Friday, December 17, 2010

Cafes of Tel Aviv and Ramallah

If the conflict comes into our lives it's just around coffee tables.
Mr. Yoval Nuriel

Seaside Cafe Image from
Yoval Nuriel is a real-life occupant of "the bubble" that Eytan Fox so artfully described in the 2006 film of the same name. As I mentioned in a July 2010 post, Tel Aviv is a place where the geography of coffee shops represents the local geography as a whole. 

NPR reporter Lourdes Garcia-Navarro finds that young Israelis in Tel Aviv continue to be focused on their careers and the enjoyment of their coffee. For her story she travels to several locations in Israel, including coffee shops in Tel Aviv itself and in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank. In the former, she encounters Mr. Nuriel, for who is not interested in conflict, but for whom his Palestinian counterparts are a mild curiosity at best. 

The reporter finds Nuriel's peer in the person of 22-year-old Haitham Sebeah. Like Nuriel, he is found in a coffee shop and is far more interested in his career and leisure than in conflict and politics. The key difference seems to be that Nuriel chooses not to leave Tel Aviv, whereas Sebeah is not allowed to leave the neighboring West Bank.

Outside of the coffee-shop bubbles, Garcia-Navarro speaks to a self-described right-wing settler who argues that peace advocates are content to live apart from Arab settlers with whom he works on a daily basis. His implication -- and those of many of the online commentators -- is that peace requires much more than absence of conflict. It requires engagement that seems to be years away, even in the blissful confines of seaside cafes in Tel Aviv.

Official US Government Map of Israel from
Perry-Castañeda Library

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