Apr 30, 2011
Not a real general or something. Just in general.
During my time in Israel, I often had a lot of difficulty when I thought about what to write here. To be honest, I still have a lot of difficulty bringing it all together. After the Birthright tour, which was a whirlwind of new experiences and ideas, instead of having a lot of time to process them, I’m sure that much of the finer details were lost, or put away somewhere in my mind, and will bubble up again sometime, hopefully. So, I will try now to get out some of my thoughts about the place while it is still fresh in my mind. I am already in Turkey and surely I will just forget even more if I don’t write now.
- Moniot sherut. These are shared taxis. They run from city to city and you can hail them down when you see them, their destination is clearly signed in the window. The minibus stops on the road to pick you up, and you find yourself a seat. You hand your money up to the passengers in front of you and your change comes back after the driver takes enough for the fare. They are cheap, run all the time, and are easy. It might be tough for city-to-city rides in the US are distances are longer but the concept could certainly be applied to other smaller localities there. The concept is not novel and exists all over the world – in Turkey, too!
- Israel is greener looking than I had imagined. It is not just one big desert, at all.
- The general food for everyone is of a much higher standard of quality than in America and a lot of people eat vegetables every day. Dairy quality is also higher. Of course the fast-food culture has made it there in some way but it also is not as pervasive as in the West and many people will enjoy a pita with falafel, vegetables, and tahini for a quick bite – a much better option than the typical American choices.
- Shuks. Outdoor markets. You don’t drive through them – you walk, of course. Like all cultures used to do. Imagine walking through a wonderful market, seeing the faces of people around you, not a parking lot with metal shells, taking you to stores that sell gross things you don’t need. Of course shopping malls have made it to Israel but the shuk culture is still very strong.
- The country is small and the bus and train systems are fairly easy to use and have online schedules with route planning which makes traveling easy
- hitch-hiking : From what I remember I had 12 for 12 successful hitches in Israel. Most were all in one region in the north but it never took a while to get a ride and people were kind and easy to communicate with.
- Related to hitchhiking is that they have these small concrete shelters at the four corners of all large highway junctions, it seems. These are bus pick-up and drop-off points as well as great spots to thumb (well really point at the ground with your hand shaped like a pistol) down vehicles for rides and have people drop you off. Soldiers as well as even kids can often be seen waiting for people to pick them up, all over the country.
- Hospitality. For a country that in my mind was full of people who are seemingly not the most friendly, the hospitality here was tremendous and helped destroy my original perceptions of Israeli people. Thank you so much to all of my wonderful hosts.
- People were not as rude as I had read about or experienced with Israelis in the West! This could be because I happened to be meeting a lot ofchoice people, but honestly I’m not sure why this is.
- Sunlight! All the time, except for when it rains.
- The artificial positive that it is a place I could move to if I wanted or needed to. It’s amazing that I met so many people who have recently made ‘aliyah’ or come up to immigrate to Israel. The country is extremely open and if you are Jewish you can move ‘home’ as they say. More on how this is not always attrative to me, later.
- Military. While it is argued that Israel couldn’t be who they are without the military and this is quite possible, it does not mean that I have to like the armed forces. Young, heavily armed kids between 18 to 21 or so are seen all over the place and on public transport. I’m one of those who doesn’t feel safe when I experience this. It’s also a sad reality that I will not get into, that this country is forced to have no friendly relationships with their neighbors and must then use force or the threat of force (defense) all the time.
- Car-culture is pervasive. This alone could be enough to deter me from ever considering living here. This means that the people have a country designed for car usage, the bicycling population is small, the bicycling infrastructure is minimal or non-existant, and people are not very aware of bicycles on the road.
- Water and waste. For a country that has massive territorial issues surrounding water sources, who is depleting their largest natural body of water rapidly, and who constantly complains about not having enough water, the residential usage habits regarding this precious resource are abominable. People are completely ignorant to how much they are wasting each and every day and are doing nothing to catch or save or reuse water, nevermind just using less of it. I could write a very lengthy piece on this, only I don’t think it would help anything at all. But, I visited a number of places in the north that have similar rainfall amounts to areas in Northern California and Southern Oregon – places where many people are able to have very productive farming and gardening landscapes who are using caught, or dammed water sources. Israel could learn a lot from these people and just by using some common sense. I can’t tell you how much it bothered me to see gutters in these so-called water-stricken areas, that funneled all of the rainwater right into the ground, never to be seen or used at that location at all. I also experienced a tremendous amount of percipitation in the country while I was there, so I can attest to the fact that it surely does rain in Israel, and if there were any projects implemented with even a fraction of the effort put into defense, Israel would be a completely different and more wonderful place, and surely they would be greatly easing their ever-worsening water depletion problems.
- No composting, anywhere except for fringe communities.
- There is a theme-park feel to so many locations, just like everyone else in the world. This is too bad, and in my opinion detracts from the depth of the traveling experience but can it really be avoided?
- No recycling.
- Many people I met who have immigrated to Israel have done so because it is a Jewish state. They feel at home there, that they can have Jewish families and study torah, live in what they believe to be the promised land, or whatever. I am very much not into this, but find it strange and interesting that people will move to a place for such reasons. Priorities in our lives are all quite different it seems.
So many thanks to all of my hosts, again. Families of Saar, Ohayon, Even-Esh, Eisenbach, Young, and the village of Klil, I will never forget your tremendous hospitality! Thank you.
Surely I am missing things from both sides of the table here, but I am glad I got to write down some of these things. Without a doubt I enjoyed Israel more than I expected and could happily see myself returning to travel to see some of the places I didn’t get to visit that still intrigue me. We will see what I feel like after a few months out of the country but I don’t seem to have been bitten with tis Israel-bug like some peopole experience when they visit for the first time. I very much want to taste their summer fruit selection…