Sunday, 20 February 2011

Chapter 37 The boy with the sad eyes

Akka is only about 30 minutes by train away from Haifa but a different world from the chilled out city we left behind.

Passing through the metal detectors feels just a little more serious than in Haifa.

On the street people’s faces seemed more drawn. Weary even.

It didn’t help that the day was gloomy and fairly chilly lending itself to the depressing atmosphere.

We were on our way to the Al Jazzar Wall in Old Akka. It’s a massive stone structure with a moat dating back to 1799. It now acts as a divider between Akka’s Arab and Israeli populations.

About 10 minutes out from the station we passed a run down, fast food type restaurant with chickens roasting outside. Immediately we lost a member of our group to the promise of meat sandwiches.

As we waited for him outside I noticed a young boy staring at me from the restaurant terrace.

He was a teenager, sitting alone at a table waiting for his mother and siblings. No more than 15. Dark skinned and dark haired with surprisingly light eyes.

I looked back at him.

We stared at each other in silence for a moment. His eyes didn’t waver. His face etched with misery.

So taken by the sadness in his gaze, I was momentarily startled when a shout in Hebrew came from a bus full of Israelis. As the bus passed the restaurant a young teenage boy stuck his hand through the window, accompanying his yelling with an obscene gesture.

I looked back at the boy with the sad eyes. His shoulder seemed to slump a little bit further.

As his mother joined him on the terrace our friend found his way back out to the street and we continued on.

Old Akka:

The port:


  1. Stunning place. I wish he had something more to smile about

  2. beautiful isn't it? Yeah you really felt it in Akka. Just this heavy kind of weariness. Very sad.

  3. i disagree..

  4. and i also dont like how you differentiate between arabs and israelis - its so crass.. i have many arab friends who are passionately israeli and many jewish friends who couldnt give too craps about israel.. careful about nourishing the stereotypes

  5. Yo Lirun,

    Thanks for the comments. My experiences here are what I write about.

    Akka to me felt very sad - especially in comparison to Haifa which left me with an entirely different impression.

    The terminology I use is simply a reflection of the various narratives that exist here. The fact that Arab Israelis are labeled as such means that differentiation exists in a real way. And in many cases is a very real issue that people have to deal with every day.

    Having said that, I cannot speak to how individuals identify themselves and nor would I want to. Certainly no generalization is ever ideal.

    But I am interested to hear more about what you mean. What kind of terminology would you/do you use if any?

    How would you go about changing these narratives? Can we even do that especially considering how fraught the road of the Peace Process is.

  6. Discrimination against Arab Israelis in Israel is a fact. What is sad was the fact that Arab World discriminated against the Arabs of 48 as they are known and refused to deal with them until recently.

  7. discrimination against everyone in israel is a fact.. and one more startling fact is that people are discriminated against systematically all over the world..

    there is s heightened sensitivity to discrimination initiated by jews for various historic reasons.. people perceive it to be hypocritical because the "jews" work so hard to preserve the memory of specific chapters of our suffering..

    nevertheless i think interview of arab citizens of israel (if they need to be labeled i generally opt for this one because to me it seems less politically charged) shows that many understand the difference in their lifestyles and opportunities here in israel as opposed to pretty much anywhere else - be it the arab world or the west..

    personally - i dont like to refer to people immediately by sector or subgroup.. because it causes my audience to be misled down a path of presumption that the affiliation is a cause of the predicament that i am observing (if any).. on my blog i do highlight the subgroup sometimes to portray a point of view.. normally trying to break a stereotype..

    ok so this rant has lead me full cycle.. you are officially permitted hahah to use whichever terminology you like.. i guess it reflects your sentiment and as such requires no validation :)

    i guess i just get annoyed (intuitively) when people presume that all is bad..

    when i have people over i dont stop to think about people's identities first.. my friends are blended freely - sometimes despite their natural inclinations..

    for me we are all people

    and if we are israeli citizens then we are all israeli - whether proudly - conveniently or otherwise.. we form some version of the face of israel

  8. Sara you are taking some seriously cool photos.

    Lirun. I think Sara's tone has been pretty balanced, to be honest with you. At the end of the day, don't we all just report what we observe, though?

  9. Thank you Alex! The pier was fantastic that day.

    Thanks for your comments Lirun. It is actually really good to hear other perspectives and get a better idea of how different people experience the situation here