Israel: It’s a kind of magic

Group shot

Ten days ago I flew to Israel, as a guest of the non-political charity Kinetis, which is involved in a project to raise awareness of Israel beyond military issues. I didn’t know what to expect, but had a sneaking suspicion it would involve lots of machine guns and me trying desperately not to mention the war.

Well, there were lots of people with guns – most of them hardly more than kids. They were at security checkpoints, roadblocks, wandering the narrow cobbled streets in Jerusalem. Even getting on a plane to Israel isn’t for the faint-hearted. I’m never going to forget the El Al security manager’s withering expression as he swabbed my laptop and I squeaked, “Oh, it’s alright – they’re just toast crumbs.”

But spend some time in Israel and you realise that’s just part of the story. I really think Israel has something magical – a combination of fierce national pride, a youthful country (in terms of population and the nation itself) and the luxury of relative affluence.

There are amazing sights to be seen in Israel. We spent a day in Jerusalem and  saw everything from the Biblical Zoo and the Mahane Yahude market to the Old City with the Church of the Resurrection and the Western Wall. It’s deeply moving to visit a city infused with the energy of so much faith and prayer – you can feel it in your fingertips.

As an aside, if you ever find yourself in Jerusalem, you absolutely MUST eat at Machneyuda – the food is unspeakably good, they serve dessert in a five foot , three-tiered platter and the parmesan, mushroom and truffle oil dish is one of the greatest things ever put into a jam jar. 

Desert
Then there’s the Dead Sea – we visited the Ein Gedi kibbutz andspa, perched high on a hill overlooking the water. We were treated to a jeep ride into the desert, where we walked along a deep wadi (ravine) to a shady spot, where we sang and danced and ate sweet watermelon under the shadow of an overhanging rock. Truly one of the those moments you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Then there’s the Dead Sea itself, currently campaigning for status as one of the world’s new Seven Wonders – the hope is that this will help secure funding to address a crisis here. The Dead Sea level is falling by a metre a year, as water evaporates and isn’t replaced.

Dead sea
Regular readers will be reassured to hear that my natural grace, dignity and poise didn’t desert me, and I rolled around in the water like a dizzy walrus, ripping my knee to shreds on the sea bed, which is about as easy to stand on as a thousand knives. Although the ‘complete dignity in times of crisis’ award goes to Rosie Scribble, who you must get to tell you the story of HER Dead Sea dip. Classic.

Market
But what made the trip so very special wasn’t the sights, the history or the landscape – amazing and special as those things certainly are. It was all about the people we met.

During our trip we were given amazing access to meet some of Israel’s most creative and successful citizens from Shari Arison (the wealthiest woman in the Middle East) to museum directors, politicians, writers, dancers and designers.

ISO6
These people moved, inspired and entertained me more than I can say, and I feel genuinely blessed to have met them. In one of those moments of serendipity, their words and insights came at the exact moment I needed them. There’s something pretty special about that, I think.

What I found in Israel is an irrepressible sense of possibility. During our stay, I lost count of the number of people who quoted the famous Zionist William Hertzl to me: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

The people we met on our travels were living proof of this idea. Joanna Landau, the founder of Kinetis, has turned a family tragedy into the inspiration for a world-class rowing facility in Tel Aviv, which is helping to develop world-class athletes in Israel as well as providing a resource for disadvantaged members of the community.

 

Museum
We met Tamar Hadar and Efrat Adiv, two friends who worked in marketing and who chatted one night about how there really ought to be a museum that teaches children about the Hebrew language. Rather than putting the idea to one side, they spent months approaching museums, corporate sponsors and experts to find space, funding and knowledge to create a truly innovative and exciting resource for children and their families called A-Be-See-Do.

I am sure I must have annoyed Ronit Haber, the founder of Saloona.com, by asking her dozens of questions about her website, which brings together content from 4,000 women’s blogs covering everything from parenting to politics. Ronit told us, “I don’t want a site that’s pink and talks about babies. We are intelligent women of the world and we won’t patronise anyone.”

There was Ayelet Barak, who is turning her training in cooking and social work into a career as the world’s first culinary therapist – using food to help improve life for children with communication problems and autism. And the hugely successful children’s designer Hagit Neeman Gorny, who told me over lunch at Suzana, “Why should I worry about competition? I just do what I do. They do what they do. There is room for us all.”

These women – and I can’t tell you how much I love that they’re women – are strong, inspiring, smart and creative. They have inspired me more than they could ever realise. And they made me love Israel – because a country that makes women like these – full of creativity and possibility – is a very special place indeed.

I can’t wait to go back.    

