This week has been one of meetings. Not the boring kind held in conference rooms, but the engaging kind where risk and exploration run head long into new experiences and friends. Recently for me, this has included the beaches of Tel Aviv, Old Jaffa, the Ministry of the Interior Visa lady, and my new co-workers/ collaborators/ friends- the PICR lab at IDC. This lab, which focuses on the psychology of inter-group conflict and reconciliation, is comprised of about 25 researchers dedicated to good research applicable to social change and conflict resolution. It was quite an experience meeting 25 people that that spoke my academic language and my notebook is now filled with thoughts on Israel as well as research ideas. This is an exceptionally good feeling. I very much look forward to getting started.
I've now been in Israel about a week. I've met some good friends/ mentors from the US here to visit and been introduced to quite a few of my new lab mates. I'm told I'm in for an intense experience and that there is no such thing as Chanukah break here.
I've also become increasingly aware of the clash of cultures that is Tel Aviv. So far, these have included Orthodox men sitting on buses painted with smiley faces and movie images, debates between religious and secular individuals on the West Bank/ Occupation/ Judea and Samaria/ morality, and the construction of the first Israeli fraternity (an American import). My roommate watches American TV but at Israeli hours (late) and the 'Peace Industry' here and in the US seem to collide in many conversations. Throughout this I am learning. My take away this week is that the role of the US in the world is diverse and very important. Our American culture is exported, and sometimes misunderstood, as TV, movies, education, money, government and other more personal interactions. We must pay attention to this, and I will do my best not to forget the impact that we have.
For the first time in a long time, my answer to this question is no. Today is my first full day in Israel. While I may at times feel like a tourist and engage in touristy activities like sightseeing, I am here as something more. I am enjoying my time here. The weather is beautiful, the beach is (I hear) about 10 minutes away, and there are wonderful stores and shops minutes from my apartment. Israel is also a very good instructor in cultural differences. People stand a bit closer here, are a bit more up-front, and far more likely to honk. They are also very helpful and unfailingly tolerant when my Hebrew doesn't quite serve to get the nuances of the situation across. Luckily, almost everyone I've spoken to here also speaks English, which has already led to a few interesting conversations.
While today I conquered getting an Israeli sim card and new phone number, I am still working on finalizing my visa (the ministry was on strike while I was in the US and I have 3 months to get the correct one while here), organizing my work in the lab, and getting my brain on my current time zone. I met my first lab mate today and very much look forward to meeting my Rotary and IDC colleagues in the near future. And, while all these things are interesting, I'll do my best to share the best of my experiences through pictures instead of words. Welcome to Tel Aviv.
I've finally landed in Tel Aviv, a day later and a bit thirstier than when I left LAX. My family, and my dog, are in the US, but I'm excited to meet a new academic family here in Israel. I wanted to begin this blog the right way, by thanking those who have made the trip it will chronicle possible. These people fall into three categories, Rotarians, my UCI academic family, and my biological family. First, thank you to Rotary International, District 5320, and my local clubs in Southern California and Tel Aviv for your sponsorship. Second, thank you to my committee, chair, and the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding including the Olive Tree Initiative for helping me get to this point; and thank you to my family, including Jared, Katherine, and my parents Natalie and Howard for helping me pack all my things into a tiny storage unit, providing constant encouragement, and for raising me to think globally and not be afraid to ask questions.
This blog will chronicle my time as a Rotary Scholar coming from Southern California and going to Tel Aviv, Israel for the 2013-2014 academic year. I look forward to the journey.