My Israel Journal – First Trip

I have always wanted to visit Israel and was looking for a tour that included both fun and structure. Luckily a rare opportunity to  join a “Fact Finding Mission” was being offered by Daniel Pipes in the spring of 2012. The topic was to study the impact and attitudes of the Arabs who reside in the State of Israel.  Below is a short journal  of my thoughts, visual impressions, and analysis of this fascinating trip.

March 7…my first impressions

when I looked out the window from my plane and saw the Mediterranean coastline I got chills. It was so blue and calm. As the plane was landing, I could see jets from El Al, Israel’s airline, with the blue Jewish star on the tail of the plane… My eyes teared and I was so proud of my second country. To be Jewish and arrive in this historic land that travels back thru time thousands of years, can affect even the most secular Jew especially if your middle name is Judith.

The word “Zionism” is indeed beautiful.

Evidently I pose no threat to customs, no questions, no checks, just “welcome to Israel”.

The only words my taxi driver knew in English were “no problem”. This is evidently a very popular phrase here. There were moments as we drove on the highway towards Tel Aviv that I thought I could just as easily been in Southern California. My hotel is on the Mediterranean coast. I walk out the door and there is the beach. To greet me was 78 degree weather. I was able to check into my room even though I arrived hours before normal check in. I wanted to stay up, but I fell asleep almost immediately. It’s now 7pm and I ordered room service. My cousin, Igal, who helps run a Kibutz outside the Tel Aviv suburbs called me and we set a date to spend the day. It’s now dark and I am alone till I meet up with my study group tomorrow evening. I have to thank my brother who bumped my ticket to 1st class with completely reclining seats and incredible service. No aches in my body that I usually get from traveling coach.

I have a spectacular view from the 12th floor of the Hotel Carlton. Tomorrow I will have a free day and lots of sunshine.

The blue Mediterranean is calling me.

 

March 8…more impressions

Tel Aviv is fun, fun, fun! Today is Purim and many people old and young wear a costume and walk the boulevard. I noticed many little things and a few big. For instance, Israelis love children… and dogs. Many of the dogs still have their balls, unlike in the US. I guess this is a metaphor.

I was on a mission to get some dental floss which I neglected to pack and found a market that sells everything from hygiene to beauty to pharmaceutical supplies, so I went in….and guess what I saw…My brother’s products. I was filled with so much pride that I started to point this out to some strangers who said they thought the products were very good. One of the ladies working in the store said she met my bro before.

Everyone sits out in the cafes and talk… from very handsome men in tight jeans to families with lots of kids and little old ladies who I imagine have known each other all their lives. Food is really big in Israel. It is a feast everywhere I turn. It is alive yet calm, not filled with fear but a zest for life that is unparalleled.

I spoke with my other cousin, Pnina today. I met her only once before in NY when I was 19 years old. She does not remember me but I remember her. She is 15 minutes walking distance from my hotel so I hope to hook up with her.

I have only been here for one day really but I conclude that Israel is very strong and even with all its domestic problems, which are many, it is a magical place that is truly protected.

So in honor of Purim, let us hope that the Persian king will be stopped once and for all and this beautiful place can live in peace forever.

 

March 9…my first day trip

well, I met my traveling companions and they are nice. I particularly like this lady named Gail from Australia. We have people from Canada, the US, and Europe as well. I took a fabulous stroll along the Mediterranean with my new found Australian friend this morning.

Our first day trip was very interesting and complex. It was the ancient city of Jaffa. It is quite beautiful. The citizens of Jaffa are unique for Israel because it is one of the few cities where Jews and Arabs
co-habitate. It is intense. We were lectured by a Palestinian guy who has a pretty skewed sense of history. The revisionist story telling was almost embarrassing. We are a pretty educated bunch. There are several PHDs in my group and the middle east is among their fortes. I challenged a point or two, but it wasn’t worth the energy. His Israeli counterpart was even worse.

