Molly Block, originally from Chicago, Illinois, is a 10-month Tikkun Olam participant on the Coexistence Track. During her time on the program Molly is volunteering at ARDC (African Refugee Development Center), Mesila, a day-care center for refugee children, Ironi Zion, a mixed high school of Israeli Jews and Arabs, as well as Windows: Channels for Communication.
I am in Israel. Amidst all the chaos, stabbings, rockets, and strife, I am living a relatively luxurious and safe life. I have a weekly routine that could not be bothered by the happenings around the country and a phone that doesn’t stop ringing with the latest news updates. Living in Jaffa, a mixed Muslim, Jewish, and Christian city within the Tel Aviv-Yafo hub, I truly do feel safe. I wake up to the call to prayer from the nearby Mosque, go back to sleep, and then wake up from my alarm. I bike to class/work every morning, smiling at my neighbors opening up the bike shop, riding through the chaotic streets of Jaffa, avoiding potholes on my left and the woman feeding a flock of pigeons on my right. I go to yoga, I go to work, I come home. Maybe sometimes I’ll grab dinner with a friend, stop at the beach, or even spend a night out dancing. As you can see, I have developed the blissful ignorance that engulfs Tel Aviv.
Recently, with the escalation of violence around the country, it sometimes hits me - I am living in a volatile region. A family friend is connected to a couple that was shot in the West Bank; I was at the bus station where there was an attack and an Eritrean man was misidentified as a terrorist. These personal connections to the violence remind me how much of a reality this situation is.
My feelings of this dichotomy vary from complacency to frustration: "this city is so beautiful and eclectic. I feel able to be myself without worrying about the judgments of others" turns into "how the heck can NO ONE talk about what's going on?!" pretty quickly. I have dense discussions with the people on my program and other non-Israelis living here, but I find it difficult to get into deep conversations about the situation with most Israelis I meet. Often times, I am given short, generic answers that are hard and one-sided with no wiggle room for discussion or debate. I feel that as the friendships I have created grow, I will be able to understand more about what people are truly thinking and feeling, but these surface level interactions have definitely been frustrating for me.
There is also this theme of fear around the country. For me, the violence isn’t really what incites the fear in me. I am not scared of getting stabbed. I am not scared of bombs. I am scared of running out of money. I am scared of being completely responsible for myself for the first time. I am scared of being intellectually challenged and confused. I am scared of the inconclusiveness of this conflict and region.
Fear. Fear is a scary thing, but it is also a motivating tool. Fear of not living up to my expectations for myself -- fears of not living up to the expectations of others. To be honest, fear is really what brought me to Israel. I was having so many doubts: why am I coming here, is it worth the money, the time, the unanswered questions. In moments of clarity (or positivity) I realized that these fears truly shape the way I live. Fear makes me excited, and that is why I'm here. I am here to learn and understand about myself, the region, and how to come to terms with what people are thinking, feeling, believing, and experiencing here. I am here to find my own sense of self. I am here to be in the conversation and not be so swayed by the hearsay that has surrounded me. I am ready to be challenged, to be confused, to understand, to be understood, to clarify, to learn, to truly be vulnerable and open.
To live in the bubble that is Tel Aviv-Jaffa, permanently or temporarily, one has to disregard the injustices going on around this Holy Land. In order to enjoy my life, in order to be able to take advantage of all that this metropolis has to offer, I need to sometimes let go of the part of my mind that is determined to understand the situation going on here and just live, be, and experience. At the end of the day, I always come back to the reality of the region I am living in. It is a reality I am just understanding on a superficially surface level and I cannot wait to continue to dig deeper.