A Different Side of Israel

On January 30, my team submitted our final presentation. While we awaited feedback, we decided to spend the day in Jaffa before heading north to our friend’s mother’s home for dinner. The timing couldn’t have been better. It was warm and sunny – no cloud in the sky!

While my teammates shopped at the flea market, I walked around a bit on my own, stopping constantly to take pictures and enjoy the beauty of the coast with the Tel Aviv skyline in the background.

Around 230PM, we caught a taxi back to the office – traffic was terrible! We couldn’t determine why. It wasn’t rush hour, so what could be the issue? Eventually, our taxi hits a road block; so we hop out and walk the remaining ten minutes to the building. We speculated maybe an important government official was visiting, so they closed down roads for safety.

A couple hours later as we walk home, I notice the streets are eerily quiet. Even more roads are blocked off. Minutes later, our US State app goes off! WARNING: PLANNED PROTESTS. EXERCISE CAUTION.

Around 530PM we walk to Ha’Shalom station to catch the train. I see a group of about a dozen people, dressed in black with signs. “They must be arriving to set up for the protest!” – I tell myself.

I keep walking.

Then I see a crowd of thousands, chanting in Hebrew, holding signs in Hebrew; although, I can read one sign: BLACK LIVES MATTER!

I was surrounded by perhaps 95% black people. Although, I see black people in Tel Aviv daily, this was the most I had ever seen at one time. I had heard about the Ethiopian Jews, but knew very little. I walk through the crowd, somehow feeling connected, even though they are not my people and I don’t know them. I can feel their rage, their grief, their passion.

Yehuda Biadga, a mentally ill man, was fatally shot by Israeli police. His family, friends, and entire community and allies were protesting both his death and what seems to be a larger trend of police brutality against black people living in Israel – not unlike the plight African Americans and other black people living in America face.

My time in Israel was fantastic. Professionally – I learned about a new industry. Academically – I was able to apply what I learned in the classroom to help a Palestinian entrepreneur. Personally – I experienced a new culture and learned more about my teammates.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *