Students, Haifa, and Tel Aviv

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This week, I went to see a movie on Tuesday after class with my roommate and friend at Darat al-Funun (House of Arts) on Tuesday. Darat al-Funun is a foundation for arts and artists of the Arab world. They were showing a film, The Curve, for free outside in the courtyard.

On Wednesday morning, I went with one of my classmates to the University of Jordan to interview some students. In our new textbook, we are assigned each week a list of questions to ask local Jordanians. I was surprised at some of the questions included, which are often political and a bit uncomfortable to ask to strangers.

However, all of the students we interviewed were happy to help us. My classmate Sasha and I wanted to ask an equal number of men and women, and to have some fun, we saved questions about women’s status in Jordan for the guys. It was interesting to see students’ reactions to the questions and hear what their personal experiences were with the issues raised.

 

 

Over the weekend, I traveled again across the border and visited Haifa and Tel Aviv. We left early Thursday morning and didn’t arrive in Haifa until almost 6 pm. This was largely due to us mistakenly taking the local bus that makes stops in suburbs along the way to Haifa. A trip that normally takes about an hour and a half ended up taking four hours, so as advice to anyone traveling from Jerusalem to Haifa, make sure to check that the bus is express or direct!

When we arrived in Haifa, we walked up to the Stella Maris monastery which overlooks the city, then hiked down the side of the mountain down to the beach. People were out on the promenade enjoying the sunset and dancing to live music. Compared to Amman, Haifa is so quiet, peaceful, and sane.

I feel guilty sometimes for feeling the need to escape Amman, especially to a place that has been built on a history of conflict. I wonder how much my standards have been shaped through a Western lens, and how much they are simply standards that anyone would like to live by, but don’t necessarily have the privilege of being able to do so. Of course, there are strains that are particular to a foreigner living in Amman, such as the stares, and sometimes uncomfortably personal questions about marital status.

 

View of Haifa from Stella Maris.

It was very hot, and humid, so on the way back to our hostel we bought half a watermelon then sat on the stoop and consumed most of it, talking about various things and watching cars go by.

 

Sunset in Haifa.

On Friday, we took the train to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is so unexpectedly defiant of the tension that surrounds it. Although people live side by side in Jerusalem, there is something indescribably strange about the atmosphere. It is outwardly peaceful, but inwardly straining, divided. However, I didn’t feel the same way in Tel Aviv. People inhabit the same spaces in a way that feels more natural.

 

Cool street art in Tel Aviv.

On Saturday, we went to an art museum where we ended up spending several hours looking at art from a Kibbutz and other works by Israeli artists. Afterward, we took scooters to the beach, then head back to Jerusalem to get a bus to Amman. However, when we arrived in Jerusalem, not only did we discover that there was no bus, but in addition, the border was closed and there was no way for us to get back to Amman. We decided to stay at a nearby hostel and make our way back the next day.

I was hoping to make it back in time for my class, but since there were many people traveling through the border in the morning, it took us longer than expected. In addition, our taxi driver decided to take us on a detour through Al-Salt, where he parked the taxi for some time while he was helping some guys move carts of tomatoes. He picked a cart for himself and put it in the passenger seat before continuing on to Amman.

In any case, I made it back to Amman and was at least able to go to the second half of class. We are almost done with the program, so we reviewed our schedule for this week and next. We’ll be studying one more chapter from the textbook, preparing our presentations, and studying for the final. I don’t feel like I have been here for very long, and I wish I could stay longer.