In my opinion she basically lives in fear and would do or say anything to appease the Arabs who seemed rather edgy. She was going overboard to justify his narrative with hers. The worthwhile part of these silly lectures was to see how some youth deal with the situation and how poorly they have been educated. More interestingly, the city itself is steeped in history. Napoleon visited Jaffa, it was a major trade route in the ancient world. It is actually considered a part of Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv’s infrastructure is falling apart. The problem is that Israel has to spend so much of its resources on defense that there is little left for domestic needs and some of the landlords are slumlords. The problems in Israel are so many I really don’t know where to begin.

 

Saturday, March 10

Can you believe gas is near $10 per gallon here! This should be plenty of incentive for Israelis to figure out energy independence. The pipeline from Egypt has been sabotaged numerous times and created serious problems.

Israel is indeed a diverse microcosm of races and ethnic groups. Some of the most stunningly beautiful people here are the black Ethiopian Jews. They are tall, muscular, with big smiles and beautiful skin.

Today we will get a personal presentation by Philippe Karsenty, a French cutie who uncovered “The Dura Affair”. I happen to have some prior knowledge of this topic. It is about a phony balony video made in “Pally-wood” (Palestinian Hollywood) where the Israeli Defense Force is shown murdering a poor little boy and seriously injuring his father during one of Israel’s many defensive battles. It was an obvious hoax unjustly propagandised on French TV, but by the time it was proven, Europe, Africa, and many other countries used this fiasco to fuel anti-semitism and anti-zionism. The impact of this charade did immeasurable damage to Israel, and no matter what, the idiot French gov’t did little to nothing to correct the lies. The lawsuit is still going on.

We leave Tel Aviv tomorrow morning and arrive in Haifa, another city where Arabs and Israelis live uncomfortably close.

By the way, our tour leader, Dr. Daniel Pipes has been asked to address the Knesset. This is the equivalent of our Congress. We have been invited to attend. I am pretty excited about this. I’m going to have to put on my business suit. I’ll look fabulous!

 

March 10th again…a glorious Sunny day

Going north from Tel Aviv is beautiful. The hills are a patchwork of greens, ancient cities nestled in its curves. From a distance you see the Minarets pierce the sky with shiny domes reflecting the light. The call to prayer is pretty. Today we became among the first Jews to visit two purely Arab Villages west of the “Green Line”.

The first village was Baka El Garbyia where we spoke with the Mayor and an Israeli-Arab member of Knesset, as well as the first woman to be appointed to a government position in her village. She was very sweet. They were Arab peaceniks. They love living in Israel and profess that they are not anti-Semites, yet they observe “Nakba”, which is “the Disaster or Catastrophe”. This “Disaster” being the rebirth of Israel as a Jewish State in 1948. They have blood stained posters hanging on the walls of their gov’t building and refuse to sing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. They believe in their narrative and will never budge from it. You rarely see a woman on the street and when you do they are clad head to toe in dark cloth. The men are dressed normal. I only saw a few in flowing white robes. It is horribly economically depressed. From a distance it looks so beautiful with its geometric architecture and stunning attention to design detail.

But up close it is filthy with garbage everywhere.

The second village is Umm al-Fhem. We met Said Abu Shakra, who is an Israeli-Arab that doubles as village policeman and curator of the first Art museum for Israeli-Arabs in the region. His brother is a well known artist here and in England. He was discovered by Holocaust survivors and nurtured into the extraordinary artist he is today. Many of you know I love this style of art and I was enthralled with the museum and gave Said a couple of good ideas. He actually wanted my card and asked if he could pick my brain, he seemed genuinely grateful for my imput. He is an interesting guy… emotional and pragmatic. His narrative is the same as the others but he wants people to come to his museum. He is stuck because there is a reputation in his village for Islamic extremists. He says it’s exaggerated but as we all know it only takes one apple to spoil the barrel.

We traveled along the separation wall. The wall was built to keep out suicide bombers. It has saved countless lives. We proceeded through the Sharon Valley, Wadi Ara, Galilee, Nazareth, Carmel Mountains towards Haifa!

