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A View From Jerusalem – June 2017

True colors are beautiful

“But I see your true colors

Shining through

I see your true colors

And that’s why I love you

So don’t be afraid to let them show

Your true colors

True colors are beautiful

Like a rainbow”…

Cyndi Lauper

 

Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city, also known as the “World’s Best Gay Travel Destination”, decorated itself with lovely rainbow colors as it hosted its largest ever Gay Pride Parade last Friday. About 200,000 people, including 30,000 tourists from across the world, Jews and non-Jews came to celebrate.

For one week Israel’s bustling metropolis invited all colors to rejoice and dance together, shedding political baggage, controversial conflicts and the tensions that sometimes permeates our air.

The name Tel Aviv—Spring Mound—is the Hebrew title of Theodor Herzl’s book Altneuland (“Old New Land”). Herzl, the Jewish State founder, dreamer, and visionary couldn’t describe better the reality in Tel Aviv today, 115 years after his book was published in Germany.

Tel Aviv is a beautiful collage of old and new. Tradition and modernity, ancient glory and avant-garde, nostalgia and dreams.

Visitors to Tel Aviv will be amazed by its ability to hold it all together. More than 500 synagogues serve all denominations of Jews, from Chasidic to progressive, alongside mosques, where Israel’s Muslim community worships.  Churches, ancient and historic ones, as well as the new and improvised, accommodate thousands of Christians, foreign workers and asylum seekers living in Tel Aviv.

In Tel Aviv, the most secular city in Israel, there are only a few kosher restaurants. The city offers tremendous culinary variety—world-renowned restaurants, exotic cuisines, and haute cuisine rubbing elbows with hundreds of small homey restaurants that feed Tel Aviv’s foreign communities, from Asia and Africa, offering their origin dishes and flavors with a strong aroma of home.

Tel Aviv, Israel’s White City, reveal outstanding historical Bauhaus landmarks, standing with pride and humility beneath the new rising, ever growing skyscrapers, turning the city into Israel’s New York.

The 30,000 tourists who marched in last week’s Pride Parade joined hundreds of thousands of others visiting Israel this summer, experiencing Israel from within, with all its colors and shades, looking at our reality with bright, new lenses. They left behind the one-dimensional political and in many cases biased, tinted mirrors that reflects only prejudice.

One of these tourists is Nadina, a Muslim student from Turkey, now studying in New York and active as one of the leaders of the Muslim Students Organization at her well-known New York University. Nadina is visiting Israel as part of a new initiative, funded by Sheldon Adelson aiming to bring non-Jewish college students to Israel. After touring Yad VaShem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Nadina was honest and courageous enough to acknowledge what she had learned. She could see Israel through a lens of a different hue.

Yad VaShem’s exhibits shed a new light on Israel and the Jewish world. It offered her through a historical perspective, a different reality. Nadina heard a very different story from the one she heard and repeated back home in Turkey and then at her college in New York.  Leaving the museum Nadina cried, regretting her marches demonstrating against Israel, supporting the BDS movement and holding large signs comparing Zionism to Nazism. Nadina had a new perspective. She had an opportunity to see beyond politics, to witness the Jewish story through other colors.

Our true colors may differ from one another, but we must acknowledge the full spectrum of beliefs and opinions, open up to realities above and beyond, respect the collage, honor its beauty.

As throngs waved rainbow flags while celebrating liberalism in Tel Aviv, all colors and shades rose above our summer’s steamy air representing Israel’s multifaceted palette. We aren’t afraid to show our true colors because true colors are beautiful.  Like a rainbow.

 

Leah Garber, Vice President. Director, JCC Israel Center

leah@jcca.org

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