A day late and several hundred dollars short, we finally prepare to leave the ancient land of Eretz Yisrael, the land of Judea and Samaria, home to seemingly opposing religions and nationalities that have more in common than anyone cares to admit. As I was writing my entries on this trip, I intended to eventually address politics because Israel is a place where you simply can’t avoid it (especially when politically charged attacks happen while you’re there); however, every time I tried to write, I found my words sounding like a gross oversimplification of some very complicated issues. As a result, I finally abandoned the attempt. It’s probably just as well since religion and politics are intricately bound here, and some may say that an agnostic is an unfair judge on matters of religion. As an agnostic, it’s easy for me to declare that no one truly has a right to land. Aside from a belief that we should attempt to preserve historical sites for everyone equally, I have no position on who-has-rights-to-what. My only steadfast beliefs on this topic are: a) all life is precious, and b) we all have an equal right to live freely and with dignity. My fervent hope is that the people involved in Israel’s conflicts can eventually resolve their issues with as much grace as possible, honoring life and the rights of all individuals involved.
Aside from politics, one of the things that impressed itself upon me throughout this trip is how the threat of conflict shapes a culture. Israel is certainly not unique in this, but perhaps it was more obvious to me because some of that conflict occurred during my visit, and also because so much of the infrastructure that is visible to a foreigner seems to be based upon a simple fact of life: peace is fragile. Because the people in this part of the world know this all too well, there are multiple security checkpoints throughout the country, bomb disposal containers in high-risk areas, armed IDF soldiers at every turn, and security checks just to enter a mall coffee shop to buy a cappuccino. At any moment, an innocent-looking suitcase can be left at a bus stop and explode. At any moment, rockets can be fired into someone else’s territory. And life goes on. Part of that life may be complicated and fraught with conflict, but part of that life is also incredibly beautiful: a lovely young woman celebrating her Bat Mitzvah, a family rejoicing in an opportunity to be together, people of all kinds worshiping in the ways of their beliefs, and a breathtaking landscape infused with history, and enhanced by the different cultures that live upon it.
As always, I feel grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to visit this place, but I am especially grateful to David and his family for making it such a rich and memorable experience.
Thanks for sharing the journey. Until the next trip…