In Nazareth we met an ex IDF soldier who was hard-line to the right. I admire him greatly. He runs the cultural center and the city council in Nazareth. This area is very close to Hizballah and there is definitely tough relations between the Israeli Arabs and the Jewish Israelis. Zeev Hartman, that’s his name, is an extraordinarily ethical war hero. He defends democracy and believes most Arabs living in his area are good citizens. But again it only takes one to disrupt the fine line. I find Zeev’s narrative profoundly moving. He runs a charity that benefits wounded IDF soldiers that have been so badly disfigured that they can’t go out in public. He is building a community center in Nazareth just for them. I love this cause and want to speak with my bro about it when I return.

Because of the trouble these past few days in Gaza there were demonstrations among the Arabs along our route. These demonstrations were lead by a few Arab Knesset members and of course film crews were on hand. Our bus was stuck for a while, but it was pretty entertaining. The Knesset members were directing the demonstrators for the benefit of the cameras like a Hollywood movie.

In Haifa we checked into the hotel and the view from my room is spectacular. The city lights and the Mediterranean coast line are so romantic. Dinner at the hotel was the usual feast fit for a Queen. I am going to come back fat. We sat through two lectures, The first was by the Mayor of Haifa, (I think I love him.)
He discussed the nuts and bolts of population and fertility growth throughout the 20th century of Jews, Arabs, Christians, and Druses according to their economic status. I faded away during the second lecture and returned to my room for the night.

Outside the wind is howling and inside my head is spinning. The Israeli-Arabs are a precarious bunch. They are caught in the middle between their loyalties to the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank (Judea and Sumaria) and Israel. I do not believe it is possible to reach any agreement with them except to agree to disagree. Co-existence is the goal with a hope to move forward towards peace. I don’t think things will change. Perhaps, at times there will be less violence, but I think that is all you can hope for.

  Where to begin…, March 11

We had a professor come and lecture us about the Arab population in Israel, mostly Demographic and Socio-Economic indicators. We learned various statistical data regarding schooling, life expectancy, fertility growth, income levels, and the poverty lines. Their biases against Zionism and how they use the system to justify Arab Nationalism in Israel. It was interesting.

I had a conversation with a lady who spent time in the Negev with the Beduin. She was working with a group of religious Jewish women who cared for severely deformed and disabled children that the Beduin toss out at birth. There is a lot of inter-family marriage and this causes a lot of genetic birth defects. She was part of a group of Americans  (JNF) just after the 2008/9 war with Gaza.  Religious Jewish young women were lovingly tending the most terribly deformed little human beings you could ever imagine. The images of a lovely religious girl kissing and nursing a 6 month old boy with no top to his head, and a baby girl, dressed in pink, tiny as a kitten, with no eyes, haunted her for months. Yes, they were Beduin babies.  The institution was very close to Gaza, in the path of rockets daily, girls rushing children to bomb shelters, while negotiating with Arab staff members, who sympathized with their folks in Gaza, to make this area a politics-free zone.

Most of the day however I spent walking for hours along the glorious Mediterranean coast. All the beautiful young families with their cute babies and leash less dogs enjoying the sunshine. Endless cafes with colorful food. As much as I enjoy the lectures some of my favorite moments have been hanging out at the beach and people watching.

And at the same moment that everyone seems to be enjoying the sunshine …Gaza was a battle ground. The Israelis took out a terrorist who was recently released as part of the exchange deal for Gilad Shalit. This a-hole was in the process of planning an attack on the Egyptian border. The reason for the Israeli attack was twofold. Hamas was also launching rockets into an Israeli neighborhood and injured 8 people.

That is everyday life here in Israel.

