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Observations and Notes from a Trip to Israel:

I just returned from a week in Israel, and have the following observations and notes:

(1) Israel is thriving. Security at restaurants, shopping malls, et al., has been tremendously relaxed since I first starting traveling there regularly in 2003, new building projects are going up everywhere in the Tel Aviv area (where Israel's population is concentrated), unemployment is down, and vacant storefronts, common in 2003, are rare.

(2) The "Russians" (the million-plus immigrants from the former Soviet Union) seem to be integrating well. I saw many fewer Russian signs, and heard much less Russian spoken in the streets, than in 2003.

(3) I went to Tiberias on a day trip, and saw a large group of local Muslim Arab women, assumedly from a local Galilee village, walking around a hotel spa. About 1/3 of these women had features that were clearly African in origin. One can't raise the issue of the origins of the region's Arabs without raising political hackles, but completely aside from politics, I was fascinated by the question of how individuals of Black African descent wound up living in an Arab village in the Galilee, if indeed they were.

(4) A large percentage of middle-age Israeli women, especially of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin, dye their hair an appalling and unnatural shade of red. I first encountered this hair-abuse on a trip to Greece in 2002, where many Athenian women used the same hair coloring, and really still can't understand why anyone finds it attractive.

(5) Perhaps my favorite diet soft drink is an Israeli beverage called Tapuzina, which, though I believe it is also Hebrew for a type of tree, literally means "Orangina." Like Orangina, Tapuzina is an orange (it also comes in grapefruit and grape flavors, the diet grapefruit is excellent) drink with pulp. You can find it in kosher supermarkets in the U.S. All of which, being a law professor, makes me wonder whether Orangina has some sort of intellectual property claim against Tapuzina.

(6) We bought my daughter a bunch of Hebrew kids' DVDs. Apparently, new DVD players can play both international formats, and we don't have any trouble playing the non-NTSC dvds at home. Anyway, there is something a bit surreal about seeing Count von Count of Sesame Street singing in Hebrew, not to mention seeing Po and the rest of the Teletubbies demanding "Chibuki" ("Big Hug").

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Palestinians of African Descent:
  2. Observations and Notes from a Trip to Israel:
CrazyTrain (mail):
I went to Tiberias on a day trip, and saw a large group of local Muslim Arab women, assumedly from a local Galilee village, walking around a hotel spa. About 1/3 of these women had features that were clearly African in origin. One can't raise the issue of the origins of the region's Arabs without raising political hackles, but completely aside from politics, I was fascinated by the question of how individuals of Black African descent wound up living in an Arab village in the Galilee.

I think your "assumption" answers your question -- your assumption is likely wrong. I am very familiar with the Arab population of the Galil (though haven't been there in a few years), and I never heard of population migration from Africa to the Galil. More likely possibilities than your assumption:

1) Persons were not from the Galil
2) Persons were not in fact "black Africans" but Arabs
3) Could have been Ethiopians who were not Jewish really or who sympathized with Muslims/Palestinians and thus converted; or
4) Were African Christians visiting Tiberias (a VERY popular destination for Xtians, e.g. where Jesus walked on water).
5.17.2007 4:26pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
(1) I didn't speak to them, so I can't be sure they were from the Galil.

(2) I can distinguish someone who is obviously of African descent from someone Caucasion, as can everyone else.

(3) Ethiopians have different features from other Africans, they were not Ethiopians.

(4) They were wearing typically Arab Muslim garb, though I don't know enough about West African Christians (or really, anything) to say whether it's possible that they dress similarly. That wouldn't explain why only 1/3 of them looked African, but would explain why they were at a hotel spa (though they were just wandering around, fully clothed and covered from head to toe, and I didn't see them at the hotel, where I stayed overnight and ate dinner and breakfast). I've edited the post slightly to reflect a bit of uncertainty.
5.17.2007 4:35pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Omani Arabs provided the sheikhs and much of the city population in Zanzibar. Tippu Tib, the slaver, was extremely proud of his Arab pedigree, although if you look at a picture of him, he looked pure Bantu.

