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Paul Burri: Observations After Our Recent Trip to Israel

By Paul Burri, Noozhawk Columnist | @BronxPaul |

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.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer, guerrilla marketer and iconoclast. He is available to local organizations for speaking engagements and to local businesses for business consulting and/or mentoring. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not reflect the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous Paul Burri columns. Follow Paul Burri on Twitter: @BronxPaul.




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» on 12.31.12 @ 11:49 AM

Paul:

There’s nothing like getting a first-hand view and some facts on the ground.  Kudos for you to go beyond what we read and see on TV.

Have you had a chance to read The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan?  This is a relatively current account of some of the happenings in Israel/Palestine from the standpoint of a Palestinian and a Jewish family that shared the same house.  This true story spanning the 1940s to present is very interesting because you gain two perspectives from the same vantage point.

It will also provide some insight into how the Israelis are using the land and how the Palestinians are.

Did you get to Ramallah or Taybeh?  Taybeh’s a mostly Christian town and a good microcosm for understanding some of the facts on the ground without being obscured by the smoke.  My favorite stop there is the only Arab beer factory, started by an American family with Palestinian roots.  Understanding how they thrive despite having their water cut off intermittently, the restrictions imposed on what suppliers they can use, and you may start wondering how anyone can make a living in Palestine.

One of the lessons the Palestinians are trying to UNLEARN from the Israeli success story is that “by force” is the only way to establish your country. 

Read The Lemon Tree if still interested in knowing more about the complex situation.  I would also suggest The Palestine/Israel Conflict by Gregory Harms…it’s short, but full of detail and balanced.  The 1967 War is not much more than a punctuation point in this sad sentence.  Ironically, post-1967 War was the high water mark for Palestinian freedom since 1945.  That was the last time all the land was under one rule of law and their were no restrictions on travel.  The apartheid that set in has not served the Palestinians well.

» on 12.31.12 @ 02:51 PM

(less)Broader Picture, the Palestinian economy was also a disaster prior to 1967 and since the territories were controlled by Jordan, the Palestinians actually had less freedom than they do today. The two authors you reference are hardly objective sources for this long standing conflict. Read Harris Sherline’s column in the Sunday News-Press for another view of Israel.

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