Saturday, May 03, 2008

Israel at 60 - take 4

Israel is not all politics and conflict with Palestinians. Indeed, when living there, it is possible (almost) to forget the conflict completely.

Daily life is rich. Culture - of all kinds - is booming. Israelis are famous for their energy. Rules are made to be broken. Creativity (tactical if not strategic) is evident everywhere. And of course the landscape itself is beautiful.

When you watch the nightly news about the situation in Gaza or the West Bank, it often - usually for most Israelis - seems a million miles away - not a 1-2 hour drive down the road.

This vibrant reality is caught very well in an article in the National Post.


SNAPSHOTS FROM TODAY'S ISRAEL

A land of conflict? Absolutely. But also pop music, French immigrants, sushi, annoying teens, high taxes and hope.

...Certainly, a fast-paced, fun-loving urban scene is not what most non-Israelis think of when they think of Israel. But it is what many Israelis think of when they think of Israel. The typical Labour-voting, secular Tel Aviv type will even argue that what happens in this Jewish metropolis is more the essence of contemporary Israel than what happens in headline-grabbing places like religious Jerusalem or the settlements. When reading about Sderot here, it can feel like reading about an entirely different country. During the 2006 Lebanon war, when most of Haifa's population was in underground shelters, Tel Aviv was business as usual.

At times it can be exasperating. The Tel Aviv way can come off as an aggressive form of laissez-faire, a hedonism verging on nihilism. Tel Avivis sometimes refer to their city, not without pride, as a bubble.

Ask passersby walking through Rabin Square if they feel the Arab-Israeli conflict in the city, and half will respond: "See for yourself! Look how full the cafes are!" while pointing to packed establishments at nearly every corner. They know that difficulties come out when the surface is scratched. And so the idea seems to be to go for a thick surface. Sometimes this strategy can seem miraculous, and sometimes unbelievably callous, but something about it goes with Tel Aviv -- a city built in the direction of the new, and always refusing to get stuck, a city seen by some as an antidote to Jerusalem. ...

This attitude allows many Israelis to survive and even thrive. But it also make them feel less pressured to end the conflict with the Palestinians, or seek a just peace. Tel Aviv is the essence of this Israeli contradiction.

Read the full article here.

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