and he gave me a puzzled look,
then he said "Don't ask for a number, just ask for Elias". That
worked pretty well until we approached the house, since it had no
number, and didn't talk. A dignified man drove up beside
us. That was Elias, who assumed that we were in the neighborhood
He invited us into his house, which was where he was born in 1935.
He started the same way that Amos had started, saying that you
can't understand Israel without knowing the history; however his
context was more subjective than Amos'.
He was 13 in 1948 and remembers the events well. His father, the
Mayor of Shfa'Amr (the Arabic name), had to allow the Israeli army the
use of his house as the administrative center as they "conquered" the
city. Over the next 18 years the city remained under military
occupation and 70 percent of its land was confiscated. That is
what Wikipedia says. Elias says that he lived in this house all
Elias was quite clear that there will be no peace without justice, and
there will be no justice when one set of citizens is treated
differently from another set. He said "We can live with each
other, but we can't live on the same land without each other". He
felt strongly that the growing Israeli settlements scuttle the
prospects for a just solution, and considered the small, gated Jewish
communities in Eastern Galilee to be just another set of settlements.
Elias is a strongly committed Christian, who believes in all
parts of the bible. He says that Isaac (Jews), Esau
(Palestinians) and Ishmael (Arabs) are all descendants of of Abraham,
and when God gave the land of Israel to Abraham, he gave it to his
entire family. God also gave the land on the basis that its
inhabitants follow the law, and that is the issue today.
Sam, Aseel, Fatma, Bian, Amana
Turkish Glass above Cabinet
On Ben Gurion
Late on Tuesday we received a call from
Amana, the mother of Aseel, who had promised some day to show us Haifa.
Amana teaches Hebrew at the High School, and Aseel is writing
pen-pal letters and has danced with the sixth graders.
We first traveled to her "grandmother's" house. Well, it is
complicated. The person she calls her grandmother was her
great-grandfather's third wife, Fatma, married at 20. He died 55
years ago, and she has lived in this house in Haifa ever since.
The house is typically Palestinian Arab, with three floors and
nice balconies looking out on the harbor. Inside were various
pieces of furniture and artifacts dating to Ottoman times, on glazed
tile floors. Ada lives on the third floor and rents the other
two. Amana seemed concerned that renter protection laws in Israel
are very strict, and put severe limits on eviction after a certain
time. Amana thinks that this nearly gives renters inheritance
rights, and it is a means for Jewish people to obtain formerly
Palestinian houses - I'll need to check that out.
We drank tea and ate sweets with Ada and the family, and then the five
of us (including Bian a nephew from Ibillin) saw some of the sights.
It was after 9 pm, and the streets were mostly quiet. We
went to a nearby business district which is very busy in the daytime,
but all the restaurants were closed except for McDonald's, where Ruth
and I had something like two Big Mac Juniors and 1 fries for 58 NIS, or
around $16. Not as high as gasoline!
We went on to Ben Gurion Street, right at the base of the Bahai
Gardens. There all the restaurants were open, with "Barkers" on
the street encouraging you to enter. By the looks of the decor I
would say that they would be much more expensive than McDonalds.
We walked one side and down the other, taking pictures of what we
Ben Gurion St., Bahai Gardens in Bkgnd
Jewish Establishment in Arab Building
Team of Medical Workers
As we walked down the street Amana had
us take note of a Jewish religious center in a formerly Arab building,
and an international team of medical researchers having
dessert together in one of the retaurants. The leader, facing on
the left, is a famous cancer specialist.
I made an off-hand mention as we left Ibillin that I had met a person
from Mitspe Aviv at a pharmacy nearby. She replied, "Yes, they
come here for medicine, fresh fruit and vegetables, auto repairs - all
sorts of things and the relations are good. There is no problem
with people getting together - just with the government.". She
later added, "It is all right to live together, but not under
laws that treat people differently".