My wife and I recently went on a 10-day trip to Israel. Well, not exactly 10 days. Since the trip involved about three days of grueling travel time, we really had only seven actual days in Israel. (The flight from Tel Aviv to New York City was 12½ hours, then after 1½ hours of wait time, another 5½ hours to LAX. Hard to take for our old bones.)
Of course, we saw the required 9,716 churches on the trip, and each one was more beautiful that the one before. We also saw or visited every known important biblical site on the list, including (but not limited to) the Temple Mount, The Dome of the Rock, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada (my favorite), Megiddo, Qumran (where the Dead Sea scrolls where discovered) and Jericho. Shall I go on?
And, of course, we have 27,502 pictures to prove it. (I’ll send you all 27,502 if you’re interested.)
But I was very interested in some other things on the trip — mainly from the point of view of a business person.
One of them was the just-slightly-below-the-surface resentment of all things Israeli from our Palestinian tour guide. Then there was my impression of the differences I saw between Israeli cities and territories and that of the Palestinian areas.
Years ago, my wife and I went on a European trip just a year after the wall came down between the East and the West. That was also on a tour bus, and whenever we crossed the east/west border it was like going from Technicolor to black and white. Everything on the western side was green, clean, freshly painted and colorful. On the eastern side, everything was dismal, broken, run down and in black and white.
I noticed pretty much the same differences between Palestinian and Israeli territories. (Territories may not be an exactly accurate term, but I use it for convenience.) On the Israeli side, things were modern, clean, and seemed efficient, in working order and “in Technicolor.” On the Palestinian side, there were piles of trash everywhere, everything seemed broken or in disrepair, buildings were incomplete or run down, people were aimlessly standing around on street corners, smoking and clearly out of work or with nothing to do, and everything seemed to be in black and white.
Palestinian family-owned shops were ubiquitous and all the same — a small shop selling tchotchkes or souvenirs with one man sitting out front on a plastic lawn chair smoking a cigarette. It is probably the same as it was hundreds of years ago, except for the plastic lawn chair.
Since our return, I have had a much greater interest in the Palestinian/Israeli situation and have been studying about it. I now have a pretty clear understanding about the 1967 war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and the present stalemate between the Israel and Palestine. I certainly don’t have any answers to the seemingly impossible situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but I don’t think either side is completely right.
I do believe that the Palestinians could learn a lot from the Israelis. Certainly they could when it comes to developing their country, their economy and their people.
P.S. Our flight from Tel Aviv left at midnight the night before the recent rocket attacks began from the Gaza Strip. Although I don’t think we would have been in any immediate danger, I don’t think our timing could have been better.