 

so much…It’s a blurr…March 12

There is so much to say about today. Our visit to the ancient fortress of Acre. Lunch in the Bazaar and an informal lecture by an adorable young man who spoke about the Israeli-Arab youth and because of their religious constraints and raging hormones are a handful. His approach is on a very personal level, however neither the Jews nor the Arabs can disconnect from the national conflict.
I had been hearing all day about The Sea of Galilee, the Jordan river, where Jesus got his crown of thorns and from our bus, a short distance up a hill was where Jesus stood and recited his Sermon on the mount. We visited the Golan, Tiberias, Jordon Valley, and Jericho. Learned about the complicated water situation with Jordan and the Arabs of the area. Clusters of villages dotted the landscape with wild flowers of purple, yellow and red carpeting the hillsides. Exotic fruits, olive trees, cows, goats, horses and more Israeli and Arab settlements. And all this time reflecting on my life with my new found Australian friend.
….and then we entered East Jerusalem thru the West Bank. All the soldiers at the check points were serious and focused. A machine gun draped across a female IDF guard.
l could feel the thickness of Jerusalem’s importance in the air I breathed. Orthodox Jews scurried through the streets, rows of limestone structures framed the highway.
As I entered the Old City , I knew I was entering the most important, controversial, deep and energetic city in the world. I checked into my hotel room which is very comfortable. As I went down to dinner I stopped for a second to watch a large Orthodox wedding party on the same floor as our dining room. All the men in their black rimmed hats were dancing on one side of the room and the girls in their black gowns were giggling and whispering on the other side. One cute teenage boy waiting for the elevator was locking and popping to a lively traditional Jewish wedding song. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his well executed stylish moves and his traditional clothes and music.
Dinner was very special for me. Daniel Pipes, our scholarly host, ended up sitting next to me. Our conversation flowed from reflections on the lectures we listened to in the past few days, to the fate of Europe’s Jewish population. We discussed whether Europe’s culture will survive in spite of the Islamization of its lands and the impact of the rise of right wing extremism in reaction. Our last topic was about a review Daniel wrote on Jeffrey Herf’s book “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World”. His review compelled me to read it. This was a stunning conversation. We both agreed that the information in this book from recently released archives is a game changer and that the impact the Nazis had on the Arabs was far greater than anyone knew. We discussed the 90 thousand short wave radios that were strategically scattered throughout the muslim world, reaching the most remote tribal areas, and how from 1939 to 1944 the Nazis diabolically spewed anti-Semitic propaganda in Quranic style verse 24/7. We also discussed how Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti, Hajj Hamin al Husseini, was an advisor to the architects of Hitler’s “final solution”. Hitler started out destroying the Jews economic structure in Germany and deporting them to Palestine. In the beginning he allowed them take their possessions and money. It was Husseini’s aggressive objections to this influx of Jews into Palestine that encouraged Hitler to change his course to extermination.

Character…March 13

Needless to say… Israel is full of character and characters, and this includes some of my companions on the bus. Today, we visited a couple of Arab villages. The one that struck me the most was a village in east Jerusalem where we met a monk from some ancient order. He was the real deal. A twinkle in his eye, a rolly poly tummy and a wonderful tale to tell of his adventures from Norway to this ancient Israeli-Arab village. The movie, “Exodus” with Paul Newman and Sal Mineo was his inspiration. He was refreshingly funny yet had a true message of hope from the heart. He has no parishioners because there are no Christians living in the village. So he makes candles, pottery and grows food in the Monastery gardens to raise money. The most extraordinary thing about him, besides his peaceful demeanor, was that the IDF embraces him and he is regularly visited by the soldiers. Before we departed his encapsulated world he sang for us… the voice of an angel.

On another note, before we found the Monastery we had a little adventure that lasted about 15 minutes. After we arrived in the Arab Village, our tour guide told us to feel free to wonder on the main street (which had nothing on it) and meet at a “traffic circle” about a half mile up the road. Little did he know that there were 2 traffic circles. So me, my Aussie friend, and this obnoxious little man from Boston somehow got separated from our group and thought we had been abandoned because we found the other “circle” and were waiting there for our purple bus. We were laughing so hard but underneath that we couldn’t believe how 30 people could simply disappear. Believe me, you had to be there. People seemed very interested in us and wanted to engage us in conversation. Two ladies clad in black asked me if I thought they were pretty, and four Arab teenage boys practicing their English asked us where we were from. We asked them their names: Mohammed, Mohammed, Husseni, and Mohammed…. Ok…

Shortly after, we found our group near the Monastery hidden among the trees.

