I’ll be honest. Israel is not a place I ever planned to visit. Nothing about it called out to me, and I imagined it was mostly sand and conservative people and a whole lot of guns (only the latter turned out to be true.) With embarrassingly wholesale dismissiveness, I labeled it backwards and that was that.
Now. One of the families I used to nanny for is Israeli, and when they moved back last fall, they immediately began begging me to visit. With some hesitation (and enormous thankfulness at their offer to pay for my ticket) I agreed. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t anticipate finding it so beautiful.
Having returned, I have complicated feelings about the trip. It’s a blur, what with meeting someone handsome at a bar in Tel Aviv and spending too much money in an antique shop in Jerusalem and kissing the ground where Jesus’ cross was erected and feeling my blisters and scratches burn in the salty Dead Sea and eating my weight in hummus. While I was there, I didn’t think too much about the horror stories I’ve heard about Israeli politics. Everyone I met was generous and open and asked me at least once to move there or visit again and stay with them. For a place that I’ve heard referred to as “evil” with some regularity, its people were normal, nice, and welcoming.
It’s not like it matters whether I have some kind of comprehensive opinion of whether “Israel”– land, state, collection of people, however you want to define it–is “good” or “bad” (I think it’s stupid to have an opinion about something as vast and abstract as a nation, and even more so to try to form one after having visited for a week), but it’s strange visiting a place whose people and policies seem so different. Then again, since I was interacting mostly with young, modern people from the secular Tel Aviv, aaaaaand couldn’t understand anything they said that wasn’t in English, aaaaaaaand everyone I met knew I was friends with a wealthy native Israeli (my host), it’s not like I experienced anything near like a representative sampling of what life in Israel is like, or of what a Palestinian person might experience in Israel, or of what the broad trends in popular opinion about Jewish-Palestinian relations are.
Pics will have to come later in the week; I tried to email them to myself, and this is the only one that came through: