As part of my attempt to understand this strange place I have heard about since childhood, I have been reading a book on the history of Israel. One chapter dealt with the secret nuclear facility outside the city of Dimona. From 1958-1967 Israeli scientists secretly turned barren desert land into a nuclear facility that would produce a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons. This was an astonishing feat that much has been written about, but what I found most relevant was what happened after this early stage. Instead of the normal posturing that a state would do with the acquisition of nuclear weapons, Israel continued to act as if they had no nuclear power, even though the whole world was aware that they did to some degree. They refused to acknowledge the weapons, they never based military, political, or geo-political strategy on them. A nuclear state whose citizens and government all keep quiet and know not to speak too openly about.
There are plenty of good reasons for the Dimona strategy, but the inherent contradiction exemplifies the absurdity at both a micro and macro level that permeates life here. A Jewish state that contains non-jews and yet promises equal rights and legal protections to all. A people that have long been the victims of horrendous treatment as sub-human by the rest of the world that treats non-jews as lesser. A people known for enlightened thinking, and questioning everything that seem to be completely inculcated by far right media nonsense (Ex: this is the only semi-modern country on earth where a large population of citizens defends and endorses our president). A conservative religious state thats shining tower is Tel Aviv, a city of complete debauchery and the LGBTQ capital of the middle east. A thriving capitalist utopia that has its roots in a completely secular soviet-style socialist movement. The rapidly progressing research and innovation center of the world that frowns upon the use of electronics on Saturdays. I legit could go on for pages and pages on these contradictions, but I swear the goal here is not to be political. I only seek to illustrate that the contradictions are constant and unavoidable for all but the most northern of Tel Avivians.
I have now been here nearly seven months and have barely given you people anything to go off of. I think that is largely because I have trouble crafting a narrative to describe Israel, so any writing will feel inconsistent and possibly hypocritical. Everywhere else I have lived abroad seems to have a narrative thread that ties it all together, I am not sure if that exists here.
All of that said.. I figure a good place to start is with my own life and then go from there. So to be straightforward in typical Israeli fashion, my life here is dope. Tel Aviv is the ultimate bubble, and I live in the heart of it. Every meal is amazing (yes the hummus is to die for), the city and people are beautiful, the beach is fantastic, the nightlife is varied and wonderful, and the energy is indescribable.
Best of all, the people are amazing. I have never felt so welcomed, made so many strong friendships so quickly, or had so many deep conversations in such a short time in a new place. A summer-camp like attitude pervades the city thanks to the beach-town-esque atmosphere, the intimate proximity (walking distance) to friends, and the preference for spontaneity over advanced planning.
Much of the city is cool in a way that rivals even the trendiest neighborhoods in London and the leftist in me is constantly amazed at how shockingly liberal parts of this city are. Art is everywhere, music is vibey at worst, folks smoke weed openly in restaurants/bars, and nature parties are constantly going on (yes.. exactly what it sounds like). Work for Mint is fun and I finally am starting to get Product Management at the level required to make a massive impact on people’s lives. My team is brilliant and it actually feels like we can tackle massive problems better than any team I have seen or worked on. Plus, work is hilarious and good vibes and a constant stream of cultural jabbing and non-PC Israeli humor.
I could go on about what is awesome but in the spirit of transparency ill say it can also be super tough here. As fast as my hebrew has progressed (more on that in another post), it will take years before I no longer feel like an outsider, the tough political realities, the still not having a roommate, a terribly antiquated bureaucracy, missing friends and family like crazy after two years abroad, and the classic obstacles of daily life make even the best setup a challenge. In addition, the constant contradictions in life and people can be philosophically challenging and emotionally draining.
So, overall life here is pretty great and I appreciate everyone I have met and the constant support from the homeland. I am going to sleep now so I can do my job like a real human tomorrow, but stay tuned. A personal goal of mine is to get back into daily writing so you will be hearing from me whether you want to or not.
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