Sabine Sterk – Israel for Beginners
First impressions last forever, at least that is what I always learned. So this time I was very excited to introduce my 21 years old son to Israel for the first time. My son knew Israel only from my stories at home, and at home everything about Israel is pink, the mezuzah is hanging at the door, the blue and white of the Israeli flag can be found anywhere in the house. Never a bad story about Israel, he only saw his mother homesick and devoted to the country.
At school and among friends the situation was different, in Dutch society Israel is not very loved, antisemitism is rising sky-high, and the Pallywood propaganda does her work well. The most friends of my son or did not care about the situation in the Middle East or hated Israel and Jews. I was surprised and happy he decided to come along with me.
As we flew with the one and only El Al we had a rigorous check-in procedure. This went well because I prepared him for the questions and security measures. So this went fine, and a few hours later we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport. The weather was warm, and we drove with the rental car to Betar Illit.
Betar Illit is situated in the Judea area of Israel, some mention it as a disputed area. It is an orthodox Haredi city. When you come there, you see the ultra-orthodox Jews walking in the streets, on Shabbat it is not allowed to drive the car. For my son, this was very unusual, very difficult and as a secular person he found it hard to adjust in this society, he feared that in Israel all the cities where like this. The environment, however, is beautiful.
We drove 4138 km in 19 days; I showed him a lot of Israel. One of the first days he looked at the houses at the “Palestinian” areas, and he was flabbergasted and said if these are houses of “Palestinians” they are living f*cking luxurious. Also, he was extremely surprised to see that the Jewish, Arab, Christian, etc. population walked together on the streets, entered the same buildings and shopping malls, set side by side on the same beach. In Tel Aviv, he saw the Mosque near de Dan Panorama hotel and made a picture to show his friends that in Israel all religion can be practiced freely. We drove by multiple checkpoints where the soldiers did their excellent job. He admired them.
Negative for him was the fact “friends” ended contact with him due to his decision to go to Israel. Also, we escaped like eight times a serious car accident due to Israeli drivers that are selfish, are impatient or don’t have a clue how to behave safely in traffic. This fact he truly hated Israel. We saw the most bizarre things, like two truck drivers stopping next to each other in the middle of paid highway 6, causing the extremely dangerous situation and a huge traffic jam. He enjoyed, however, the in my eyes, super annoying honking the most male macho’s in Israel are doing when they think they need to wait 1 second too long for a traffic light. Traffic, I can write pages full with complains, but it is a true miracle almost all rediculous actions of drivers ending up well.
The beauty of Israel amazed him, a favorite for him was the Timna national park and the Golan area. He liked the weather and the sea; especially the dead sea was a beautiful experience. We visited a friend in kibbutz Ha’ma Pill, the freedom, the beauty of the environment and the relaxed atmosphere showed him that the cities were not all the same and not all religious. We came around the holiday of Pesach. If I chose it now, I would not come with Pesach, a young, not religious man, really does not enjoy the matzos with every single meal.
The conclusion of this first experience in Israel is as follows: The country itself is beautiful, amazing even. The Palestinian stories told are plain lies, there is no Apartheid in Israel for the Arabs/Palestinians, there is however for Jews, that are not allowed to pray on Temple mount for example. The traffic is a horror show of idiots that do not value life as it seems. Israel is confusing; it looks like a civilized western nation but with the attitude of the Middle East. Israeli’s are not organized in the regular situations; they are never on time, payments take hours and hours, bureaucracy is huge and flexibility zero. This counts for everything except safety and security. However when you have friends, you have friends for life, the food (except for Pesach) is delicious, the weather is good.
For my son, the confusing part of Israel was too much. For him, it was a wonderful experience, but it is not his cup of tea. Unless his mother decides to live there, next time he will stay in Europe, but he did change his mind about the Israeli/Arab conflict. He saw all with his own eyes, which is most important to form an opinion.
For me, the mother, it became clear once again. Israel is my country; I love her, despite all the things that are not perfect. I am going to try to get a job in Israel and move to the country that captured my heart. It will not be easy, and I will need to network a lot, but it is my goal and life purpose.
Happy Birthday Israel for being 70 years the only shining star in a sea of darkness.