What can one say new about Israel after being in metropolitan Tel Aviv for just a few days? That it is, like most places, full of contradictions (or maybe conflicting tendencies?):
The man who cut in the hotel check-in line as if the line did not exist (or maybe because it did exist?) vs. the drivers who politely slowed (if not stopped) at the crosswalk and the warm hospitality of friends.
Attending the celebration of the 20th anniversary of Beit Daniel, a synagogue and center of Reform Judaism in Tel Aviv, and being left with the feeling that Reform Jews are on the up and up in Israel. Speakers included a Supreme Court justice and a Member of Knesset, Yohanan Plesner (Kadima). And thinking that Reform is a good fit with liberal Israeli Jews because the state provides all Israeli Jews with the tools they need such as Hebrew literacy and Jewish history (contra public education in any other Jewish community outside of Israel where the movement itself, not arms of the state, must provide the Hebrew and Jewish content).
But then thinking about the rabbinate’s refusal to recognize conversions performed by Beit Daniel (though the Ministry of the Interior does recognize them. How’s that for a compromise?). Or, learning more about the almost inevitable struggle that will take place over state subsidies of ultra-orthodox Jews or Haredim (increasing Haredi population + often no paid work = growing share of state funds). No wonder Plesner urged the audience to remember that Reform’s progress also necessitates political organization and action.
Tall apartment blocks, some with luxury units, in Ramat Aviv by Tel Aviv University; it looks like the architecture of urban isolation and anonymity. But also witness a Saturday afternoon along the beaches (or Friday night in Yarkon Park) filled with throngs including families and groups of friends. Mini-BBQs over fire. Four senior couples sitting in chairs under sun umbrellas on the grassy area behind the beach (one of the men unfortunately in a NY Yankees hat). They, like many others, talking and eating for hours. A group finishing a session at the Arab-Hebrew Theater in Jaffa, heading off to lunch with chatter in Arabic and Hebrew.
Which has all left me pondering a bigger question: Does it all boil down to the same old urban and national issues (e.g. social tensions, budgetary allocation questions, real estate development and prices) or serve as an argument for the uniqueness of (or at least many particular aspects of) the Israeli case?