Blog from Abroad: Taking on Tel Aviv

The events of the past year have certainly deterred many from going to the Middle East to relax. But for some, Israel is still the place to be. Beautiful, strange, controversial, historic….it really is an incredible place to people-watch. I am one of those people who decided to take on Tel Aviv.This summer marks my seventh trip to Israel. I assumed I knew the deal; the country is the size of New Jersey so I wasn’t expecting any surprises. But what I failed to realize is that Tel Aviv is totally different from Jerusalem (the city I called home every other time I’ve visited). What Jerusalem represents for Israel as the Jewish state, parallels what Tel Aviv means to Israelis living in a modernized country. Make no mistake: to be Jewish and to be Israeli are two completely different identities—with a lot of cases of overlap.

Tel Aviv is known to Israelis as the “city that never sleeps,” Israel’s equivalent of New York. I also happen to live in one of the coolest/strangest neighborhoods in this city: Florentin. It seems that everyone has a tattoo, a bike, and a dog. On occasions I catch tattooed people biking and walking their dogs at the same time. I personally lack this type of coordination.

Which brings me to why I decided to fly all the way to Tel Aviv for the summer: multitasking. My thought process was: the beach+2 internships = successful summer. I just graduated from Pitt in May and needed to figure out my next adventure. My focus in school was centered on the Middle East, especially the Arab-Israeli/Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was pulled in by the disturbing trend of sound political criticism being replaced by blind anti-Semitism.

But this trend goes the both ways. I’ve witnessed extremists from each side dehumanize others who don’t share their worldview. This isn’t something unique to the Middle East; it’s a natural human reaction. In my previous visits, I have studied Arabic, volunteered with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and made an effort to break out of my perspective of this seemingly endless conflict. For this trip, I decided to become an active player in peace development. I am currently interning with two incredible NGO’s that represents Israel’s compassion: Save A Child’s Heart and oneVoice Israel. Keep a lookout for my next post to find out more about what I’m up to this summer…..

The thoughts presented in this blog are solely my own and do not represent the opinions held by the World Affairs Council.

Susanna, Intern Abroad