Category Archives: Summer 2011

Having panicked around easter time this year that I wouldnt have any exciting adventures planned for the summer, I said yes to everything that came my way….

As a result I am travelling first to Denmark, to present my post graduate research at the 3rd EMES International Research Conference on Social Enterprise at Roskilde University, and then to Jerusalem to work with the IPCC on an urban resilience design studio. I am blogging to keep track of it all, and build a body of material from which to draw at a later date. The idea is to reflect lucidly, and avoid the inevitable preference for facts that happens when you ‘write up’…

So here goes!

New BD Blog post up…

My latest contribution to BD’s online content can be found here

Sam

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Summer Travels 2011…(21) – Tel Aviv. Just waiting.

So I’m in Tel Aviv. And I’ve been walking. And writing. In the wake of the attacks near Eilat, things have escalated. Israel bombed the Palestinian-controlled Gaza, from which it believes the attacks originated, within hours of the shootings on the bus near the Egyptian border. There have been further incidents, including the shooting of Egyptian border police by Israeli forces, and rocket attacks of the city of Be’er Sheva, where I was headed just a few days ago.

Tel Aviv still exists in its bubble, but with its own tensions. Protestors camp out on Rothschild Boulevard, despite some calls that civil protest should abate in the wake of the terror attacks in the south in order that the country may pull together. However, the homeless and debt-ridden persist. As one tour-guide put it, “they’re looking for peace now, they’re so tired…after all the free performances, late into the night, from celebrities looking to support them, they just want to sleep!”. Its a different world here from that which exists, also on the glistening shores of the Mediterranean, just a few tens of kilometers further south.

So here’s a photograph of what I wrote when I walked, and a video…the tension is getting to me, and becoming harder to escape.

On a cheerier note, this film is about to come out, and shows in glorious aerial detail many of the places I have visited…

I’m off to try and lift my mood. Checked into a private room for tonight, at some expense…I cant go on without sleep. Especially with the anticipation of Ben Gurion airport’s notoriously stringent security checks tomorrow before I fly out. In a nod to the archi-tourist inside me, I hope to head for a Mario Botta designed synagogue at the Tel Aviv University campus tomorrow, hopefully to be reminded that beautiful places and spaces can lift the soul…

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Summer Travels 2011…(20) – Time to come home…

So, despite having just posted, I have this piece of breaking news…just heard the tragic news related in this article

I was planning to head to Eilat today, potentially on this bus. So something tells me it is time to come home. I’ve changed my flight to the 22nd, the earliest available, and I’m looking forward to relaxing in relative safety of Tel Aviv until then. In part, my decision has been informed by the facts of history that say Israel rarely leaves attacks like this unpunished. My plan had been to head to Eilat and on to Sinai, before returning to the city to go to Petra in Jordan. It seems unwise at best given today’s events, and I am growing incredibly weary of the tensions of travelling here…

So. I’m safe. But getting the **** out.

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Summer Travels 2011…(19) – The North (1)

So I have just returned to Jerusalem from a week-long jaunt to the north of Israel. I passed through Haifa, Akko, Nazareth, the Golan Heights and Tiberias on my way, learning that even heading to where Israeli’s go to seek some rest and relaxation, you are never far from tension…

First stop Haifa. Having fought my way out of bed early in the morning to get to Tel Aviv in time to meet the Falafel Bus (a backpacker bus pass I’d purchased to meet people whilst travelling solo), I was taken by the driver Ishay to Caeserea. The ruins here sit in front of the backdrop of one of Israel’s power stations, making for an interesting beachscape, if a somewhat frustratingly tourist-orientated heritage site.

Caeserea and the nearby power station

The ruins at Caeserea...like a lot of things here, fenced in and insensitively used.

Ishay is from Giloh, an Israeli settlement near Bethlehem in the West Bank. I have my own views on this, but wanted dearly to hear his. He couldn’t, or wouldn’t speak much English to me. I was also the only one on the bus that day (and later, it turned out, for the whole of my intended trip). Arriving in Haifa, brooding with angry disappointment at having had my money taken from me in return for an underwhelming and expensive ‘experience’, I decided to cancel my further travel on the Falafel Bus, preferring instead to return to my usual mode of travel via public transport and backpacker hostels.

