Report from Israel

All regular readers here should be aware that I am a great supporter of Israel. So I thought readers might enjoy a report from one of my readers about his recent trip to Israel. He is an American Jew of Chabad and politically conservative sympathies. I always enjoy his emails:

I've been back from my first trip to Israel in 36 years, since I was 16...went with my daughter who is 16, on her first trip.

I have a photo I took, in Jerusalem, in which I can count at least 7 building cranes. I remember Jerusalem as a sleepy backwater, but now it's a boomtown. And yes, I saw tourists, Jewish and non-Jewish, from just about every continent, and Jews who had moved there who blended together, albeit sometimes fitfully...but I just wanted to write to attest to the articles you have had about Israel and its strengths. They HAVE successfully done what the Arab world refused to do with its refugees, the Palestinians. Israel has integrated disparate people from many different backgrounds and given them sanctuary. That doesn't mean there haven't been HUGE problems of every kind, doing so, but overall, it has WORKED.

One image I have was walking in Mea Shearim, one of the older and poorer ultra-Orthodox sections of Jerusalem, and two young Ethiopian men, with knitted yarmulkes (i.e. a sign of a more "modern" Orthodoxy) talking to 2 Chassidim with payos, forelocks, going down almost to their waist...I wasn't sure what they were talking about, but they were smiling and laughing and getting along.

I also saw many Israeli Arabs walking in the western (i.e. 'new') section of Jerusalem, shopping in the same stores as the tourists, the kids in skin-tight clothes, the ultra-Orthodox and the rest of the melange that makes up Jerusalem. I don't doubt some resented the Jewish presence there, but I didn't see anyone fighting them, nor they fighting any Jews...they were all SHOPPING and giving their children ice cream. It belied all the stereotypes in the news.

I don't gloss over and did see evidence of many problems in Israel...but for what it has done and has had to deal with (I also was up in the Golan Heights and saw the detritus still left from the '67 war, the bombed-out buildings and many impromptu or small and unofficial roadside monuments to fallen Israeli soldiers) it is truly the amazing place that your articles have suggested. I was filled with pride, to be honest, though often enough the Israelis would fulfill some of the other stereotypes of themselves...prickly, obnoxious to deal with, and abrasive, but other times, they just made one smile and applaud. It is never dull there! But it is one thing to read about this, another to see it, to see what they have done with the country, to see the tremendous building everywhere.

And if they ever make peace, a true peace, AND get rid of some of the socialist economic policies and Byzantine bureaucracies they have (and confirmed to me by people I knew who lived there and I visited with), it could end up being a much bigger version of the success story that is Hong Kong. AND...if the Palis were ever able to get out of their own way (a HUGE "if" and probably a pipe dream) and make real peace, they would benefit more tremendously than anyone could believe; though obviously their biggest investment right now remains in hate and loathing and carrying on the memory of their defeats. But Israel and the Israelis would help them were they to decide they love life instead of courting death, of this I have not one iota of doubt.

Sorry for the length of this gushing tribute to Israel, which sounds like a propaganda speech, but is heartfelt. As I said, I saw the problems too, also up close, and at age 52, I am no starry-eyed youth who sees only the good, as did my daughter (who wanted to stay there and send for her mother and brother!), but the country is just vibrant and exciting.

And full of crazy people, incongruous things...and to end this...I sat one night on the Sea of Galilee, on a dock extending into it, at a restaurant, the one time I splurged on a nice meal for myself, while my daughter was touring with her group. I had a wonderful and kosher roast duck breast, prepared at tableside, with a beautiful glass of wine and some other dishes...and watched the lights surrounding the Sea, on the hills, saw the touring boats with thier dancers and revelvers on them..and suddenly, heard the strains of....bagpipes! They played for a bit, and then there was a medley of Irish songs, from a lakeside orchestra...and in this city holy to Jews, Tiberias, near a host of Christian holy sites, e.g. Capernaum and the Mount of Beautitudes and others...I hummed to the music of "O Danny Boy", and marveled at this insane place, Israel. And then I went back to my hotel where I watched cable TV, saw the Championship League title game from Moscow, infomercials in Hebrew and Russian, a Turkish channel, a Hindi channel of soap operas, American sitcoms with Arabic subtitles and American science-fiction and action-thrillers with Hebrew subtitles, and many other shows and channels.

That's Israel too. As are the huge buildings and factories near Tel Aviv, and yes, I saw the evidence of the international buying into Israel...Microsoft and IBM and many other large American companies. And they are there in SPITE of the insane bureaucracies and bad politics.

And one, truly last thing: Did I feel safe there? At first, it wasn't easy. I passed by many locations I remembered where bombs had gone off, in Jerusalem, the cafes and pizza shops...and guns are ubiquitous there, as each establishment has an armed guard now...but also, all the 18 year olds in the army wear their weapons, kids on leave wear their and women both...but after a while, one gets used to it, and doesn't think about it. The one thing I realized was that I don't remember a single instance of where someone armed went on a spontaneous rampage and shot up a university class or business establishment, as happens here frequently. Kids didn't kill each other in disputes over nothing, as happens here a great deal...terrorists, yes, people going, as we say, "postal" And that is in spite of the abrasiveness they do exhibit.

Almost all murders there, outside of terrorism, are your basic domestic violence-based. Husband shoots wife. Or, as I have told people, the other source is mafia-style killings, which literally happened yesterday, when a Tel-Aviv "business" lawyer's car was rigged to explode, which killed the lawyer. But I grew to feel safe or safer than I would here, and certainly more so than in certain places within the metropolitan area in which I live.

Anyway, again, my apologies for the length of this. But I wanted to just thank you again for the articles about Israel and to support what they have in them, as I witnessed in my return to Israel.

Posted by John Ray. For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. For a daily survey of Australian politics, see AUSTRALIAN POLITICS Also, don't forget your roundup of Obama news and commentary at OBAMA WATCH

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