Sunday, June 01, 2008

Some Kosher Love

In my entire life, Israel only represented two things in my mind: Jesus-land and a warzone (a bit on the extreme ends of the spectrum, don't you think?). When I was told by my company that I was going to get sent to Tel Aviv for four weeks, I didn't know how to take the news. As a Catholic, I was glad that I was given an opportunity to go to the Holy Land. On the other hand, as a human being that watches CNN and the BBC quite frequently, I was practically convinced that I would never make it back to Singapore in one piece.

In the interest of keeping my job, I sucked it up and packed up my bags with the bare minimum as I heard that airport security gives the word scrutiny new meaning. And I also made it a point to stop watching any international news channel. They were simply giving me the heebie jeebies. I flew twelve grueling hours to Istanbul and another two hours to Tel Aviv. I was beyond knackered, but my nervousness remained.

Prior to leaving Singapore, I had at least four million people bidding me farewell and "please take care of yourself" comments. They were harboring the same fears as I. I'm guessing we all watched the same channels on cable TV.

However, isn't it that the best surprises usually come by when there aren't any expectations?

I never expected to fall in love with Israel the moment that I stepped out of the Ben Gurion airport. The weather was gorgeous and the thirty minute ride into Tel Aviv had me mesmerized -- let's face it, I didn't expect Israel to be that beautiful and I solely blame it on the media. The media does not give Israel the credit it deserves. It only shows of the war, poverty and unrests that are present in the country. But what about everything else? Sure, admittedly, Israel has more socio-political problems than a teen-ager has zits, but its positive attributes definitely outweigh its negative ones. Seriously, who would've thought that great wine could be manufactured in the midst of a desert? Move over Napa Valley...

As for safety -- pffft! I never dreamed in a million years that I would say this: I felt safer in Tel Aviv than I did in central London. For twenty five nights, I pranced around the city at night with my colleagues without any lingering fears or doubts. We ate (very) good food, we drank merrily by the seaside, we enjoyed the local scene and we befriended the people. During the weekends, we rode camels, had long car rides through the desert, soaked in the Dead Sea, toured the Old City of Jerusalem and followed Jesus' path of agony at the Via Dolorosa (a bit of culture doesn't hurt anyone, no?). During the week days, well, we had to work. Not much to say about that unfortunately.

Nonetheless, it was an experience worth gold. But more importantly, it was a lesson worth learning -- to never judge a country based on what you hear about it. Do not attribute suckage towards a place that you haven't been to because you haven't earned the right to bash it yet until you've seen it with your very own eyes (just a personal philosophy).

I envy the patriotism that inhabits the Israelis (which was best illustrated during the celebration of the country's 60th Independence Day). And I envy the heart of the Jews even more. Israel is a melting pot of Jews from all over the world in their desire to "be with their people." As simple as that. They want to be with their people, plain and simple. I find it ironic... where I come from, more people are itching to escape their lives in my native land than otherwise (and not to be a hypocrite, technically, I'm one of those people).

As I stick another thumb tack onto my map of places I have been to, I know that Israel will remain as one of my favorites for the mere fact that the journey has taught me more than I ever expected to learn. And it reminded me once again that God created such a beautiful place for us to live in.

And also, kosher food isn't that bad... :P

I'm not a fussy traveller, but I really wouldn't want to travel on this everyday...


Blogger APOO said...

Completely agree with your views on Israel. The media has it all hyped up in the wrong way. Anyone I know who visited the place ended up in love with it.

12:29 AM  
Blogger jellyhead said...

What an insight. I, too, would not have expected Israel to be as you experienced it.

You look so cute and petite on that camel! Thanks for the photo.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Electric bearbearina said...

Tsk! Did your plant not tell you that Israel is totally safe? Listen to your plant. Mistletoe is smarter than you think ;)

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Wine Tasting Guy said...

What a great & moving recount of your experience. There are many people for whom I would love to reproduce this piece of yours. Good for you for overcoming your fears and good for you for having such an amazing time.

Thanks for the great post!

10:21 PM  
Blogger thisisme said...

Great photo - thank you for sharing that :)

I really enjoyed this post - I've always been intrigued by Israel and wanted to visit, so you have given me a magical taste. Thank you!

1:08 PM  
Blogger Chaitali Patel said...

Lovely post and I am so jealous that you got a chance to go to Israel. :) I watched an episode of a show called Thirsty Traveler that featured Tel Aviv and it did look like a beautiful, fun city.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Vik Rajagopalan said...

I just did not realize you actually came back to the Blog world :-).
Isn't it strange that most times that is how prejudiced we become about people, race, country etc. Thanks to the Media hype. I think I just got a bit Jealous when you said what you got to do in Israel.. I am glad you had a wonderful time there :-]

1:06 PM  

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