Later in the evening, after dinner, another character we met was Israel’s former Ambassador to Greece and Finland, Ali Yahya. He was boisterous, a bit of a diamond in the rough with a big Walrus mustache. I’m not sure what I learned from him but we are all invited to his house for dinner the next time we’re in Israel. In all seriousness his message was that “life is stronger than politics”. For many, Radical Islam is a way to escape for people who are repressed -and do not have opportunity to improve their family’s life. He also thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood likes the idea of having 4 wives and does not want to give that up. He strongly believes that Arab-Israelis are different from Palestinians. From what I can tell there may be some truth to it but I am skeptical. Most Arabs I meet do not want to live in the surrounding Arab neighborhoods and love living in Israel. However, they feel disenfranchised. In some ways Israel would do well to utilize these people more in a political way. Have them represent themselves to the world as loving Israel and wanting the best for it. I don’t really think this would happen. If it comes down to choosing loyalties, the Arabs will choose the Arabs.

The toughest issue is trust. This, I have no answer for and neither does anyone else except maybe the encapsulated Monk.

I must say the view of the old city from afar is breath taking….

our Last Supper…March 14

This morning we all awoke in great anticipation of visiting the Knesset and listening to our intellectual powerhouse of a host address a committee on the Arab world country by country. He was eloquent, insightful, prophetic and balanced. I won’t bother going from country to country reiterating his assessment but I will say that U.S. “policy” in the middle east is a dismal failure. We also heard Danny Danon, who may one day be the prime minister of Israel. I met him once before when I was invited by my brother to join he and Danny for coffee at the BH Hotel. Besides Danny’s impassioned views, he is very easy on the eyes.

On to old Jerusalem and the Wailing Wall, Southern wall excavations, the City of David , Mount Scopus, Mount of Olives, Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque. I wailed at the Wall and put my tightly wrapped paper into a hard to find crack. My paper said, “Put the Temple back”.

I had a wonderful time doing a little shopping in the old city. The arched stones and paved streets enclosed the rambling bazaar. It seemed to go on for miles. Endless fabrics, wood carvings, trinkets, religious symbols, one of a kind art, honey roasted nuts and delicious bagels. The Jewish and Arab shop keepers luring me into their stores with promises of treasures. I bought a piece of Art.

After a relaxing bath I got ready for a conference on “Jerusalem”, How important is it to Muslims? It was being held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Begin is one of my heroes. The Panel consisted of the elite of the elite. We learned about the historical aspects of the Muslim claim to Jerusalem, The New Islamic ethos of Jerusalem-between reality and Imagination, the politics of Jerusalem, How Jerusalem Became holy to Islam, radical Islam’s relation to Jerusalem and the West, and Erasing Jewish Jerusalem and fabricating Muslim Jerusalem. It was one of the highlights of my trip.

I walked away with a pretty good sense that Islam is like a bad “B” movie,  recycled and distorted stories from Christianity and Judaism. Deep inside the Muslims are obsessed with their own lack of legitimacy.

After the conference and our last dinner together, I said goodbye to my study group. Tomorrow I will return to Tel Aviv and spend the rest of my time soaking up the atmosphere, making day trips to the Dead Sea, more Jerusalem, check out a chess club, go tango dancing and perhaps Eilat…just being a bit more frivolous. For instance, I am thinking of growing my hair long….

March 18

I am off today to the dead sea to soak up the mud, purify my skin in the salt water and have a massage. I am so ready for this and if I like it I’ll go back again before my departure.

I stopped writing my journal after the group ended because I felt rather like a lost lamb. But this lovely lady in our group from England who writes a blog for the Jerusalem Post about the forgotten Jewish refugees from the Arab countries (and a real mench) accompanied me by taxi back to Tel Aviv from Jerusalem and we went to dinner and then Israeli folk dancing. I could not believe it, there were probably 350 people dancing and two-thirds were safardic.