In Haifa, I was lucky enough to be meeting up with Sarah’s family, and had been invited for the traditional Friday night Shabbat dinner. Having waited in the Ba’Hai Gardens overlooking the port city (please google these for another interesting religion claiming part of the Holy Land), I was whisked away by Sarah’s parents to the beach for a much needed dip in the Mediterranean. Here’s today’s video…

Ba'Hai Gardens in Haifa

Yoav, Maish and Sylvia (Sarah's cousin, father and mother, respectively) on the beach in Haifa

I didn’t end up meeting Itay, as I mention in the video. Instead, I ended up accepting Sarah’s family’s generous offer of a second night in the gynecology clinic, and then moving on to the northerly Arab town of Akko, taking advantage of my freedom from the Falafel Bus itinerary…here’s another video…

Efraim, Sarah’s uncle, is a doctor, and her cousins are students…both social groups are affected by the extraordinarily high cost of living in Israel, alongside other causes such as debates surrounding how bets to deliver things such as healthcare and education. I was invited to join them in attending a rally, similar to many that are happening across Israel at this time, calling for the govenrnment to address concerns about ‘social justice’…

Protest in Haifa. The Placards read "Arabs and Jews together will not fight anymore"

Protests in Haifa

Newspaper report about the protests in Haifa...

On the next day, as I headed to Akko, I decided to try and learn something about the British Mandate period of occupation on the Holy Land…’Haifa’s Museum of Clandestine Immigration’ had some interesting material on Jewish ‘terrorism’ between 1945 and 1948, when the Yishuv (the term used in Hebrew referring to the body of Jewish residents in Palestine before the establishment of the State of Israel) was fighting to establish Israel as a state…

Haifa's Museum of Clandestine Immigration has a submarine...

I was thoughtful as I reached Akko……which lasted until El Classico kicked off (Real Madrid vs Barcelona). Spanish football is really popular here, especially Barca. Arabs feel affinity with the Catalan cause, and its not uncommon to find bus drivers adorning the interiors of their vehicles with flags and portraits of their favorite players. Here’ a taste of Akko, Nargileh and all, which I share with Anya, who turns out to have worked for (and been equally frustrated with) the IPCC…

The next day I went on a trip with Walid, the slightly unhinged owner of the hostel i was staying in in Akko, to the Golan Heights, a contested piece of ground in northern Israel, where many Israeli’s vacation in the summer months. We drive along the borders with Lebanon and Syria, and visited the holy town of Tsfat, previously mixed, but now almost entirely Jewish. The old mosque is an art gallery…

Anyway, I’ll continue with some stuff from my trip to the North when I next can, for now, Im off out in Jerusalem…

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Summer Travels 2011…(18) – Final Crit…

Its a mixed bag as we walk back from the bus stop after the final crit…I have the tang of tear gas in my eyes as it wafts on the breeze from an incident just outside the Old City, and the usual euphoric weariness that accompanies the passing of hours post-crit…

But it seemed to go OK. We gave a good account of ourselves, mostly through Marcelo, with whom I’ve been working this past week. From an urban planners point of view on ‘urban management’, we presented an analysis of existing land legal structure (i.e. ownership), and ‘urban tools’ for development, which included methods such as ‘saleable development rights’ for empowering individual landowners to negotiate with developers and the municipality. For me, its been an interesting exercise in meta-design – we didnt actually design anything beyond a road layout – and one that I hope will inform the way any masterplan is carried out on the ground. Ive always believed that designers dont pay enough attention to the way these things actually affect the built reality of places, and so despite the frustration, I’m glad we took the time to try to communicate some of it.

However, our ‘presentation’ was pushed to the periphery of proceedings this evening, scheduled for the final half hour before sundown – and therefore, before the breaking of today’s Ramadan fast. Considering the fact that the majority of our jury was muslim, and that designers don’t know how to keep to time, it was no surprise that we began late, and that we were cut off by the canon from the old city signalling time to eat…our audience evaporated as the traditional feast was brought out, and despite some attempts to resume later, we suffered from a greatly diminished attendance.