There was plenty of gene interchange over centuries.
5.17.2007 4:41pm
JB:
Hijacking this thread to ask a non-trolling question about the previous post:

How will the new Egypt-and-Jordan regime in Gaza and the West Bank differ from how things were 1948-1967? Aside from the fact that the Egyptian and Jordanian governments have accepted Israel's existence and aren't officially at war. For that matter, how did the 1948-67 regimes work out for the Palestinians? This is a part of the region's history I'm unfamiliar with.
5.17.2007 4:46pm
G (mail):
"Tapuzina, which, though I believe it is also Hebrew for a type of tree,"

Correct, sort of. A tapuz is an orange, a tapuzina can mean an orange tree.

Lived on this stuff during my two years there, also great for mixing drinks.
5.17.2007 4:52pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
JB--

To answer your later question:

1) In Gaza, Egypt treated the place like crap, set up some sort of joke of a "Palestinian government" and pretty much let the place rot and let the UN and other NGO's handle the place. Egypt used it pretty much as a propaganda tool and was not interested at all in integrating Gaza into the rest of Egypt. The Palestinians of Gaza were generally not allowed free travel into Egypt and were not give Egyptian passports (of course, I am sure there are some exceptions for those who had money). So stated simply, it didn't work out well for the Palestinians in Gaza. When Begin and Sadat were at Camp David, Begin begged Sadat to take Gaza back and Sadat was not at all interested.

2) West Bank. Different story. It worked out pretty well for the Palestinians. THe Jordanians, after bull-dozing the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and building a road over the cemetary at the Mount of Olives (the oldest Jewish cemetary in the world), gave all the non-Jewish West Bank and E. Jerusalem residents full citizenship (and kicked out or killed the Jews). The Palestinians were integrated fairly well into Jordanian society, and I think it is generally agreed to by most following the Arab-Israeli conflict that had Jordan not entered the 1967 war, the Palestinian problem would not be what it is today. Of course, the West Bank, and much more importantly Old Jerusalem, would still be free of Jews so that would not be a good thing. But putting aside those emotional issues (which is hard for any Jew), things would have been better for all had Jordan not entered the 6 day war, or if Israel immediately gave back most of the West Bank. (Which hindsight being 20/20 is clearly what they should have done -- kept Jerusalem and some high points and some points in the Jordan Valley and just unilaterally withdrawn from most of the place. Wouldn't have the settler problem and wouldn't have radicalized the Palestinians so much.)
5.17.2007 4:55pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
The Russians are indeed integrating, which, while probably good for the country in the long run, is causing some economic hardship at the moment, by killing off certain industries that have sprung up over the past 15-20 years. Most notably, there's been a big decline in Russian language press.
5.17.2007 5:09pm
The Drill SGT:
Not certain what red hair color the Greeks prefer, but the Germans are also fond of an unnatural brassy red.
5.17.2007 5:16pm
Luke Wrinkle (mail):
About the red hair. When red hair was popular in Greece several years ago it was actually fashionable/avant garde. Most have since moved on to new styles.
5.17.2007 5:33pm
frankcross (mail):
From holylandnetwork

Today, Tiberias has a population of 35,000. It is visited annually by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists.

So I'm not sure you can generalize where the observed are from.
5.17.2007 5:39pm
rlb:
There are a lot of Iraqis who are obviously of sub-Saharan African origin- why not other Arabs?
5.17.2007 6:04pm
JB:
Crazytrain: Thanks for the information.

[/end thread hijack]
5.17.2007 6:08pm
FC:
My wanderings in Israel, especially Haifa, left me with the impression that candy apple red hair was a Russian thing.

Apparently it's spreading.
5.17.2007 6:57pm
cryptoref:
I just returned from my first visit to Israel last week. Spent the time in Jerusalem with a side trip to Masada. I've always heard about the Russian immigration to Israel, but seeing so many obvious Russians and hearing Russian was surprising.

I also saw the red hair and I have to agree that it is not a fashion trend i would like my daughter to pick up.

The most amazing thing to me was the trip east from Jerusalem, down into the Jordan valley. It is simply mind boggling how fast things change, both from the ecosystem to the living conditions. At one point as we drove down the highway one could see a brand new apartment building and within a 1/2 mile a Bedouian (sp) camp with the corrigated tin roof and walls. Political differences aside, it was a startling contrast.
5.17.2007 7:10pm
Michael B (mail):
"Israel is thriving. Security at restaurants, shopping malls, et al., has been tremendously relaxed since I first starting traveling there regularly in 2003, new building projects are going up everywhere in the Tel Aviv area ..."

