Israel 2008

Days, weeks, months have passed since you have heard from me. Much happening. Most recently, back from a trip to Israel.

Israel, I must talk about Israel. What a joy! And what changes! It had been 14 years since I had been there and yes, lots more development, more high-rises, more shopping malls, restaurants, boutiques but the real difference is the people. I’m not referring to all the Ethiopians who are now living there which you see scattered around, many doing security jobs. beautiful dark skinned people speaking Hebrew and laughing with their fellow light skinned comrades. I’m talking about the attitude of the people. It’s simple to explain. No more hearing the word Mapeton – now it’s Avanti – Mapeton! Defined in English – “What are you talking about” or “No way!” Avanti defined in English- “I understand” Yes, Israelis have become better listeners, less hard, more soft, more cosmopolitan. Is this the result of globalization? That is what Aliza Olmert says the Prime Minister of Israel’s wife when we were having coffee in her residence.

Now when a young soldier finishes his army he /she travels for a year. Generally it’s South America or India since both places are inexpensive and then they buckle down and head off to university. Could this year of travel have something to do with the changes? Perhaps, but I also see the changes in the older folks, my generation – more refined, cultured, less out to prove they are always right. Or are these perceptions just mine and slanted because I’m older now and see things differently?
Hmm? I don’t know. I do know that I felt very much at home there. The people were warm, gracious, generous, embracing and looked great. No obese people you see roaming around in America. Meals are healthy. Breakfast consists of chopped vegetables: cucumbers, tomatoes- diced up and sprinkled with lemon juice, oil, and salt – olives and pickles next to it, some slices of white cheese, eggs cooked to your liking, bread, frequently whole grain. No fry potatoes, corn beef hash, or pancakes.

We volunteered in the army. We being mom and I. There is a volunteer program called Sar-el, which I highly recommend if you want to do something to help – It’s more like being a good will ambassador. Yes, there are many manual tasks that you are assigned to from painting walls, sidewalks, cleaning floors, pots and pans, separating ammunitions casings to use for scrap metal and so on. You sleep in army barracks, eat with the soldiers (breakfast and dinner are identical and the same every day – healthy but that does get old after a while – fresh sliced orange peppers, diced vegetable salad, cabbage salad, olives and pickles, hard boiled eggs, bread and if you are there at Passover as we were you get Matzoh. Lunch is the big meal and that’s where you could enjoy some other form of protein, like chicken or fish and a carbohydrate like rice or pasta.

We took a solidarity trip to Sderot, a small Israeli city outside the Gaza Strip which is often hit by missiles. The economy is depressed there and they organize bus loads of people to go there to visit and shop, to help boost the economy. We ate at a little Moroccan stand. The woman who owned the small restaurant has been living there for years. She talked about the time her house was hit by a missile when her children were in it. They luckily survived. Her home was destroyed. She explained they live in constant fear. It’s a sad story. All around it’s sad. I left Israel wondering what it would take to make peace. There are children being born into this world who only know of war, violence and hardship. Many are being raised to be martyrs.

My girlfriend Carmela is an architect. Quite talented. Her home is gorgeous. What’s funny is to see her car. Brand new, not cleaned with dents. Too busy to clean the car she says, and the dents don’t really matter. People park there cars on sidewalks, stairs, opposite directions, almost upside down is okay, too. Driving.. Hmm? Well, I didn’t drive there but was a passenger and found myself often yelping when I felt we were too near collision. Actually we had one collision. Wasn’t too bad, Car hit us from behind. Nothing more than bumper damage.

Everyone kept saying the country is bilingual – English and Hebrew. They are right. Many people do speak English and it’s not uncommon in the big cities to find menus in English. And yes on the main roads, the signs with the destinations are often in Hebrew, Arabic and English. However, most other street signs such as parking signs, exit signs in parking lots are only in Hebrew. There was no way I could make out what those Hebrew letters meant. If I had rented a car I probably would have received several parking tickets and maybe have even had my car towed.

If you are a human move to Israel. You will be loved and nourished. If you are car don’t move to Israel. You will rarely be cleaned and often bruised from small accidents. All cars move to Los Angeles where you will be cleaned, shined and buffed. Humans stay away from LA.

Those are my thoughts and I’d love to hear yours. By the way, Chelsea stayed home with her friends and had a great time I’m told.
Love to you all. Gayle

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