In honor of my mom going to Israel for her 60th birthday (I couldn’t be more excited for her!), here’s a small tribute to the country outside of America I’ve spent the most time in and the only other place I’ve felt at home in. A little background on the subject, I’ve been to Israel twice, once to extend a week-long birthright trip to teach English for the summer as a homestay, and once with an ex, so despite being there just about three months total, my obsession with the holy land knows no bounds.
In fact, I almost moved there to join the army because I thought there was nothing cooler than being a medic or a shrink for the militia, knowing they all have to go through it as a normal milestone between high school and college. You may scoff and think it’s a terrible idea to force kids into adulthood and to fight, but they don’t see it like that as all. Only a country since the ‘50s, everyone who lives there is there by choice and they believe it’s their duty to protect the land. It instills responsibility, a sense of pride, teaches honor, and is a critical part of growing up that quite frankly, many college kids in the U.S. lack in maturity. Ultimately I chickened out for fear of language barriers (being that the only real Hebrew I know is not of the PG variety), but it’s not out of the question that I eventually end up there someday.
My mom, being the selfless, amazing parent she is (and one who I definitely don’t tell thank you enough…THANK YOU) never did anything for herself to ensure we had the best childhood possible, using all the normal excuses not to travel – it’s expensive, it’s hard to get time off, yada yada. But I’m so happy she’s finally putting herself first. Me and my brother even tried to win her a trip back in the day by making a terrible Youtube video about why she deserved to go, but alas, everything happens for a reason and the time is now.
So without further ado, here’s a little pump up for her (and everyone) on why I love Israel and think everyone should see a “war zone” for himself or herself.
It’s NOTHING like what you see on the news
The Gaza Strip is 139 square miles of a country that’s over 8,000 miles. Besides the stock footage of bombs, blood, and desert you’re shown on repeat, what they don’t show in the media is the incredible four climate zones that go from lush tropical rainforests in the north with one of the best botanical gardens on the planet to the amazing mountains all around and incredible beaches of Eilat, which have even become a bit of a party town on the Red Sea. Another thing you may not expect is there are armed soldiers EVERYWHERE. At first, you may be alarmed and wonder why they need machine guns guarding the entrance to the town mall, but after a couple days, you won’t even notice them, or in my case, even feel safer knowing you’re protected in any public place.
There are so many experiences you can only have there
Floating in the Dead Sea. Marveling at the sunrise from Masada. Traversing the desert on camelback and the formidable hospitality of the Bedouin people. Getting spiritual at the Western Wall. Doing unspoken things in bomb shelters…wait what? Ha, strike that last one. Point is, Israel’s a treasure trove of outdoor adventures, cultural pursuits, and historical landmarks with a wealth of activities that few other places in the world can offer in sheer quantity and breadth of diversity.
The sense of patriotism and welcomeness you’ll feel is like nowhere else on Earth. They know what we see on the T.V. and are so appreciative that you’ve made a choice not to believe it, support their economy and brave the negativity for yourself. Don’t be intimidated because they will ask direct questions, but it’s just their part of their culture. They love Americans and aren’t afraid to get into a good old-fashioned debate. They’re mentally breaking down the “dumb” American stereotype and the more educated global citizens we send abroad, the less the world will think of us as fat, Britney Spears loving, Bush supporters. And we’ll love them back for their gracious hospitality.