Monday, February 2, 2009

Visiting Israel (continued)

Pheeeew, what a day.

As I am jet-lagged to oblivion, I woke up on Monday at 1:00am (at the night between Sunday and Monday) and had great trouble falling back to sleep. I finally went to sleep at around 8:00am and asked my mother to wake me up in two hours, so I don’t spend the entire daylight time in bed.

I woke up at around 11:00am. I looked through the window, extremely pleased to find clear-blue sky instead of feet of snow. Temperature was excellent and so I decided to take a walk in the nearby park.

The nearby park is called “Israel’s National Park”. It is located in southern Ramat-Gan, a stone throw from our apartment. Takes about one minute of easy walk to get there, and it’s a beautiful place to spend a nice morning / afternoon in. A favourite spot for joggers and young couples, it boasts a beautiful small lake and lots of green – clean, well-cut grass as well as tall Eucalyptus trees.

It was sunny. The feeling of the sunbeams on my skin almost made me cry with happiness – what a great feeling! I had a quick walk around the lake, just to discover that the earphones I used for my MP3 player went bust (at first I thought I became deaf in my left ear… I really trusted those earphones). A quick walk from the park and I’m in my neighbourhood again, entered a small appliances store and bought an extremely cheap pair for about 10 NIS (approximately $3 CDN).

Jet-lag kicked in and I felt tired, so I made my way home, a quick 3 minutes walk.

Walking around my neighbourhood brought up distant memories about growing up. This neighbourhood is not the typical Israeli neighbourhood; it has its own history, its own people, and most of all – its own problems.

In the beginning of the 1950’s, very shortly after the establishment of Israel, huge immigration waves arrived from the east – Jewish people from Iraq, Iran and other places have decided to leave everything behind and to come to settle in the new country, established solely for the purpose of uniting the Jewish people from all over the world, following generations over generations of abuse.

As the country was so young, with little infrastructure and not enough to support the huge number of newcomers, temporary residences (dubbed “Maabarot” in Hebrew) were established all over the place, to temporarily host the newcomers before they can come up with permanent homes. It turns out that the City of Ramat-Gan was extremely lucrative for the Jewish people who came from Iraq; the neighbourhood I grew up in was one of the first neighbourhoods to be established for these newcomers.

Location-wise, this neighbourhood has significantly more pluses than minuses. It is a stone-throw away from a beautiful park, about three minutes drive from Tel-Aviv (which is Israel’s financial core), and ridiculously easy access to Israel’s major highways. Yet, this neighbourhood has always, since the 1950’s, been categorized as a slum. Despite attempts to revitalize the area, this neighbourhood is still a slum.

Walking through the streets of Ramat-Shikma (the neighbourhood’s name), through narrow streets I last walked through as a child (as an adult I haven’t really walked around that much), made me feel really old. Looking at those tiny streets that use to seem huge to me, those apartment buildings that were built at the 1950’s and remained pretty much the same ever since… I can’t help but think of the early 1980’s when I was roaming around these streets with absolutely no worries in my mind. It’s hard to explain the feeling you get when you see the place you grew up in in a completely different light, after years of living in a place so much different (such as Canada).

One thing I do know: at some point, some smart real-estate investor will discover this place, put a lot of effort into it and turn this slum into one of the most sought-after neighbourhoods in Israel.

Went back home for a nap. I slept for an hour or two before waking up to the sound of my father arriving back from work.



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