After writing the previous post earlier today, I went out with some friends to a cafe at the top of Mt. Carmel. Already having been to Carmel Center (as the neighborhood is called) only during the daytime, I knew it was definitely a different kind of place than the Wadi where I live and will work. However, I did not have a true sense of Haifa’s dichotomy until this evening.
The last time, two days ago, when I was in that neighborhood, we walked. The change in affluence – and increase in Ashkenazi-looking Jews – as you go up the hill is subtle yet detectable, but not seeing many other people walking around in such heat makes it less poignant. This evening we took the Carmelit, the underground cable car and Haifa’s version of a subway. It boasts five stops at various elevations of the hill, the last one being, of course, Carmel Center. Upon exiting the Carmelit stop and finding friends at the cafe, the vast schism between Haifa’s populations and neighborhoods became instantly and painfully obvious.
The table of three girls next to our was speaking Hebrew. Our waitress was Israeli and in the army (a conversation about yoga studios led to the discovery of that fact) and, presumably, Jewish. We were certainly one of few if not the only table at which sat a Palestinian, and our Arabic – thought we spoke mostly in English – was the only Arabic to be heard. This would simply not be the case in any other part of the city.
Carmel Center, in the evenings, is frequented by young people. They seemed to be mostly Israeli although there were many Americans (Jappy girls stand out everywhere) and several internationals of varying provenance. No matter what nationality, though, Carmel Center is very obviously the territory of those with means and money and Hebrew or English language skills.
As hard as I try, I simply cannot describe the monumental and fundamental differences between these two parts of the city, these two worlds. It is like going from one country to the next in the matter of a couple of kilometers. Really, it is like any other urban poor to urban rich transition only more so, and one in which the cultural differences are tangible. But it is peaceful so far – as Tevye once said, “we don’t bother them, and so far, they don’t bother us.”