Ear­li­er this week Jes­samyn Hope described the first three of six major changes she observes in Israel between now and 1994, the year in which her nov­el Safe­keep­ing is set on a kib­butz in North­ern Israel. She fol­lows up today with the remain­ing three devel­op­ments, and is blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Council’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series. 

Wel­come back to the time machine! We are trav­el­ing twen­ty-one years into the past, to Israel in 1994, the set­ting for my debut nov­el Safe­keep­ing. Last time, we marked the changes in tele­vi­sion, cars, and the addi­tion of Russ­ian to many road signs. If you missed that post, you can read it here. Now for three more changes:

1. Tel Aviv

Much can be said about the city’s jour­ney over the last two decades — from its ascen­sion to the num­ber two start-up cen­ter in the word, after Sil­i­con Val­ley, to its new­found fame as an LGBT des­ti­na­tion, all while cop­ing with eigh­teen sui­cide attacks (the first in 1994). We’re going to focus on the city’s phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion. Let’s just say Tel Aviv already had the atti­tude back in the day, but now it’s got the out­fit. The first morn­ing I ever arrived in Israel, a taxi fer­ried me from the old Ben Guri­on Air­port to the Kib­butz Pro­gram Cen­ter, through a low-rise city, its old Bauhaus build­ings stained and dilap­i­dat­ed under the pink dawn sky. Today those build­ings, many gor­geous­ly restored and hous­ing bou­tique hotels and restau­rants, form a UNESCO World Cul­tur­al Her­itage Site known as the White City.” Old­er neigh­bor­hoods, such as Flo­rentin and Neve Tzedek, are abus­tle with shops, bars, and gal­leries that rival Brook­lyn in their hip­s­ter­dom. Add to the chang­ing cityscape the redesigned HaBi­ma The­atre, the strik­ing new addi­tion to the Tel Aviv Muse­um of Art, and the old train sta­tion and sea­ports rein­vent­ed as night­time hotspots. In 1994, Tel Aviv’s sky­line had one build­ing over thir­ty floors; now it has twen­ty-three, and nine­teen more on the way. One thing has remained the same: there’s still a stag­ger­ing num­ber of stray cats.

2. The Secu­ri­ty Fence

And yes, in some places, such as the envi­rons of Jerusalem, a wall. An eye­sore. When it comes to the Israeli-Pales­tin­ian con­flict, much has hap­pened since 1994, but too lit­tle has changed. Erec­tion of the bar­ri­er start­ed in 2002, a year in which ter­ror­ist attacks killed 452 Israelis on bus­es and in restau­rants. As the bar­ri­er came up, sui­cide attacks went down. It is not the only bar­ri­er along a bor­der — the U.S. has one with Mex­i­co — but the West Bank bar­ri­er has gar­nered much inter­na­tion­al crit­i­cism, in part for not adher­ing more close­ly to the green line,” effec­tive­ly annex­ing 9.4% of the West Bank. Pro­po­nents argue it only devi­ates where hills and tall build­ings can host snipers and that the bar­ri­er is not the final bor­der. What­ev­er your thoughts on the bar­ri­er — whether it’s the rea­son for the reduc­tion in sui­cide bomb­ings, whether it should fall only on the green line, whether it should be built at all — it is inar­guably a sad man­i­fes­ta­tion of the failed peace process, which was at its height in 1994.

3. The Kib­butz

This is a change at the heart of my nov­el Safe­keep­ing: the pri­va­ti­za­tion of the kib­butz­im. Set on a kib­butz near Haifa, the nov­el shows six lives becom­ing entan­gled and changed for­ev­er over one fate­ful sum­mer, the sum­mer the kib­butz will vote on whether to end equal pay. While liv­ing on kib­butz­im from 1994 to 1996, I wit­nessed the end of sev­er­al kib­butz cus­toms. My fel­low twen­ty year olds, who had all been raised togeth­er in a Children’s House, now had younger sib­lings grow­ing up in their par­ents’ homes. Mem­bers began eat­ing din­ner alone or with their fam­i­lies instead of in the din­ing hall. But at its heart, the kib­butz still oper­at­ed accord­ing to the social­ist ide­al from each accord­ing to his abil­i­ty, to each accord­ing to his needs.” Over the fol­low­ing years, how­ev­er, the changes grew more dras­tic, until the first kib­butz I had lived on divid­ed all its assets among its mem­bers. This gave my great-uncle, a long­time mem­ber, per­son­al own­er­ship of his apart­ment. Today, more than 200 of the 270 kib­butz­im have either part­ly or ful­ly pri­va­tized, pay­ing mem­bers dif­fer­ent salaries for dif­fer­ent work.

This list of changes in Israel could go on, with every change war­rant­i­ng its own essay. Or book. For a more nuanced and immer­sive expe­ri­ence of Israel in 1994, read Safe­keep­ing.

Jes­samyn Hope is the author of the nov­el Safe­keep­ing, win­ner of the J.I. Segal Award and a final­ist for both the Rib­alow Prize and the Pater­son Fic­tion Prize. Her mem­oirs and short sto­ries — orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in PloughsharesThe Com­mon, and else­where — have received two Push­cart Prize hon­or­able men­tions, been named a Best Amer­i­can Notable Essay, and have been anthol­o­gized in Best Cana­di­an Essays, The Broad­view Anthol­o­gy of Expos­i­to­ry Prose, and The New Spice Box: Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Writ­ing. She grew up in Mon­tre­al, has long lived in New York City, and is spend­ing the year in Tel Aviv.