And yet, rather strikingly i think, Tel Aviv is one of those centers that Palestinian militants suggest will never be "ceded" to Israel. A popular, not an extremist, position within that camp (e.g., a history of terrorist attacks, against civilians of course, in Tel Aviv/Jaffa).
5.17.2007 7:27pm
Fern:
It will be interesting to see if your observations of Israel remain accurate now that things appear to be escalating again...
5.17.2007 7:37pm
cvt:

I went to Tiberias on a day trip, and saw a large group of local Muslim Arab women, assumedly from a local Galilee village, walking around a hotel spa. About 1/3 of these women had features that were clearly African in origin. One can't raise the issue of the origins of the region's Arabs without raising political hackles, but completely aside from politics, I was fascinated by the question of how individuals of Black African descent wound up living in an Arab village in the Galilee, if indeed they were.

I'm not sure I understand the implications of this, assuming your observations are accurate. Are you suggesting that the population you observed immigrated to the region sometime before (or less likely after) 1948? If so, then so what? Are you suggesting that they don't belong there? What "political hackles" are you trying to avoid? Are you suggesting that only Palestinians with Caucasian features belong in Israel?

Just asking. I really don't know if that's what you meant.
5.17.2007 9:09pm
Mithras The Prophet (mail) (www):
cvt, I took it as honest curiosity.
5.17.2007 10:03pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
CVT, there is a longstanding political controversy over to what extent the Palestinians are a longstanding indigenous minority, and to what extent some of them recently immigrated. I actually don't think it makes any difference, any more than it makes a difference to what extent Israeli Jews are actually the biological descendants of the ancient Judeans. But there are those who do think it makes a big difference, as witnessed by the absurd lengths some pro-Palestinian forces will go to try to "prove" that Jerusalem was never a Jewish capital, that all Ashkenazim are descended from Khazars, etc.
5.17.2007 10:14pm
Ted F (www):
All of which, being a law professor, makes me wonder whether Orangina has some sort of intellectual property claim against Tapuzina.

Doubtful. One need only look at the legions of similarly-named generic Dr Pepper imitations in the United States for comparison. See especially Dr Becker, Dr. Skipper, and Dr. Topper for examples of how similar one can get without actually infringing.
5.18.2007 2:59am
FC:
Ah yes, Dr Thunder; a lousy soda with an unforgettable name.
5.18.2007 10:47am
DG:
As a non-lawyer, I must ask - how the heck is Dr. Becker not infringing?!
5.18.2007 12:30pm
Gideon Kanner (mail):
To David Bernstein
People who call themselves "Palestinians" (who BTW would kill you if you called them that before around 1950, when "Palestinian" meant "Jew") in-migrated recently. Read Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad," especially his depiction at the end of volume 2, of his trip through the Holy Land -- largely barren and unpopulated -- in the 19th century. It wasn't until Jews started in-migrating in significant numbers later in the late 19th century, adding to the existing Jewish population, reviving agriculture and draining swamps in the north, that economic and employment opportunites arose, motivating Arabs from Syria, Iraq and Egypt to migrate to the part of the Turkish province of Syria (what the British later called Palestine, reviving an old Roman term) and settle there. If you are interested in all that, read a book by Joan Peters, entitled "From Times Immemorial." Interesting read.
5.18.2007 8:07pm
Milhouse (www):
What's this word "in-migrate"? Is it different than "immigrate"?
5.21.2007 2:45am
JeffW:
"And yet, rather strikingly i think, Tel Aviv is one of those centers that Palestinian militants suggest will never be "ceded" to Israel. A popular, not an extremist, position within that camp (e.g., a history of terrorist attacks, against civilians of course, in Tel Aviv/Jaffa).

Popular or not, it is the most extreme position possible (comparable to a Jewish claim on Damascus).

Other Israeli cities have changed hands dozens of times between Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim rulership over the centuries. Tel Aviv was built on barren land, by Jews, recently. To say that it must be Muslim territory is to say that there must be no Jewish territory anywhere in the Middle East.
5.22.2007 9:44am