Yesterday, I noticed a video posted on Facebook recapping the recent protests in Turkey. I sat there and watched the full seven and a half minutes in horror. How could Istanbul be so crazy and dangerous when I was just there? In many ways, this conflict over a park is really reflective of Istanbul, generally speaking. In a word, Istanbul is supersaturated. More and more Turks are migrating into the city every year and even though the city is expanding, a city as old as Istanbul can only support so much growth. It is no surprise that a public situation can quickly escalate and boil over.
One night in Istanbul, when we were walking through Taksim to arrive at the Alumni event, a group of police officers were arriving in Taksim Square in full riot gear. This alarmed those of us who noticed, but anyone we mentioned the sight to seemed to brush us off. At a time when Syrians bombing the Southern Turkish borders is a daily occurrence, are riots in Taksim Square just more of the same? Growing up in a Jewish community, it seems like every small act of terror in Israel is news, yet unrealistic to report in the mainstream media. I signed up for a Birthright trip in college because I just needed to get to Israel and see what the fuss was all about. While walking through Jerusalem, I noticed how machine guns carried by 19 year olds seemed normal and adapted to ignore it myself. Despite the increased weapon presence out in the open, I didn’t feel unsafe. I know that although many Israelis fear suicide bombs, they don’t let it rule their lives too much. Between my experience in Israel and the Boston Marathon bombing, I knew that I would have to be careful, but I could not be scared.