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Life & Culture

  • Station to Station 2: The phantom line

    In a strange feat of partial resurrection, half of the railway between Haifa and Damascus is being fixed for reuse. Elisha Baskin's lens and Yuval Ben-Ami's pen follow it, focusing on the decaying and embalmed, rather than the freshly welded.   (for the full, four part project, click here) For the next leg of the journey, Elisha and I meet at a train station, a living one. We are hung up on ruins, but Israel also boasts railway infrastructure that is largely modern, functional, and topped with a bonus bit of irony: our red trains are the same used for local…

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  • Which is the 'right' side of the Green Line these days?

    Read parts one, two, and three. Thursday morning: I wake up and check the news this morning to see what happened last night and then head to the doctor’s in north Tel Aviv. I’m 24 weeks pregnant — yes, with a Jewish-Palestinian baby. My physician in Florida, where we live now, has advised me to keep up with my medical care in Israel even though I’ll only be here for six weeks to freshen up my research for the book I’ve just sold. I’m a few minutes late to my appointment . When the doctor’s door opens, the woman who is…

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  • Station to Station 1: The fenced failure

    A journey to the Holy Land's disused railway stations begins with a sonnet of concrete. Digital and disposable camera photography by Elisha Baskin. (for the full, four part project, click here) There is an old railway station in south Tel Aviv. It isn't really so old by local standards, being 80 years younger than the city's first train depot. A concrete edifice of the 1970s, it would hardly delight all eyes. "Tel Aviv south" is no Milano Centrale, oh, and it hasn't served any lines since 1993. It's useless. Nevertheless, not only do I take off a hot September day…

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  • Motorcycle diaries: A brief moment of humanity with an Israeli policeman

    He had no idea Palestinians couldn't import high quality motorcycles. I had no idea Israeli policemen could be so friendly. How one motorcycle brought us together during a traffic stop in the middle of the West Bank. By Bassam Almohor Israeli police stop — Thursday, September 24, 2015. An Israeli policeman standing at the entrance to Ofra settlement, just east of Ramallah, motions for me to park on the side go the road. He walks slowly with his M-4 rifle, inspecting the license plate on my motorcycle, then pats my shoulder: “With all due respect, this is great; you wear…

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  • The Syrian child who became a symbol in Beirut — and Germany

    Twelve-year-old Fares al-Khodor sold roses in West Beirut for five years until he was killed in an airstrike during a visit to his hometown in Syria. Touched by the massive outpouring from people who knew him in Lebanon, artist Yazan Halwani brought his memory all the way to Germany. By Avi Blecherman Yazan Halwani, a Lebanese street artist known as “the Banksy of Beirut,” went all the way to Dortmund, Germany in order to paint a portrait of Fares, a refugee Syrian child who was killed recently in the ongoing war. Fares al-Khodor, 12, charmed business owners and passersby with…

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  • Yom Kippur in popular culture: nostalgia and other musings

    "It was different with Papa. He celebrated all the major holidays — Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Pesach — and he loved telling me Bible stories, but religion didn't have a very important place in his life. Once, during Mama's illness, I asked him if he believed in God. He gazed at me with that tender look, a look that spoke only of the powerlessness of love, and said, "You know, Sara, God doesn't need us to believe in him. All he wants is for us to act as if he were there." — from Paths of Desire, a novel by Emmanuel…

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  • A litmus test for the American Jewish left

    I hesitate to critique BDS, but there is still something in the campaign that troubles me — a sense that some on the left are inadvertently using boycott as a tool with which to sort through, measure, and reject other progressive voices. By Penina Eilberg-Schwartz Palestinians living in Israel are all too familiar with litmus tests, most of which boil down to the question of Israel’s “right to exist.” In its politics, most brazenly suggested in the 2014 nation-state bill which suggested to define Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel demands that Palestinians in Israel both recognize…

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  • Seven Nights 7: The Pub Crawl

    'So we're going out, and here's the deal: we'll only drink in places where people were murdered due to inter-group hatred.' The seventh and final installment. For other nights click here. One April night in 2003, my cousin Yaron decided he needed a bass player. He was growing as a local blues musician and figured that some accompaniment would do no harm. He told his girlfriend, Shir, that he's popping over to Mike's Place, a blues bar on Tel Aviv's promenade, and left. He returned shortly afterwards, covered in blood and in a state of shock. While the band played at…

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  • Seven Nights 6: Malawi

    On its next to last night, the journey leads away from the cities and, in a way, to another continent.   For other nights click here. The papers promised a meteor shower. Here was a great excuse to take a spin out of town. I haven't been off the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv axis in a while (Bethlehem is essentially a Jerusalem suburb). Nothing sounded more appealing than heading into the dark hills to chase a shooting star or two. Ruthie was feeling a tad better and encouraged me to head out, but I was unsure. Then a surprise phone call called the shots.…

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  • What I learned touring the rubble piles of Gaza

    A year after the devastating war on Gaza, an activist visits human rights defenders still working among piles of rubble and roiling from trauma. By Jen Marlowe I crouched on the floor of the beat-up Mercedes yellow cab, so that I could film Yaser Abed Alkhafor at a better angle.  We were driving slowly through Khuza’a, a town near the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younes. “We can see that the destruction in Khuza'a didn't target only one place, but it is mass destruction targeting the whole area,” Alkhafor said, pointing to the destroyed homes lining the road. Alkhafor,…

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  • Seven Nights 5: Sodom Burning

    I don't always drink beer in bars with racist symbols on the wall. But when I do, it's for a good cause. Part five of the nighttime journey. For other nights click here. Saturday night we were back on the streets. Hundreds of left-leaning urbanites marching through central Tel Aviv, condemning the government for turning this land into a hothouse for inter-group violence. Pride flags flew alongside banners promoting unity and equality between Jews and Arabs. By now, the fateful morning of July 31 had claimed the life of Saad Dawabshe, father of baby Ali, who had passed away the morning…

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  • Seven Nights 4: Contact point

    Chapter four in the nighttime journey is a tale of two parties. For other nights click here. If you think the nights I skip in this chronicle are uneventful, think again fast. On Wednesday I was rushed to the airport with an immigration scandal. A young American who flew in to intern with a company for which I work was interrogated on arrival and then deported. The reason remained withheld but we suspected political bias. This is hardly an unusual occurrence these days. The intern handed her interrogators the number of the company head: a leader in alternative tourism, a National…

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+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

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Illustrations: Eran Mendel