Tonight was rough. I had an amazing Shabbat which included hosting American students, Reform services, Libyan food, the beach, and an Israeli techno party. After all that, I headed to the America Restaurant on Ibn Gvirol only to find all sorts of Trump-themed and racist paraphernalia. It was an unwelcome surprise for someone who came here to get away from that. I felt angry and typecast. The only good part was my excellent company and the mac n cheese. I headed home feeling deflated and wondering why I was here. It’s hard to be a Jew in America and it’s hard to be American in Israel.
After blowing off some steam, I decided to write about my trip to Daliat Al Karmel and Haifa. Because there, I felt the inspiration that can happen in Israel.
Let’s start in Daliat Al Karmel. A beautiful Druze village, I loved exploring every nook and cranny. I had heard there was a monastery nearby, so I made my way by foot. Each person I asked for directions told me it was 5 minutes away. I asked four people the same question, so needless to say it was more than 5 minutes away. After 30-40 minutes in the heat, I saw a golf cart heading towards me. I asked the man and his son in Arabic for a lift- and so I hitchhiked with the Druze family to the monastery.
This place is gorgeous. On top of the roof, you can see all of Israel’s North. It looks like this:
I felt at peace. Tel Aviv is a disgusting dirty city. It’s a fun place. It’s filled with youth and queer people and the beach and a million and a half cultures. But it’s gross. And loud. The North is peaceful. It is where I go to meditate and connect with God.
Realizing I was far away from the village bus and in need of a way home, I talked to the Druze guy who worked at the front desk. Since this is Israel, there is ALWAYS a solution. A priest from the monastery was headed back to Haifa, where I was staying.
I ran after his car and hopped in. The generous and kind Italian priest drove me the entire 45 minute ride. He spoke decent Spanish and I speak Spanish so we talked that way- in “Itañol” as he called it 🙂 . He works for a Roman Catholic church in Haifa that cooperates with Greek Catholics and Maronites- both of whom are also in communion with Rome. He loves life in Israel and wants to stay. He even did an ulpan- although he was frustrated that the teacher only explained things in Russian! 25% of Haifa is Russian so it makes sense. Kind of funny that the words he learned in ulpan were zdrastvootie and pazhalsta haha.
I then went out in Haifa to check out the nightlife. I connected with some Americans teaching English in Haifa, which was great. It’s nice to get a dose of the motherland once in a while 🙂 I was then headed home when I heard Arabic music blasting from a sushi bar. I immediately went inside and found an entirely Arab sushi restaurant singing and dancing. I joined in, started clapping and dancing. It is hands down the most fun I’ve had since arriving in Israel. And there’s wasn’t a Jew in sight. Because it would probably never occur to a Sabra to step foot in this place. I’m pretty fearless and open-minded, so I said what the hell.
The next thing I know, the music stopped and the bartender starts belting out some amazing Arabic tunes. And he. is. GOOD. Everyone starts swinging and swaying and banging on the bar.
It’s 3:30am and I head home. I can’t help but think now how my Americanness helped make these moments possible. My multilingual interactions. My trust of Druze and Arabs. My appreciation for all religious traditions.
Because my American identity isn’t a metaphor. And it’s not a Britney Spears concert or a goofy picture of Donald Trump or a selfie in Times Square.
It’s my appreciation for diversity. My willingness to listen. My open-mindedness and my love for my neighbors- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, you name it.
When I made aliyah, some Sabras told me not to hang out too much with other Americans. Not to be too diasporic.
Bullshit. My American identity makes me a better Israeli. Quite a number of Jews here speak better German than Arabic and know more about Berlin than Kafr Qasem.
I intend to be part of the solution here as an American-Israeli. Instead of throwing shade, hop on the golf cart with me. We’ll climb atop a monastery in the middle of nowhere. We’ll stare out at the North and realize that anything is possible if you just let yourself dream. The American-Israeli dream.
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