O’ Israel you evil seductress
I leave Israel relieved to be going, but then want to return for more. The joys and frustrations of the Holy Land.
Every time I leave Israel I feel a certain relief to be departing. And then a few weeks later, I want to go back.
Israel has a way of sucking you in and spitting you out, but leaving you wanting more.
She will amaze you with her history, assault you with new and delicious food (that may leave you with a few extra kilos around the middle), frustrate you, make you smile and maybe even leave you wondering “could I live here?”.
But before you arrive, there are a few things you need to know about any venture to the Holy Land.
Israelis can come across as rude and arrogant. Some of them are. My advice… get over it and don’t take it personally. Also if you find yourself being pushed and jostled, just push and jostle back. But not enough to injure anyone of course.
Palestinians, and Arabs at large for that matter, drive like erratic bats out of hell at times, and if you find yourself in a taxi with one driving, or on the footpaths of the West Bank (or any other Arab country) don’t think you’re safe. Seat belts are optional, and speed limits… what are they?
Getting in and out of Israel can mean enduring a lot of questions, just keep in mind the role of any border guard is to keep their country safe (and Israel has a few enemies…). If and when the Israelis’ questions seem odd, they’re probably just trying to trip you up. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.
Security in general in Israel is strict. You will barely go a day where you won’t either walk through a scanner or have your bag checked. Military service is compulsory for almost everyone (the exceptions are Ultra Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis, but there’s exceptions within those groups). Israeli Defence Force (IDF) personnel are everywhere.
Rifles are a common part of the uniform and you will see them in the street, on trains and buses. They’re not supposed to be loaded (unless they’re on patrol in the West Bank), so if you suddenly find yourself with the pointy end shoved into you because the young recruit hasn’t quite got the hang of carrying it yet, don’t panic. I copped one to the thigh on a crowded train and didn’t end up with a bullet in my leg. The girl was too busy checking her smart phone and trying to move her large bag at the time.
Israel and the Palestinian Territories are tiny in comparison to the likes of Australia, but just about every inch has a story to tell. Many of them biblical, many Roman and perhaps too many war related (and there’s been a few wars in these parts).
Put all of the above negatives aside and come and see the “land of milk and honey” … and falafel and baklawa, and shawarma and halva, and hummus and knafeh, and… you get the picture.
Ignore the rude Israelis, because many more of them are friendly and polite. But don’t ever attempt to drive in the West Bank, you will be taking your life into your own hands.
To hear what Jerusalem sounds like check out Sounds of… Jerusalem.