UPDATE: ‘High’ terror alert along Road 12 to Eilat. Schools closed in area around Eilat.
At about 6 am Sunday morning, as your humble servant was sitting in a lounge at Ben Gurion airport waiting for the flight back to the United States and thinking about what he would miss about Israel, who should stride into the room and sit down at the table beside us but Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
It was quite a production as his security detail cordoned off the table and set up a perimeter. Your humble servant had fleeting thoughts of going over to thank Lieberman for all he does for Israel–but the visions of being thrown to the floor and searched talked me out of it. In any case, I was able to give him the “thumbs up” sign, and he responded with a smile and the nod of his head.
As I sit here in northern California this morning, I thought I would blog about the seven things that I will miss most about Israel–repeating some items that I wrote for a local newspaper column last year:
1. I will miss the experience of being in a shared struggle for survival. In Israel we live just a few miles from Tel Nof, one of the largest Air Force bases in Israel. We wake up, spend the day, go to sleep, and wake up during the night to the comforting roar of F-16s taking off, going out on patrol, and landing. No one minds the noise because everyone knows that Israel’s very existence is on the line every minute of every day. Being an Israeli means trying to live a normal life while living on the edge (in the case of southern Israel–living in a bomb shelter), acutely listening to every radio newscast at the top of the hour to find out if anything has changed in the last 60 minutes and fixating on the evening news to watch a recapitulation of the threats made against Israel in the last 24 hours.
2. I will miss the humorous resilience of Israelis. The other day as Katyushas were falling in northern Israel, it was reported that one of the missiles had hit a chicken coop setting it on fire and apparently roasting a couple of the birds. My good friend and neighbor, who was watching the news and had attended our Thanksgiving meal, remarked that next year we should put a couple of turkeys out in the garden beside our house and order up Katyusha strike. The result she said, would be Israel’s first barbecued Thanksgiving turkeys.
3. I will miss the Israeli social scene. Everybody is invited to everybody’s house all time. Each person has so many family and friends that hardly a week goes by without a brit, birthday, bar or bat mitzvah, or wedding. And if you’re not attending the events of life, there are the numerous Israeli restaurants, clubs, and coffeehouses where you can sit unrushed until well past midnight. In one block of Ashdod, we can find Café Joe, Aroma, Hillel, Ronaldin, Greg, and Café Cafe—all serving my favorite café shachor (super strong black coffee) and icy mocha barad.
4. I will miss being on the cutting edge of technology. Everybody has the latest cellphone, TV, and electronic device and is conversant about the technical specifications of each. On a national scale, Israel is involved in every aspect of technology. With more than 80 nanotech companies and 40 academic and governmental laboratories focusing on nanotechnology, Israel is at the forefront of nano advances in communications, electronics, computerization, security, medicine, and life sciences. Nano applications recently developed in Israel include water purification membranes, agents for oral drug delivery, medical diagnostic tools, holographic storage systems, and a laser-like e-beam used in manufacturing semiconductors.
5. I will miss the hilarious distortions of the English language. It’s a real kick to travel the roads in Israel and see the variations in spelling. There are 5 different roads leading into my wife’s hometown, each with a sign announcing the city limits. So which city did she grow up in: Nes Tsiona, Nes Ziona, Nes Ziyyona, Ness Ziona, or Nes Tsiyyona? I love that passing Rishon going north to Tel Aviv I drive onto the Holon “carriageway”, or on the way to Eilat we need to “Be war of camels”, or that we can ruin the underside of our car on those nasty “roadhumps” (speedbreakers) visiting my brother-in-law in Kidron.
6. I will miss the uniqueness of the environment and diversity of the people. Without getting too poetic, the air in Israel is heavy, languid, and redolent. Sometimes on a summer night you can feel, smell, and see the warm air slowly enveloping you like a thermal cocoon. Every sunset at the beach or in the desert is a painter’s canvas. One day last year, I was standing across from the famous Bedouin market in Beersheva along with Ethiopian immigrants, a newly arrived couple from Myanmar (“yes”, they told me, “there is a Jewish community in northwest Burma”), Israeli Arabs, orthodox and non-orthodox Israelis (including several Russian immigrants), a refugee from the Sudan, and of course, Bedouins—all dressed differently and speaking different languages. In every way, Israel is a feast for the senses.
7. I will miss the history. Traveling around Israel, I am often reminded of Belloq’s words in Raiders of the Lost Ark when referring to the Ark of the Covenant: “Indiana, we are simply passing through history. This is history.” I get the same feeling wandering through places like Akko, Caesarea, Masada, Bet Shean, Nazareth, Tiberias, Ashkelon, Bethlehem, Tzfat, Ashdod, and Jerusalem. Israel is a place where 3300 years of Jewish/Israeli history are alive and new history is being made every day. The decisions that are reached tomorrow and the buildings that are built next week will have ramifications for thousands of years. Listen to the news or read a newspaper or magazine, Israel is at the center of the world.
THIS DAY IN ISRAELI HISTORY
Last year, on December 5, 2010, Israeli firefighters finally gained control of the wildfire that swept through the Carmel Mountains in northern Israel for four days. The fire was the worst in Israel’s history: 42 people were killed, and 17,000 more were evacuated. Ten thousand acres of forest were burned with more than 4,000,000 trees lost.