Wednesday, June 12

14 Jun
Wednesday began with Nirit’s class – she came to our hotel in Tel Aviv to accompany us for breakfast, show a bit of a movie to us in our makeshift classroom (really just a space in the hotel with a bunch of chairs scattered around), and then take us to the Rabin Center. We had a guided tour there that was similar in theory to the tour we had in Jerusalem at the Begin Center a week prior, but ended up being a very distinct experience. Rabin was a past Israeli Prime Minister of the Labor Party. He served two terms, 1974-1977 and 1992-1995. He also served as Minister of Defense for some years after he left the Israeli army, in which he served from 1941 to 1967. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 during his second term as Prime Minister. The museum intertwined the story of Rabin’s life with the story of Israel’s history and a context of world history. It was a lot of information, but its impact was powerful. We could see how Rabin’s life, especially his military life, impacted Israel’s history and growth. We could also see how the rest of the world was occupying itself at the same time: in years when terrorism was the norm in Israel, America was swooning over Marilyn Monroe. This intertwining was explicit, with a main corridor that focused on Rabin’s life and then side rooms that delved into Israel’s history at that time period and floor panels that listed world events in those years. Throughout, there were countless screens playing videos of interviews, news clips, or informational videos. There was text, pictures, maps, and artifacts. The museum was more than complete, and it was hard to see even the half of it. It was complete in another important way though: all sides of the story were shown, rather than just the perspective of those that liked Rabin. The final room of the museum was surrounded in five screens, all of which broadcast a different moment after Rabin’s assassination. The last movie was a clip from his granddaughter’s eulogy. The assassination, as terrible as this sounds, really brought together the country, and you could see mobs of people lining the highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to watch the casket go buy and to pay their respects, and people flooding the streets respectfully in his honor. There was a clip of his wife thanking Israelis for their reaction to the assassination. This all came after we saw videos of opponents of Rabin in previous rooms, chanting mobs calling him a murderer. Yet, Rabin was a martyr of the state and all people respected him for that.

After the Rabin Center, we had a short break. Naturally, a majority of us headed to the beach for a few hours. After some tanning, swimming, reading, and napping, we got back to the hotel in time for quick showers and all met in the lobby with still-wet hair for our next activity: a trip to Jaffo to see a mechina, one of 40 around the country. We had a good idea of what a mechina is after our visit to one in the Negev, but we got a good additional overview description. We met with one of the leaders of the mechina, Guy, who told us that the point is to postpone army service by one year and to spend that year enriching one’s life so that these 18 year olds will have a meaningful army experience. This mechina was founded with the reform movement and has 50 students. They live in the space we visited, where they share apartments, a study, office, and kitchen. Food, housing, and activities are all included in the fee students pay, which ends up being only about $1,000 thanks to the generosity of government grants and donors. The mechina believes that in order to become a leader and get ahead, you need to experience things in a real way instead of just talk about them. For that reason, none of the staff members are live-in. Students run their own schedules and manage themselves. It’s an intense year of study, during which topics covered range from Judaism and politics to Pilates and Zumba. Students decide what they want to study, and there are no grades to be accountable for, but the students choose to be there and want to learn. One of the most core elements of this mechina is the volunteer work they do in Jaffo. It’s more than half of their curriculum. Students get to choose where they want to volunteer and what they want to do, and then they spend about 18 hours a week there doing just that. This mechina focuses on volunteering rather than army preperations. There is a different type of mechina for every sector of society, though: Arabs, Ethiopians, Jews, secular, religious, etc. All of these mechina are founded on the same fundamental goal of getting young adults to take themselves more seriously. Overall, it seems like a great concept, and we spoke to a few of the students living there who all appeared fairly mature. Guess it works! After the mechina, one of the students came with us as we ventured into the heart of the Old City of Jaffo. After getting some amazing views and overlooks of the Mediterranean and of Tel Aviv, myself and three other girls walked along the beach for a few miles back to our hotel, stopping for dinner on the beach along the way. (And yes, I really do mean ON the beach – feet in the sand and everything!) It was an amazing walk and Jaffo was a quaint place to visit: the contrast between it and Tel Aviv is so stark yet they are nearly one city. ImageOur view of Tel Aviv from Jaffo
-Marissa Florio
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