Tucking in to the Ramadan feast...

The ‘cool group’ – having this evening acquired the moniker “new romantics” – faced tough criticism from the predominantly planning-savvy jury, and their work seemed to be misunderstood. I thought it had some real value myself – and my problem with these people has always been the exclusivity of their operations within the wider design team rather than anything based on their design methodology. The videos will certainly make some interesting watching when I upload them…

Romatics crit...

The ‘hardcore urbanists’ faced similar problems of communication, with a number of local architects and planners on the jury expressing their opinion that whilst the project was an ‘interesting research’, it simply “will not work here in this context”. “This is not the netherlands”, said one jury member.

'Hardcore Urbanists' crit...

The general feeling – although I put a lot of it down to politeness – was that IPCC are pleased with the output of the study, its diversity of focus particularly, but disappointed that we couldn’t bring it together under one body of work. I’ve said this all along, and so it is with some satisfaction that I hear my thoughts echoed – although ultimately with frustration and disappointment. They seem to expect us to work at this this week…but my sentiment – as I suspect is shared by the majority here – is that IPCC have another thing coming.

Marcelo presenting our work on urban management strategy. We pinned up outside 'for a change of scene'...

..and continued after the Ramadan feast, in the dark, to a greatly reduced audience...

Just off out, either to a bar in West Jerusalem, or for some beers on my rooftop, and then tomorrow to Masada and the Dead Sea…looking forward to it very very much!

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Summer Travels 2011…(17) – Going to the Wall…

Just as an addition to yesterday’s post, I’ve been playing with moviemaker to stitch this video together…

Yesterdays post can be found here

Sam

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Summer Travels 2011…(16) – The Knesset and avoiding work again…

First of all, I think this blog is in danger of becoming a vent for me and my enduring frustration with this workshop I’m on, so I’m going to try my hardest to limit any negative outbursts. Save for this – if this was a job, I’d have quit, and I don’t know why I am still here. Something about reputation maybe, something about not being used to being a ‘quitter’…but at the end of the day, I just want to be on my way…

So to make my days bearable, as I mentioned previously, I’ve been trying to do something interesting every day. Yesterday, this was a trip over to West Jerusalem for the early tour at the Knesset – the Israeli parliament. It was interesting to learn from my guide Hanna (phelgm the ‘H’ and you’ll get the pronunciation right…) that Israel doesn’t actually have a constitution…interesting, given the state’s often-toted claim to ‘legality’. Rather, all its laws are tied back to the Declaration of Independence in 1948, and the things written in it. The ongoing 63-year old debate about a constitution is basically held back by the argument of whether Israel should be a religious state (i.e. Jewish), or a secular state. Having been here a while now, its difficult to see this arguement ever being resolved. Teh attention is often on Palestine and the barriers facing it in becoming a legitimate state – but with no constitution, even my limited knowledge of international law makes me question legality here also…

Take a look at the following video, especially the subtitles, and you’ll get an idea of the severely pro-israeli spiel levelled at me on the tour…things like “Israel, Masada shall never fall again” (Bill Clinton), and “Children of Israel, America is, always, by your side” (George W Bush). Most worryingly, from a face I do not recognise, “There will never be a Palestinian state”…

In other news, on my walk to work today I saw a LOT of police and soldiers…its Friday, the muslim ‘day off’ and teh policemen we asked said that there’s usually trouble on this day during Ramadan. Police and soldiers sit on corners and sidewalks where you wouldn’t normally find them…

This is coupled with a number of jews walking around with their private armed body guards – just like I saw in Hebron, but until now not seen here in Jerusalem…

I tried to walk to the wall today also…you can see it in this video…as I’ve been looking at it for the last few days. I was stopped a good way from the top of a nearby hill (which had a park on top for which I was headed), and when I asked if I could go to the park, I was given the simple answer “you cant”. Asking for a reason, I was again simply told “you cant”.

Anyway, looks like I might be able to get a lift back to the old city, so I’d better go. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day….

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