Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Day Four: Jaffa and Beit Shemesh
We gave ourselves more time and fought our way through the traffic jam on the main highway. This time we arrived a half0hour early to our destination: the Sadaka Reut organization near the Old City. There, we met with Lena and Jawad, both 19, and Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian respectively. They’ve been living together with six other young people as part of “The Commune”, a one-year experiment in co-existence and co-operation. (Imagine “The Real World: Israel” with less binge-drinking, fewer cameras and way more political activism.”) They are amazingly passionate individuals doing impressive activities; every month they collectively organize a political or educational act: erasing racist graffiti, protesting house demolitions, producing educational videos about Gaza.
Jaffa can be a tough neighbourhood, we’d heard, and we saw evidence of that after leaving Sadaka Reut. Several police cars and ambulances had stopped by a house, and an Arab woman was crying on the sidewalk. Attendants with stretchers rushed through a door. We asked a nearby parking lot attendant what had happened. “There was a shooting,” he shrugged. “Someone got hit.” Time to get out of Jaffa.
After a swim at Neve Shalom, we drove to the town of Beit Shemesh and visited Kibbutz Tamuz—an urban kibbutz, which I’d heard so much about last year but had yet to see in person. There, Yiftah Goldman, one of the members, showed us around and gave us a history of the community, which combines urban co-housing and communal economics with a sense of social purpose. Tamuz has struggled recently, however, as Beit Shemesh has become an increasingly ultra-Orthodox town; these new religious residents have been resistant to cooperating with the Tamuz residents in the types of social projects that drew them to the city in the first place. That said, Tamuz looks like a wonderful place to raise a family, amongst close friends, with an open green space where residents gather and talk as the sun goes down. Again, we left with our heads full of new ideas and new ways of living.