Tel Aviv is like an island: surrounded by turmoil and strife yet detached from the violence of everyday life in Israel and the Occupied Territories. But if you stand on the beach in Tel Aviv, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening, you can get a sense of what’s going on in the rest of the country. Not enough of a sense to feel and know what is happening, only enough to be aware when something has happened.
Last Wednesday while at a free concert at the port of Yafo, I, along with about one hundred other concertgoers, watched as several military helicopters and fighter jets flew overhead. We all looked up briefly to determine what exactly was darting across the sky, and then returned to enjoying the music. Later that night it was reported Israel had carried out an airstrike on Gaza. Three people were killed while we sat listening to a local indie rock band. And this morning, while my friends and I were celebrating Simchat Torah, rockets fell in southern Israel and more airstrikes were carried out against Gaza.
The stalled peace process, the occupation, and the plight of the Palestinians are felt by their absence from day-to-day conversations in Israel. When the helicopters fly back after firing missiles at areas packed with civilians, we all know what they’ve done, we know why they’re flying overhead. But we pretend not to know, we refuse to talk about it. We feign ignorance with ourselves until we can’t feel what’s going on around us.
In Tel Aviv it’s easy to forget that millions of people starve under military occupation just a few miles to the west, and that just a few miles to the south millions of people face routine airstrikes and an ongoing blockade. Tel Aviv is insulated from the daily violence that characterizes life in the Occupied Territories. And since the occupation is invisible and imperceptible in Tel Aviv, the economic and cultural capital of Israel, there is no impetus for political change. For the most part, Israelis are comfortable with the status quo. The occasional mortar fire in the distant south doesn’t seem to bother Israelis living in the city centers. As long as there is no visible or perceptible violence, no disruption of the rhythm of everyday life, the occupation will continue. The status quo will remain unchanged.