Sunday, July 15, 2007

Jaffa and the diaspora

Over the last two days, we've toured two sites that add insights and meaning to our Israeli visit.

On Saturday, we walked through Jaffa, the original Arab port city now embedded with Tel Aviv. Jaffa had a thriving Arab population until just before Israel obtained its independence in 1948 -- in fact, the original U.N. partition resolution which established the State of Israel included Jaffa as an enclave surrounded on all sides by Jewish territory, but to be incorporated with the Arab Palestinian state.

What happened? Our guide (saying he was not being politically correct) and other historical references suggest Jaffa is not the highest example of Jewish morality -- it appears that Irgun terrorists made it clear to the Arab residents that, with Israeli independence, they would be wise to flee for their lives. (This stuff of course is not the sanitized Zionist perspective about Israeli independence -- but in fairness, you should realize that the Palestinian side did not behave with honour in an incredible variety of circumstances, as well.)

We saw the more officially correct version of Israeli (and Jewish) heritage at the Diaspora Museum at Tel Aviv University yesterday. This is a fascinating, rewarding experience -- we see the cultural history and framework of the Jewish identity, framed within the mixture of persecution, the religion's Holy Land roots, and the variations in life experience for Jewish people around the world, both in history and geography.

We rode city buses across Tel Aviv to get to the museum. This is a bustling, thriving community -- and if you landed here with no knowledge of the politics, history, and political tension, you'd say all is fine and well. Maybe this impression is the right one.

Today's focus is truly not intellectual. I'm going to another Zoo with Eric, giving Vivian a day off to explore the city's culture and ideas. Eric has just shown up -- he is ready for breakfast!

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