The People of Israel. They're beautiful. All of them. Well, most of them. Israelis themselves are great people. Most of them speak English and contrary to popular belief, they're actually safe and conscientious drivers. They may make quick/abrupt lane changes, but they tend to use their turn signals better than anywhere else I've seen.
The Places of Israel. We went to Tel Aviv (LOVED IT! Like Toronto or New York, or another largest city in a country), Yafo (quiet old part of Tel Aviv that reminded me of Kensington Market in Toronto), Rishon L'Ziyyon (where Anne/Arie, Jodi's aunt/uncle, live, which is a suburb of Tel Aviv and has 4 Flavours Falafel and Melech HaShwarma (King of Shwarma) AND Thailandi Sandwich, which are TOTALLY fantastic street food!!! It's also the home of Carmel Wine, which is what a lot of people think about when they think Israeli wine), Jerusalem (Great for the Old City and the new city too! Yad Vashem is not to be missed, in an attempt to make some sense of the Holocaust and to learn from the mistakes of the time), Haifa (beautiful Ba'hai Gardens), Tiberias (Israel's Atlantic City? Tacky and not the greatest experience), Eilat (Israel's Vegas? Tackier and bigger than Tiberias, but with more things to do.), Masada (a mountain with 900 steps, with significant Jewish/Israeli history attached to it!), the Dead Sea (The Lowest Place on Earth, with lots of salt and sulfur), Neot Hakikar (A fantastic community that's like a kibbutz, and right at the border with Jordan - with the best dates I've ever eaten! - and GREAT people), Metulla, Be'er Sheva and a few other smaller ones along the way.
The Food of Israel. There's more than a few places to get hummus, falafel, shwarma, kebabs, schnitzel and other forms of street food. Minus one tourist cafeteria, they're all good. More often than not they're great. There's more than just that. There's the fusion cuisine. The Thailand(i) sandwiches for Rishon L'Ziyyon, the superb meal/experience to be had at MachaneYehuda (spelling may be off) near the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, Tmol Shilshom's kosher dairy delights (again in Jerusalem), the breakfast/brunch at Benedict in Tel Aviv, the insanely delicious gelato of Iceberg (Again, Tel Aviv) and the steak of Shmulik on Neot Hakikar, the lentil soup of XX and the great food served by Anne Lamdan in her kitchen in Rishon L'Ziyyon. But you need to make a reservation for THAT table. They're hard to come by.
That said, I suspect that most people wondered about the politics.
What would I say about the politics?
Well, I know more now than I did before I came here.
I know that there is no simple answer to what is happening in the country now, and in the future. I know that people want peace. I know that the Palestineans want peace, but don't seem to have a consistent voice of leadership and direction, and this has hindered the peace process. I know that the Israelis want peace, but don't want to continue to give up land, when surrounded by enemies and not being willing to continue to get smaller and smaller. I know that fundamentalism in any religion is a bad thing. I would like to know that there is a chance for peace for Israel, but I'm not holding out hope for that.
I know that Israel does a s**tty job of PR/explaining what has happened post-"incident" and the Palestineans/Arabs are masterful at it. This results in the world getting a one-sided report of these incidents and not hearing the whole story. Israel would benefit from better PR and talking to the press about what really happens when the world hears from another group/country.
I know that many people (Jews and Christians) refer to Israel as the Holy Land. It is. It's a spiritual haven, to be able to put your hand on the Kotel (Western/Wailing Wall) and touch thousands of years of history. For many, it's the Home Land.
In my mind, it's the Home Land for Israelis, and for any Jew if they need it. That said, my Jewish identity is weak. I thought that going to Israel, climbing Masada, touching the Kotel, going to the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock, being in the Negev Desert, seeing the Jordan River, walking in the footsteps of Moses, Isaac, Abraham and Jacob, would make me feel more Jewish.
What it's served to do is reinforce that I believe in The Golden Rule. Do unto others, as you have them do unto you. I don't believe in God, because if there was a God there wouldn't be the hatred that exists between Jews and Muslims, Arabs and Palestineans, Palestineans and Jews, Arabs and Jews, Jews and Christians, Israelis and other countries. All over the same piece of land. All in the name of "God".
Things wouldn't be happening all over the world, like the slaughter of innocents in Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, the Holocaust (and if try to deny it, I'll kick you in the teeth before you can think about what to do next!) and all the other natural distasters all over the world like Haiti, and most recently Chile.
There are beautiful elements to religion, as it gives people a base. It grounds people in need of that. For me, it just doesn't feel right.
Like wearing someone else's boots or clothing.
I still identify as a Jew, but culturally. As I did before.
Going to Israel did aid in my sense of Jewishness.
I like me.
I really do.