I spent the next day hanging out at the Tel Aviv Museum. It took all day to get through the massive structure. The art for the most part was very inventive on the modern side and absolutely stunning on the impressionist side. My favorite exhibit was on loan to the museum by a Jewish family. It was a magnificent collection of the world renowned impressionists. How one family can own this art is mind boggling.

The post study group highlight so far was a visit to my cousin Igal’s Kibutz. This place is a throwback to the socialist era when jews made aliya in the turn of the century. This kibutz is over 92 years old. It has 1000 residents plus day workers from Thailand, Ethiopia, and some Arab Israelis. There are many sides to this special place. First of all the communal dining room where everyone eats: People have their favorite table in the big hall that they sit at. It is not kosher to claim a space but it is the unspoken right for my cousin to claim the table by the window. The cafeteria has a nice assortment of food, anything that you want, topped with several types of coffee drinks and desserts, (I could get into it this life style). After you finish eating you take your tray and plates to the back kitchen and put them into a long rambling assembly line style dish washer . It’s all very orderly and “communal”.

After we finished eating we visited a tiny art museum. It was a small, simple building on this sprawling piece of land but it was a privilege to visit it. The curator was in the process of hanging two small exhibits. The theme of the first was “women”. Most of the art was African and it was delightful. But the one that made me cry was a precious collection of post cards and family pix from a Polish/Jewish family sent to cousins in Israel just prior to being sent to Auschwitz. The Artist took each post card and attached it to a cloth background and in the finest needle point meticulously extended the card’s scenery beyond their small size and created a larger story with each one. For instance if the family was in front of their house then you also saw the entire street with a row of houses and trees and neighbors next to it. It was so beautifully executed and touching that I think it belongs in the Tel Aviv Museum for the world to see.

By the way my cousin, Igal is such a cute guy, a pure character and artist, and his wife is very sweet. He has OCD so I am not able to visit his home on the kibutz. It is part of his illness that people outside his immediate family are excluded. It didn’t bother me but it is a bit difficult for his wife who can’t invite her friends over for coffee and must instead go to their homes.

After the museum we went to see a screening of one of Igal’s older films in a tiny projection room. It was a charming tale of a mime and a little boy traversing the countryside together. It was sweet.

We then took a short tour of the offices that keep the Kibutz running and Igal proudly showed me his beautiful photos displayed on the walls of the offices from various trips to China, India and Africa. He is invited to various countries to teach a technique he created of turning still photos into movies.

Shortly after, we exchanged the small car we were in for a pick- up truck and went out to the factories and fields of the kibutz. They grow several products on the land: wheat, lemons, avocados and oranges to name a few. We drove across narrow, bumpy dirt roads surrounded by ready to harvest fruits and stopped to eat some oranges along the way.

One area had these huge pools of water where they grow fish for market. The process is fascinating. They oxygenate the water to create the right environment, the fish are trained to actually request food when they are hungry and when they are the right size, there is a method to drain these large ponds to gather the fish for market. They also raise exotic fish for display tanks. Some of these fish are as much as $1000 each.

Our last stop before I returned by bus to Tel Aviv was Natanya, a village close by where their beautiful daughter lives with her Safardic husband and 2 rambunctious boys. We had coffee and sweets and talked about various things. One topic of interest is that many members of the kibutz are frustrated with the socialist ideals and want to change the system to owning their own homes and keeping their own money. In kibutz life, even if you make money outside the kibutz, the money you make must go to the Kibutz. So Igal cannot save any money for his children. There are over 200 Kibutz in Israel and most of them are altering their systems.

Our visit concluded with a short question and answer session about my life and when I was going to return to Israel…..hmmm…let’s see, November is my birthday….

 

March 23..my last week

I spent Monday at the Dead Sea. As we rode the bus through the desert, passing sweet faced camels and Shanty style Beduin camps, high in the hills I saw the entrances to the ancient caves that once housed the history and mystery of thousands of years of Jewish thought and treasure. I visited the Dead Sea scrolls in Jerusalem. These precious documents clarify beyond a doubt that God gave this land to the Jewish people and no matter what their maniacal foes may try to do or say to destroy this bond, they will not succeed.

