13 August 2012

More Israel (photos coming soon)

I'm now in Tel Aviv, sitting in a cafe/restaurant with nice, free wi-fi.  After walking around for a couple of hours down Allenby and around the beach, I've decided that I haven't seen the "pretty" part of Tel Aviv yet.  I haven't really had time to see much yet -- I've spent most of the day working on my article (to be submitted for publication on Wednesday) at Yossi and Shosi's beautiful, air-conditioned apartment.  I didn't go to the beach because a) I didn't have sandals -- walking on that sand would have been suicide, and b) I didn't have a towel.

The rest of the conference in Tsfat was really interesting.  We took a walking tour of Tsfat with a guide who, while I'm sure he had our best interests at heart, I'm convinced was making stuff up.  He was very friendly and wanted to relate everything remotely international to a member of our very international group.  However, he would play songs from an mp3 player through a speaker clipped to his belt, which became problematic as Shabbat approached in that very religious city.  He also was telling the group incorrect things about Sephardic Jews and music in the presence of our Sephardic music expert.  He also insisted that the epitomy of Ashkenazic music was "If I were a Rich Man."  Oy.

The next day, we had a bus tour of the Galilee, highlighting the diverse communities there.  We visited a Circassian town, much to the delight of the 2 Russian-Circassian scholars there.  It's a fascinating history of a people, expelled from Russia in the 19th century, who have settled in a north-south column through the former Ottoman Empire reaching from Turkey down to Israel. Following that, we visited an Christian-Arab village, hearing "George" play his string instruments and giving us a little tour of the town.  We had a great Arabic lunch there, and then headed towards a Druze town where we learned about the basic tenets of the Druze religion and culture. 

We then returned to Tsfat and hung around until after Shabbat and had a nice dinner amidst the craziness of post-shabbat traffic and Frummie-ness.

More thoughts on Tsfat:

While a beautiful city in the mountains, I feel like Tsfat has "gone to seed."  There's garbage everywhere, and (I'm assuming it's a summer thing), it's dusty and sandy all over the place.  The city is getting more and more run down (see my last post about how there's no money).  While a home for mystics and the ultra-religious, I can't really see anyone else living there permanently, and I don't think many people want to.  It feels like the Haredim are driving everyone else out, and while the town population most likely swells for Shabbat (people go for a "shabbat experience" like the Australian girl who sat next to me on the bus back to Tel Aviv), it appears that the continued deterioration of conditions may keep tourists away in the future, further wrecking the city's economy. 

But the Galilee remains my favourite part of Israel.  The rugged natural beauty is lovely.  I seem to have a thing for mountains.  Maybe it's because there aren't any in Toronto.

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