Life and death happen faster and a lot more often here in Jericho. Maybe this is because the town is small and you hear about it more often. Maybe this is because soldiers invade and kill or arrest your neighbors and/or friends. Maybe this is because medical science and preventative health have a long way to go.
You find yourself face-to-face with the simple facts of life when there is less materialism and modern fluff to distract you. You are more often consumed by the sadness of death and loss when there is little to do to take your mind off of it. While Jericho has its historically breathtaking landscapes and ruins, a combination of cultural restrictions, poor upkeep and extreme heat makes it terribly difficult to escape sheer boredom.
Therefore, without the distractions from bars, parties, shopping, etc. you have more time to focus on your family and those around you. Relationships forge deeper connections. Friends more easily become brothers. Sadness and happiness brought by birth and death feel real and powerful even if they’re not yours. Life feels raw and more emotionally vulnerable.
After a long wait at security, explosive materials swipes, and a leaky bag clean up I made it to the gate. The plane had been boarding for half an hour already and I was far from the last to arrive at the gate. Seems I’m not the only Jew that doesn’t plan ahead. Images of long bearded men with their black hats and 4 children hurrying their way to gate B29 made me feel as if I had already arrived at Ben Gurion.
There’s no doubt about it, Jews are pushy. It reminded me of standing in line at an Italian airport. Yet another thing us Jews and Italians have in common! Everyone was trying to cut ahead, to role their wheelies over other people’s feet, to give dirty looks as they passed others literally praying for their lives (pre flight prayers from the Torah).
And now I’m sitting on the plane, behind schedule because people refuse to take their seats. And boy do Jews love to kvetch. She wants to sit next to him. Her baby doesn’t have its own seat though she only paid for one ticket. Calming this bunch was quite a feat and I commend the stewardesses for finally getting us out of the gate.
The man sitting directly right of me’s breath smelled so bad that, with my eyes closed, I knew when he’d turn to look out the window. During my last two trips to Israel I hadn’t sat far enough back in the plane to witness the Hasidic migration toward the rear bathroom for midday prayer. I would’ve thought it to be somewhat of an unholy place to pray, but they’re the experts. I asked one man how they know when to observe midday prayer if we are continuously changing time zones. He said they go with the time at the nearest city. If the lights weren’t off and the shades down I’d have sneaked an iPhone picture or two.
The man with bad breath was a Syrian Jew. I soon came to learn about the racism he had experienced in Israel because of his Arab background. Security and soldiers couldn’t grasp the concept that he had an Arab name, spoke Arabic, looked Arab, but prayed in Hebrew. He was subject to numerous searches and questioning every time he entered and exited the country. So much for a Jewish homeland where ALL Jews feel safe and equal.
We finally landed and as we slowly approached passport control I felt my stomach tighten. I knew my spiel, “I’m a nice Jewish girl here to visit family and friends”. I’ve heard so many horror stories about people being questioned for hours and taken into private rooms, so I made sure to get my story straight. In fact, my roommate in Haifa said as a German Christian, she was taken to another room for questioning. The passport control woman promised not to stamp her passport in case she wanted to travel somewhere else in the Middle East, but then out of spite she stamped it anyway.
My passport control agent asked me if why I was visiting Israel. I told him to see my family. He then asked if I had a husband and why I was staying so long in Israel. I joked that I needed time to find myself a nice Jewish boy. In response he told me, “I know it’s unethical, but I would’ve really liked to have met you.” And I was worried about getting in?!
Douglas, a 77 year-old man living in midtown Manhattan describes the evolution of his sexuality and how he came to discover his love for erotic art. He now manages two erotic art estates and has even published his own homoerotic artwork. This piece is about self-discovery and the lifelong struggle to locate and define one’s own value within a larger social context.
Images taken while riding the subway earlier this month.
Various images taken on the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Images from Coney Island taken during multiple visits throughout the summer.