I spent the day floating in the salty water, packing myself head to toe with magic mud and baking in the sun until it fell off me like a snake shedding its skin. I treated myself to a relaxing massage and returned to Tel Aviv all fresh and shiny. Upon my return, I heard the horrific news of the innocent children and the Rabbi who were slain by a Radical Islamic terrorist. The chicken shit French gov’t first said it was probably a right wing Nazi extremist (close but no cigar). Then they said it must be some psychologically impaired man suffering from the trauma of being a second generation immigrant, (uhu…), then finally they opened door #3 and got it right! A “radical Islamist extremist”!

All of Israel is in mourning. This incident is a stab in the heart of every Jew. The French gov’t does nothing to curb this behavior and fosters it in their academia and media. It’s time for the Jews to leave Europe. This is what Israel is for. A place where you have a Jewish army that carries guns. The Jews in Europe are living in a fool’s paradise. Israel is waiting for you.

Europe has created hysterical anti-Semitics by allowing this modern day blood liable in the media and universities. They have fermented and contributed to a lynch mob atmosphere. The French, British, and Dutch media among others is extremely hostile and inaccurate about Israel. It justifies the spread of radical islamist ideology that tells Muslims to do jihad on jews and Israel.

I visited Jerusalem for 2 days in a row, taking the #480 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and then a fun ride throughout the whole city on the light rail. On one of my trips I sat next to an Israeli soldier who was finishing his third year in the army. He explained that he went awol for 2 months and was punished by having to serve another 1 1/2 years. He seemed nice but I was disappointed in him.

My first day trip, I spent the whole day in the museum of Israel. This museum begins 8-10,000 years before Christ, so you can only imagine how long it took to get to the common era. There were coins (shekels) from the time of King David, an amazing account of Jewish History starting 2 thousand  years before Christ. Moses led his people to Jerusalem a long time ago and now we are back as God promised. And that’s that.

My second day trip to Jerusalem I spent the whole day at Yad Vashem. This is one of the holiest places on earth. It is the definitive Holocaust museum. I walked in at 11:30am and out at 6pm, perhaps changed forever. I have always had difficulty walking into Holocaust museums. I live a 4 minute walk from one and never visited. Once my best friend and I decided to go to the Museum of Tolerance on Pico Blvd. and we ran out after the first 3 minutes when we heard the re-enactment of the sounds of the cattle cars. (I guess we are survivors at heart.)

I lost my faith in mankind through much of the exhibit. The unimaginable horror that the Nazis inflicted cannot be described by words. And the fact that the citizens of all these countries went along with this nightmare again makes me speechless. But the survivors accounts are etched in the souls of everyone who visits this place. The horror of the pictures and film clips, the destruction of a beautiful culture, no words I could ever write could truly describe it so I won’t try. Towards the end of a long day of endless horror, there were stunning accounts of the brave Jewish and some not Jewish resistance organizations and individuals who courageously fought. (I imagined my brother joining them if we were alive then.)

As I was making my way through the history of 1933-1945 there was a group of Israeli soldiers that were bused in to visit the museum. They were paratroopers in the IDF. All of them were young, strong and looked serious and thoughtful, understanding what they are all about. I thought that if the Jews had an army like these young men, this Nazi nightmare never would have happen.

And when the Jewish people struggled to make their way to Israel, it was not easy. They were turned away by almost every country, including the US.  Don’t be mislead by your history books. It was possible that Roosevelt could have bombed the crematoriums, we flew quite near them, he could have bombed the railroad tracks that carried countless starving, sick people to their deaths, we flew right by them.

Churchill and Roosevelt knew this nightmare was going on..

I understand now what the” Kibutz” was all about. It was not some “socialist experiment”. It was a wonderful way to re-create a family for all the broken individuals who saw their loved ones get murdered and were all alone. My cousin Tova lived on a kibutz…. and she also lives forever in the film archives at Yad Vashem.

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