We landed to the news that the US had reached an agreement with Iran over the extensive negotiations regarding sanctions and its nuclear program. We walked off the plane checking our phones quoting headlines and reactions as we headed toward the passport check area. While some world leaders rejoiced at the long sought resolution, others in Israel were less sanguine. We heard at dinner that Israel’s Security Council had been meeting all day. Two leaders of our group had arrived in Israel last year to the beginning of the war in Gaza. They witnessed with their own eyes bombs over their heads being blown up by the protective patriot missile system. To arrive with this news made all of us wary and worried.
The heaviness of the moment though lifted as we walked into the warm sun and the landscape of desert, blossoming trees, and lots of building projects.
It always strikes me as curious whenever I travel to Israel. Many news reports paint a bleak picture of the situation in Israel and yet growth, new projects, and people moving about living their lives give another impression. I was surprised by what I learned at dinner.
As we sat at a restaurant facing the old city with the setting sun casting an iridescent golden glow on the ancient walls, we heard a Senior Correspondent of the Jerusalem Post address the question of what is on the minds of Israelis. There is no one answer, of course. To provide one would be to ignore the diversity of the country. Yet, he did make some interesting observations. To understand Israel is to recognize the personal insecurity people feel. It doesn’t matter what community or association one has. In every corner, anxiety over safety touches everyone. Most have one degree of separation from tragedy. There may be tension with Washington DC, but it is no match for the risks born by those living in this region.
I asked him whether he knew if more people were leaving Israel as a result. He said the numbers show there are no more than usual. He also spoke about social issues such as the wide gap between the poor and the wealthy, social welfare and education challenges. He mentioned more than once the difficulty regarding affordable housing especially as he watches his grown children struggle to find a place to live.
As much as all of this sounds pessimistic, he was not. It is not the Israeli way. Our speaker pointed out that the Israeli people have a tendency toward hyperbole. The root of the problems remains but perspective is important.
Israel is a tenacious country. It is not an easy path to move forward but it never was. Our ancestors complained their way through the wilderness. Some did not make it to the land. Others fought with their lives while others thrived. It still occurs today. They still piece together their lives and continue to build and to plan for a future. Hope is eternal. I continue to find new pieces to the puzzle that make up Israel and I will continue to share them with you.