This was actually a link from a daylog from ekim_yar, which made me ponder. He seemed to be kind of excited about it in that daylog, and I just couldn’t figure out why the hell he’d feel that way.

In my humble mode of thought, being young and in the Middle East in the summer would involve the next facets:

Heat. As a general rule, the Middle East is a warm place. I recall the temperature in Tel Aviv in July, standing on an enormous electronic sign – 49 degrees Celsius (no one in the Middle East has ever heard of ‘Fahrenheit’). When it’s warm, people start sweating. Sweat piled up on your face, creates pimples. A pimply-faced youngster is the unluckiest human being ever.

Religious fanatics. Depending on the country, they’re either Muslim or Jewish. I recall making a trip through Lebanon once with a couple of friends of mine, all girls. Since it was one of those warm days, we found ourselves a nice quiet grass field close to a small lake and we took off our shirts (nothing fancy, we were wearing swimsuits ‘n stuff). After a minute or ten, a couple of men came by and started shouting in a weird dialect, obviously hysterical. One of my friends tried to explain them that we would put on our shirts again, but they kept screaming and they even tried to kick us, so we got the hell out of there. I also recall driving through a not-so-religious neighborhood in Jerusalem on Saturday, the Jewish holiday. Of course I knew driving through a really-religious neighborhood would mean my death, but I thought this would be rather safe. Hell was I wrong. The religious kids (they can’t have been older than 20-30) were literally everywhere. In their hands they had sharp stones, which they started throwing at my car and some even managed to scrawl on my car windows. But I digress. Youngsters need freedom, they need to have the feeling that they can go anywhere they want. The religious culture in the Middle East limits that.

Army. Youngsters in the Middle East are bound to join the army. Normally, draft starts in June or September. For the first time in their lives, youngsters have to leave their home and survive in a strange area all on their own. I don’t know, many find it an exciting period. I always found it kind of sad.

Of course, to be young and in the Middle East in the summer is still a wonderful experience, if not for the delicious bread, then sure for the marvelous sunsets. But many (if not all) youngsters I know in the Middle East want to move to the US or Europe as soon as they finish the army. Not a summer in their lives can change their mind.

TheLady: Now normally I dislike replying to other nodes, but perhaps I should make a couple of additions here. First of all, I've got an Israeli passport, and I've lived in Jerusalem for a year or 10. I'm fluent in Hebrew, I've been in the Israeli Army, I consider Israel my home. The neighborhood I was referring to was Beit Hakerem. I was driving on Rehov Yefe Nof. I didn't play loud music, or anything else that can be considered offensive. Now I personally don't really care about the car, but it felt just so damn unfair that I should just accept their behaviour, for they were religious and I was not. This is an entirely different topic of discussion though, which has absolutely nothing to do with 'to be young in the Middle East in the summer'. I restate my point: Growing up is discovering freedom. Religion in the Middle East limits this freedom.

Soberty: Ho hum. Beit Ha Kerem is a largely secular area indeed. It seems that I was over-enthusiastic in reacting to imagined offences - as is often the case. Please accept my apologies.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I agree with you entirely on the whole subject of religion and freedom - they suck, because we're prepared to grant them freedom of religion, but they're not prepared to return he favour. Doesn't it feel great to be the good guys? *g*

(Original writeup quoted below.)

As for religious fanatics in Jerusalem, I happen to have lived there all my life and never have gotten stoned once. You knowledge of which neighbourhoods are religious and which are not is obviously not as good as you imagined.

Nobody has ever died or was even seriously injured in these demonstrations in all the years of conflict between religious and secular inhabitants of Jerusalem, by the way.

As for why they do it - imagine that someone came and started raping 5 year old girls in your neighbourhood on a Sunday (or any other day, for that matter). What would you do faced with such a criminal violation of the values you hold dear, as well as the cruel and inhuman harm to the little girls? OK, tone it down a notch or two and you'll see what the deeply religious feel on seeing cars and scantily clad young tourists who think they've got the political situation sussed drive through their streets on Saturday.

I have been on the opposite side of the political fence to the religious population of Israel since the day I was old enough to go to a demonstration - but I wouldn't doubt for a minute their right to consideration from the rest of us, of which not driving through their areas on Shabbat is a part.

Bahrain. In the early evening. In the spice souk, downtown. Just after dusk, the sky has turned that dark deep blue just before it actually turns black. A warm wind blows through, drawing the heat out of the streets and buildings. Women in black robes with nothing visible but their eyes that shine and flash hurry past, formlessly beautiful. The smell of spices I can't identify pulls me farther in the maze of dimly lit streets past the main road, and I follow it until the gold shops are only a glow off to my left. I finally stop when I realize that here, the shops have all closed for the night, and I look around, breathing in deeply the warm summer air, and I think, Ahh, to be young and in the Middle East in the summer!

But I've only visited the Middle East, never lived there. And when I returned to Bahrain a year later in the daylight, it was hot like the inside of an oven set to Broil, and the wind brought fine gritty dust that got in my mouth, and it stank. But always, when I think of the Middle East, I think of that night in Bahrain when I was ready to pack up everything, convert to Islam, and marry a beautiful dark eyed Bahrainian woman just so I could stay there forever.

Jerusalem in August of 2001. I arrived the day before the Jerusalem Suicide Bombing, 08/09/2001, and was only 100 metres away just before it happened; I stayed for three weeks anyway, and loved every minute.

The warm wind during the day, the inexhaustible heat between 11 and 4 that bakes the back of your neck like a fresh pita bread. It felt so good, it reminded me of my childhood before I made the move to a much wetter climate.

The energy of the city seemed subdued, but the atmosphere was open, bright, and energetic. That which was not usual to me was quaint; that which was not quaint was magnificent, and that which was not magnificent was fascinating, and all of it was memorable.

Arriving as a cynical, sarcastic individual, I toured a different life in a different climate in a different part of the world. I became a different person, I fell in love, I found a new family to call my own, even if only in the quiet of my mind where such sappy sentiments won't be laughed at by others.

The cool nights, the moon in the sky, and the gentle, far-off pop-pop-pop of the fighting. I wonder if they would still fight, not so far away, if they could all feel the exhilaration of laying on the grass and staring up at the stars, and talking about the wonders of life with a woman you love. If they could feel this joy, this youthfulness that I felt by coming to a place that, for some, reminds them of nothing but strife and toil, death and tragedy, would they still be the same?

Aah, to be young and in the Middle East in the summer!

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