The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Jerusalem -> Tel Aviv -> Nazareth, Israel/Palestine

From Arab Israel: Nazareth

…goldenrod, poppies, Queen Anne’s lace, purple hollyhocks, flowering bushes in red, yellow, pink, white, lavender and fuscia, forests of tall imported eucalyptus trees. And then the agriculture, miles of lush, cultivated fields.

From Arab Israel: Nazareth

The driver opened the window and you could just smell the green, the moisture. I’m not unaware of the political implications, how Israelis’ stewardship of the land has been used as a controversial and, frankly, poor justification for pushing the Palestinians out and keeping them out. I’m fully aware that the bus drivers on this trip are Arab, and I got quite an earful from last night’s Arab cab driver about how the Israelis oppress the Arabs. But as far as pure aesthetics go, this side of the Valley is more to my liking. It’s easy to see why the Palestinians want to come back here, and the Israelis want to stay.

Today I saw the mountain of Megiddo where Armageddon’s final battle will rage, the hill where Jesus was revealed to his Disciples as the Messiah, and Nazareth, home town of Mary and Joseph, to which young Jesus returned after his family’s exile in Egypt.

It was fascinating to listen to the tour guide talk about Israeli history. I’ve been reading for the last week about national narratives, in Mona Baker’s Interpretation and Conflict, and Howard Zinn’s famous People’s History of the United States. They both talk about how we choose the narratives we tell ourselves about our nation, and how the narratives we’ve chosen change how we act as individuals and societies. The tour guide’s narrative told so much about Israel. He talked about the Jews tiring of “the filth of Yaffa” and building Tel Aviv, meaning “archaeological mound of renewal.” He described the brave settlers, buying the land no one wanted and turning it into an agricultural paradise. Tales of nameless national heroes defying the odds to build a majestic nation. Only the obliquest references to the people who preceded those settlers, and when they were mentioned, they were “the Ottomans,” a nation that no longer exists either geographically or ideologically. I kept wondering what the driver would think if he could understand English. What Heba and my many other Palestinian friends would say.

My Story of Nazareth
My stay in Nazareth is best described in the captioned photos of my online album.

From Arab Israel: Nazareth

It was also really nice to spend the afternoon and evening with Andy Lehto. The last two times I saw him, he was in the most intense moments of getting married, so we didn’t really get to catch up. This time, we had hours and hours to share our stories of being abroad, the triumphs and tribulations that are only fully understood by others who are straddling the same two worlds we are.

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