19 July 2006

noise in the background from a televised war.

14 - 15 July 2006

We spent our first afternoon as "refugees" from Haifa laying on a beach in Tel Aviv with the students we stayed with last night. Aside from the cold showers at the apartment, Erin and I are living the good life here. The news says Haifa residents have been ordered to stay in bomb shelters today, but walking through Tel Aviv today, you'd never know anything was out of the ordinary. Since it's the weekend, the beach was packed with Israelis enjoying the sunshine. The rocket hit the Stella Maris area of Haifa, a relatively uninhabited mountain in the city. There's a monastery at the top and a cable car to take people up there, which Erin and I have been meaning to do one night, but it closes early so we hadn't make it out there yet. After our stressful afternoon on the beach, we met with Yehuda and Nancy to talk about the future of the program. They're doing everything they can to keep us here, and we're behind them 100%. One student flew home last night and another leaves tomorrow. We're completely free to leave if we feel unsafe, but after spending the day in Tel Aviv, it's almost impossible to feel unsafe, let alone even remember there's a war about to break out in the north. Yehuda said we could go back to Haifa Friday night, but called us less than an hour later to say we should wait another day or so. Yet another instance of how quickly things change here. After the meeting, we wandered down a main shopping street in Tel Aviv and saw an adorable French film at a movie theater. We moved into the spare room at our professors' apartment and spent what we thought was our last night there before we would return to our normal lives in Haifa on Sunday.

On Saturday, we took a shurut (short bus!) to Jerusalem to do some shopping since Yehuda implied that it may very well be our last chance to do so. GMU is pushing Yehuda hard to cancel the program and send us home. They're trying to move the Jordan trip up so we can at least fit that in before we have to leave. We're fighting to find a way to stay until our original departure date even if the program is cancelled. When Yehuda called us in Jerusalem to ask about my flight to Orlando and the special arrangements for my ticket, our hearts broke. Apparently, our dismay was evidident, because an antique shop owner invited us in for tea to cheer us up and others offered us "sadness discounts." In the antique shop, we cheered ourselves up by playing with the jewelry selection. When I said I wanted a smaller pearl necklace, the owner called the jeweler out of the back room, and he brought out a selection of pearls and asked me how long I wanted my necklace. As he was making it, I toyed with a multi-strand garnet necklace and asked if it was possible to have a single strand. He grabbed some scissors, cut off a strand, and sent the jeweler to fashion a clasp for it. It was an excellent afternoon of self-soothing our depression about having to leave Israel, and now I'll have good stories behind my souvenirs.

As we were leaving the old city to catch a shurut back to Tel Aviv, Erin's phone got a notification of a new email saying the program had been officially cancelled. Since her phone only showed the intro of the message, we couldn't see whether or not we were going to Jordan or when we'd have to leave. Thoroughly depressed, we headed back to Tel Aviv to talk to Yehuda and beg to stay, only to find that he had left to take Nicole to the airport for her flight. The other students across Israel in the north and in Jerusalem and Ramallah have been recalled to Tel Aviv, and we're meeting tomorrow afternoon to talk about our future. Yehuda is having Erin and I go to Haifa tomorrow morning to pick up our stuff and check out. We've resigned ourselves to the fact that our time in Haifa is over, but we're unwilling to leave Israel now. This entire program is about conflict resolution, and to leave when things heat up and negotiations are most needed is counterproductive. We're here to learn about the conflict and how people live and work in a constant state of heightened tensions. What does running away teach us about the effectiveness of conflict resolution?

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