Friday, May 27, 2011

Israel Chronicles: The Israel Pensieve

Lingering thoughts about Israel (before I forget)!

1.Food: Vegetarian food is lovely, especially if you like Hummus, Pita, Babaganoush et al. Too many chickpeas consumed for all meals may have repercussions on a non iron-clad stomach.
The Arab-Palestine veg food is brightly colored especially cauliflowers. A bright lurid pink that one usually spots on bougainvillea shrubs is typically the preferred color for cauliflower stuffing in the falafels. The Israeli Jews have a couple of veg dishes as well. One must-try is the 'Latke'.
If you can imagine potato pancakes served with vegetables you are spot on. If you can't, imagine a south-indian potato bhajji instead, served with sour cream and vegetables on the side... yeah, you've got it. If you still can't imagine how it tastes, visit Jerusalem. Both Israeli Jews and Arabs are liberal with salads and olives in their food. Considering they are all slim and tall, the food is probably worth emulating!

2. Black Jerusalem: The color black hits your eye the moment you step onto the streets, be it near the Walled city or even a modern Mamilla Mall or distant Masada.
Both Jews and Muslims wear the color black - black skirts, black burquas, black overcoats, black shoes.... it is ubiquitous. One morning TP and I had ventured into Mea Shearim (of 'Acts of Faith' fame), an area where very Orthodox Jews live. We thought we had dressed in conservative clothes, in our long printed skirts and full sleeved kurtas and scarves. Needless to say, we stood out like a still in Kill Bill...bold splashes of color in the black and white surroundings!

3. India: Always knew that Gandhi had a greater following in the world outside India, but Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachan are almost as big as Gandhi! Have heard 'Dil to Pagal Hai' being whistled, 'Eechak Dana' being sung and was even asked to visit a shopkeeper's old dorm in Aligarh University! Announcing that you are Indian also brings many curious questions about availability of Bhole baba's prasad and sly questions about how to source if I'd tell even if I knew. Huh.

4. Politics: All Israelis LOVE to talk about politics... it is almost comical to see the heated discussions, the angry gestures and the strong points of view.
I definitely recommend talking to the common man on the street about his opinion on how the Israel - Palestine conflict ought to be resolved... some of the thoughts are visionary. The conflict has been going on for so long (since 1948) that people have almost resigned to a lack of resolution (any thoughts on the LoC at Kashmir? Especially regarding PoK?) There are strong views, heart-rending personal stories, but still no resolution. Not a happy thought.

5. Surroundings: Some parts of Israel, especially parts of West Jerusalem and Dead Sea public beach area, reminds one of India. Not very clean, people spitting on the roads and arguing loudly. Whereas other parts of Israel - more modern areas of Jerusalem, parts of Nablus and the touristy Masada were spic and span, an example of how we could showcase our rich history. Israel is a bit like the western counties, a bit like Middle East, a bit like India, a bit like nowhere else....overall very hospitable, very travel-friendly and extremely memorable.

8. Pride in Nation:
Most Israelis / Palestinians I spoke to, had a strong sense of their identity, a sense of belonging... love for the land.Some were fanatic, Nationalists to the point of being jingoistic, but most were moderate, just happy to be Israeli, happy to have such a rich cultural heritage. The sense of patriotism combined with the constant presence of soldiers does make one feel the 'Israeliness' in the air. Not just in Jerusalem, all over Israel. Definitely Indians are more reserved in their display of patriotism (I don't doubt the feeling, just the expression).I don't know if we need to shout out our Indianness, but it is worth considering.

7. Prayers:
In Israel, someone is always praying... a church's tolling bells, a muezzin reminding you to bow to God, a bunch of Jews in a synagogue bowing back and forth in prayer, someone telling their beads, a taquiyah (skull cap), a tzitzit (religious shawl), a Bibile, a Koran or the Siddur (Jewish daily prayer book).I am sure if I'd been observant enough I'd've even spotted a Jedi Knight! It is impossible to not reflect upon one's relationship with the Big One up there.

To sum it up, the tagline for travel to Israel said it all.... "Visit Israel, you'll never be the same".

ps: The end of my Israel account. :)


  1. AnonymousMay 27, 2011

    lovely. you have a great eye for places and people. keep traveling and writing about it! :)

  2. Number 7 la nee engeyo poita...brilliant writing. padicchi miga magizhchi.

  3. Now on my list of must visit places, especially for all the food & spices. Also, I've always fancied floating in the Dead Sea!