First months in Israel, 1997
My initial visit to Israel, meeting my father etc - September to December 1997
Inside the church where no explanations are allowed
Looking out from the roof of Tabasco Hostel over the roofs of Old Jerusalem
Looking down into a pit in the Kidron Valley (Garden of Gethsemane)
In the Muslim Quarter of the Jerusalem Old City
Golden Gate to the Old City, Jerusalem.
Email from Israel - 21/11/97
Israel Report - 21/11/97
From : Stefan Schutt
Subject: Stef's Israel Report
Date: 21 November 1997 01:55:46
How is we all? It's been a while between emails...I've been holed up at the
kibbutz, putting in some serious elbow grease on the industrial dishwashing
washine in the dining room.
Right now I'm on a bus on the road from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv - the same
road that saw the desperate battles of the 1948 war, when Jerusalem was
under Arab siege. Wrecks of hastily armoured Israeli jeeps still litter the
roadside, victims of Arab ambushes as convoys of food and arms tried to
wind their way through the valleys to the battered city. It's a dramatic
story in which one of my aunts took a big role as part of the Palmach's 4th
Battalion, assigned to protect the convoys in their often suicidal
journeys. The strain of the experience left her with a permanent stutter.
I've just spent some time in that crazy ol' city of Jerusalem, a place so
top-heavy with religion that every year 200 foreigners lose it, become
convinced they're Biblical figures and spend their holidays preaching to
the staff of psychiatric institutions. It's an incredible place, and
staying in the Arab quarter of the Old City (something many Jewish Israelis
would see as the ultimate in dangerous pursuits, next to giving back the
Golan Heights) has made my stay very memorable. It certainly beats the slow
creeping boredom of the dishwasher...
I'm including a bunch of random Israel-related snippets that I've been
collecting for a while now and am now spewing forth in no particular order.
Scroll through, read, etc.
1 We Are Family
As part of my effort who understand the bewildering tangle of Yosis, Goulas
and Raouds that make up my newly discovered family, I've constructed a
family tree to figure out who's who in the house of Netanel. I can now pass
on, with relative certainty, the following statistics. I now have (and
1 half sister
1 half brother
5 (living) uncles and aunts
39 'blood' nephews/nieces
3 adopted nephews/nieces
No, I don't know all their names. But then, neither does my father.
2. Losing My Religion
Irony for the day: Walking through the old Arab city of Jaffa (which is
surrounded by the 'burbs of Tel Aviv) and hearing R.E.M.'s 'Losing My
Religion' blaring out of an ancient house while passing by the Armenian
Church, the Sea Mosque, the Greek Orthodox monastery, the old Synagogue and
the Vatican Embassy.
3. Highway to Hell
As far as I'm concerned, Israelis richly deserve their reputation as some
of the most dangerous drivers on earth. Apparently more people die each
year on Israeli roads than all the Israeli wars combined - 4 people a day
in a country of 5 million. So far, I've seen one spectacular pile-up that
ended up on a sidewalk and almost achieved an uncalled-for house
demolition, and heard the screech and crunch of another from the flat.
My dad, of course, is no Sunday driver himself. However, whenever he
performs a tyre-screeching manoeuvre in reverse or overtakes at 80 kph
down a suburban street - while complaining about Israeli drivers in the
same breath - I take comfort that he's highly skilled and has seen
significantly less prang action than, embarrassed cough, yours truly.
4. Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
Lack of manners - on and off the road - are something for which Israelis
are also famous. To find out why, your investigative reporter talked to an
expert: a guy from New York who runs a secondhand English bookshop on
Dizzengoff Street in Tel Aviv. According to him, politeness was originally
seen as a sign of weakness in the aftermath of WW2. Also, Israeli society
was small and informal, and didn't need the social oil of etiquette to
smooth the friction created by the turning of its cogs.
Of course, things changed, society got bigger and more complex, and words
like 'sorry' and 'thank you' entered the world of Israeli interpersonal
relations - even if it was under duress. Apparently, in those days people
actually choked on such words! Now, 'sleecha' (sorry) and 'toda' (thanks)
are in common usage. Still, Israelis have a unique way of offering help. So
they don't appear to be slimy toadies, they prefer to say things like:
'What the hell are you doing in that line? Go to that one! It's shorter!'
5. Bla bla bla
Am currently reading Chaim Potok's epic 'History of the Jews', a
none-too-objective account filled with countless covenants, sieges, acts of
cruelty, miracles, cults, races and prophets. Whew. And I thought tax forms
Bought 'Hebrew in 3 Months' the other day and am plowing through it. A
great source of pride: I managed to read my first bumper sticker the other
day - it said 'Shalom'.
Saturday night ain't the same over here; the Jewish rest day is Saturday,
and everyone goes back to work on Sunday morning. But when they say 'rest'
they mean it - you can forget about public transport or shops on Satdee in
6. Kibbutz Visit
In October I visited a cousin who lives with her family on the Hatzerim
Kibbutz in the Negev Desert near the southern capital of Be'ersheva. She's
a teacher who works as a tour guide in Africa during school holidays, and I
was lucky enough to receive from her a grand tour of the Kibbutz.
The Kibbutz has become rich because it has invented a type of slow release
irrigation water piping that is now being used worldwide. It even has a
factory in Sydney, to which it sends engineers and managers. Inside the
Kibbutz, you'd never believe there was a flat, sandy desert on all fronts -
it's as green and cared for as any English garden. It has a huge eating
hall, complete with decent food, a massive undercover sports complex and a
swimming pool. Between 400 and 600 people live and work there; 200 are
permanent members. It's the closest thing I've seen to a workable marriage
between socialist ideals and entrepreneurial savvy.
The Kibbutz has a concentric structure which serves as a stark reminder of
local politics and history; the childrens' quarters and meeting areas are
at the centre of the circle - the safest place to be in times of armed
Another reminder is the preserved Egyptian army bunker on the
outer perimeter of the compound. My cousin, like many Israelis, is blunt
about the political situation: 'I'm sorry to say it, but it's just not
possible to live with the Arabs."
- the satellite city of new Rishon Le Zion (tall white apartment blocks,
roads, city squares) rising straight out of the sand dunes in the desert
just outside Tel Aviv.
- two old Yemenite Jews sitting on a street corner, creased faces
somewhere between brown and black, white turbans framed by golden jewellery
- the spot where Rabin was assassinated, marked by a simple memorial,
murals and two long walls filled with Hebrew graffiti
- the mournful Muezzin calls echoing from the mosques of Jaffa
- the whitewashed Coptic Christian cemetery facing the Mediterranean Sea in
- Young soldiers hitchhiking/waiting for a bus/eating, Uzis slung casually
over their shoulders
- Groups of Russian immigrants waiting for the social security office to
- The Turkish falafel stand with bleached-blonde owner/worker and lots of
posters of the Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson
Place: Tel Aviv
It has that holy haze...
Yes, he Isreal. Doorway in Mount Zion at the 'Tomb of David'.
Doorway in the Muslim Quarter
More holy light. Or maybe a glitch in the film.