My friend, Israeli writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami set off to see what it is like to re-examine his country′s main tourist attractions with a critical native eye (all posts here), and I decided to virtually follow his path. In my blog posts I share my memories on what it was like visiting those places as an expat in Israel. This is how Yuval describes his idea, and here I describe mine (which is also Part 1 of my journey – the Western Wall). Yuval′s second blog post was about the Baha’i Gardens, so I wrote about them too. His third post was about Nazareth, so let′s follow him.
Having read a series of stories by my friend, Israeli writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami, where he set off to see what it is like to re-examine his country′s main tourist attractions with a critical native eye, I decided to virtually follow his path. In my blog posts I share my memories on what it was like visiting those places as an expat in Israel. This is how Yuval describes his idea, and here I describe mine (which is also Part 1 of my journey – the Western Wall). Yuval’s second blog post was about the Baha’i Gardens, which he calls a journey to “extraordinary study in “otherness” within the Israeli and Palestinian framework,” so let us follow him – back in time.
“Being a tourist, …” “You as a tourist,” “Many tourists say so” – the label ′tourist′ followed me everywhere when I lived in Israel in 2009-2010. Locals seem to be very economical about words, perhaps since the times when words had to be hammered in a rock to be transmitted to future generations. So, when encountering something strange or unexpected, they usually searched for a word they already knew to define new reality. If a foreigner is not an ethnic migrant (oleh/~ah) or a guest-worker, this person must be a tourist. In the beginning I used to get offended. “If I was a tourist, I would be here for fun! I would not have to report or account to anyone!” Israelis are used to seeing plenty of lobster-skinned, hummus-instagraming temporary visitors around them. Did I look like one? The secretary of my Hebrew school had no doubts. “Are you an olah?” she asked, registering me for a class. I started explaining, “No, I’m a…” “I see, a tourist…” “No, I′m not a tourist, I study here.” “With the Birthright?” “With a student visa.” “OK. A tourist.” My friend N., a PhD by now, once turned up at a Purim party dressed as a tourist – in a stereotypical poorly matched outfit of sneakers, baggy pants, a cap and a T-shirt that read “I <3 Israel.” Towards the end of my first stay I embraced the label, and this year was the first time when I actually went to Israel as a tourist, with almost no business to take care of. Also, this fall my dear friend, writer and public intellectual Yuval Ben-Ami started exploring his native country as a tourist and blogging about it for +972mag.
Reading Yuval′s stories brought back lots of memories about my own visits to the nodes of what Yuval calls the Beaten Path. When I traveled to some of these places, I wrote articles for Lithuanian press, blogged, emailed, and took notes for later. As you probably know, my old dream was to be a travel writer, like Yuval is. Whereas Yuval′s stories from the Beaten Path are political and highly critical (here’s how he describes the purpose of his journey), mine are simply wanderings of an individual who didn′t know what to expect. Still, some of these stories reveal various ruptures, beauty and diversity that is not readily visible to locals′ eyes. After a brief discussion with Yuval, I decided to virtually follow his path with my own stories from these places. I will put together notes that I have from my blog entries, articles, Facebook posts and emails to family and friends.
Unsurprisingly, Yuval starts with his native Jerusalem, specifically, the Western Wall. Below is a collection of my visits to the well-known touristic object – obviously, very different from Yuval′s.
My last project at Public Policy and Management Institute was an evaluation of the impact of EU structural funds on gender equality and non-discrimination. In addition to data collection and presentation, I organized a conference with various stakeholders and contributed to another, quite an unusual output of the evaluation – a promotional video. This was the first time our team had such a task (of course, the technical part of it was outsourced, but we wrote the script and selected the projects). It was a great opportunity to learn how to present evaluation results using visual means. Our client, the Ministry of Finance, has uploaded the video on Youtube. Continue reading
On Sunday I used the last opportunity to visit an exhibition of various minor works by Dali and Magritte at Raudondvaris manor, not far from Kaunas. Thanks to my friend R., who was willing to drive there in this suddenly freezing weather, we reached the recently redeveloped suburban area, which used to be a famous noble clan’s estate (you can read more about the history of Raudondvaris manor here).
Museums in Lithuania can hardly ever afford bringing really famous works, but this was a rare opportunity to see Salvador Dali’s ‘applied’ art. His career spanned for decades, so he was asked to design and produce various decorative objects, such as medals for Olympic games or the 25th anniversary of Israel (I hadn’t known that before), tapestries and ceramic plates. There were also some quite known watercolors, such as illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. The fallen angel with drawers is one of my favorites. I also searched for the image of his ceramic plate from the Seasons set, the one portraying fall, which is a human figure with a cube instead of its head, and trees growing from it. But I couldn’t find it on google. Continue reading