Friday, January 24, 2014

Israel - Then and Now

Rhonda and I have just returned from a 10-day trip to Israel - a trip designed for "first-timers."  Now though Rhonda was a first-timer, I was actually a "third-timer," having visited Israel in 1966 and 1980.  When I visited as a "first-timer" I was in my late 20's and Israel was 18.   How did my sense of the country change over this 48-year span.

I still remember the words of our guide Max, in 1966, as he addressed our group on entering Tel Aviv after having landed at Lod Airport.  He pointed out to us (a group of US Military officers) that the people cleaning the streets were Jewish, even the criminals were Jewish and, yes, the prostitutes were also Jewish!  There was no West Bank. There was no East Jerusalem to visit. There was no Western Wall to approach  There were armed Jordanian soldiers readily visible in towers overlooking us as we walked the streets of Israeli Jerusalem.  Most of the Israelis we met were European by birth.  So many questioned why we were still part of the Diaspora and refused to emigrate to the State of Israel.  Israelis would accost us in the streets to lecture us, with a classically Israeli uninvited insistence, that the place for Jews was Israel - all Jews should feel an obligation to emigrate.   I felt disrespected as a Jewish-American.  I was made to feel less Jewish, made to feel that Israelis did not consider me a committed Jew unless I committed to an intention to emigrate.  I was clearly uncomfortable.

Fast forward to 2014.  I'm in my mid-70's and Israel is 66.  It's a different place - not only physically, but also in its sociologic and self-sustaining evolution.  I'm also a different "place" - not only physically but also in my sociologic and self-sustaining evolution.   Israeli "street cleaners" do not appear to be Jewish (I must admit, I did not knowingly meet any prostitutes, so can't be sure about their backgrounds) and  there are noticeably now people of color!  The cities seem much more cosmopolitan.

That sense of being a derided, uncommitted Diaspora Jew was no longer.  No one encouraged emigration.  No one even suggested it.  Diaspora Jews were Diaspora Jews and Israelis were Israelis!  We have a common history, but not necessarily a common commitment.  That's good.  A feeling of Israeli "dependency" no longer existed.  The word "miracle" is often used in describing this extraordinary, vibrant country.  "Miracle" is a word that I find hard to accept in describing anything, but somehow the word may apply here.  I venture to say that if there is such a thing as a "miracle," Israel may be the unique paradigm.

Israel - Mature, Modern, Madcap, Majestic, and - simply aMazing!

1 comment:

Dorothy said...

Great blog about Israel, Carl! It is indeed a miracle - what has been accomplished and how they have survived. May the country continue to prosper and endure.