 

Disclosure: All my expenses were met by Kinetis, who I would like to thank for providing us with such a special experience in Isreal – thanks to Adi Kaplin, Joanna Landau and the whole team.

On a personal note, enormous thanks to Tammy Lechter-Azoulay for her generosity and hospitality in inviting us to share Friday night dinner with her family, and to my fellow bloggers for making the trip such fun – please do read their blogs to hear about their experiences – Rosie Scribble, Exmoor Jane, Blog de Madre and Accidental MenteLadies, you were amazing companions and word is that you have made me into a hugger. This is life-changing stuff. 

 

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

29 Comments

  1. 4th July 2011 / 10:50 pm

    What an incredible experience. And what inspirational women – I want to meet them! This sounds like a life-changing trip, especially if you are now a “hugger”. Who’d have thought?!

  2. 4th July 2011 / 11:49 pm

    Sounds like a very inspiring trip. Its nice to hear stories like this, as you say its all too often just seen as a war zone. I would love to one day visit the red sea as I have serve psorasis and psoratic arthritus and have heard of its supposed healing properties.

  3. susie@newdaynewlesson
    5th July 2011 / 5:08 am

    She is indeed a hugger. 🙂 (ask rosie for pictures)

  4. 5th July 2011 / 5:15 am

    I’m so happy that you had such a wonderful experience. When you do come back, you have a place to stay in Jerusalem, although my flat isn’t as fancy shmancy as that house you photographed on Friday. You are right, there are fantastic innovations here and the creative energy is amazing. I hope the women you met also realized that what you do for women bloggers is also amazing. It was great to meet you.

  5. 5th July 2011 / 5:59 am

    It was soooo nice to be part of this with you and all the girls. You are incredible, Sally, and yes, I can say it loud: you are a lovely “hugger”!!!!
    Kisses from Madrid

  6. 5th July 2011 / 8:57 am

    Sally, you’ve sent tingles down my spine… I’ve been trying to get my head round what to write and how to express it but I think you may have just done it for me. The energy and warmth were unbelievable and I was just saying this morning how inspired I feel by the women we met – t heir passion, their vision, their attitude… I feel humbled and priveleged to have been part of that trip and to have met so many truly awesome people…
    How many messages were we given? How many life lessons crammed into one small week, eh? Blessed. Truly blessed. xx

  7. Eva BlogdeMadre
    5th July 2011 / 12:40 pm

    My dear hugger 🙂
    It´s a great post as a summary of a spectacular trip!! I have learned a lot from you! Thanks for everything!!! A big kiss!

  8. 5th July 2011 / 1:33 pm

    What Jane said.
    And also, I seem to remember that when I was stuggling to find my footing in the Dead Sea, rather than anyone running to my aid, the reaction was “What is Rosie doing now?!” Brilliant! No wonder no-one followed my lead when I decided to take the moving walkway at the airport only to find myself not actually moving anywhere. My trip to Israel could easily be turned into a comedy sketch.

  9. 5th July 2011 / 1:35 pm

    It is true. I do indeed have photographic evidence.

  10. 5th July 2011 / 2:13 pm

    Hi MrsBellers. You are always welcome to our beautiful country!!! Just on a side note – It is the Dead Sea you want to go to for those issues, not the Red Sea (although you should go there too :-)).

  11. 5th July 2011 / 3:17 pm

    To be fair, we didn’t *just* say that. We considered whether you could drown but figured, heck, you’re floating. And then Joanna also took out her Flip camera…

  12. 5th July 2011 / 3:18 pm

    Aw, I learned LOADS from you, too. It was a pleasure to spend time with you – hugs from the UK! xx

  13. 5th July 2011 / 3:19 pm

    I know! As I said to someone last night, “It was a lifetime of memories and ideas crammed into a week”.
    Aren’t we lucky?

  14. 5th July 2011 / 3:19 pm

    Hugs and kisses back – I think it’s the first trip I’ve been on like this where EVERYONE cried at the airport – so special to have met you and spent a week together xx

  15. 5th July 2011 / 3:20 pm

    Thanks, it was amazing to meet you too – and I meant to say in my post, too, thanks so much for my present!!

  16. 5th July 2011 / 5:31 pm

    I dread to think what will happen to that Flip camera footage!

  17. Tracy Headland
    5th July 2011 / 7:57 pm

    I think it’s lovely that you had a good time in Israel, and I understand that there are positive things happening there especially among the women in the charity you visited. However, as a fellow mother, I can’t help but feel that Isreal’s children are able to feel positive about the future at the expense of the Palestinian children of the Gaza strip who live in a state of fear and have no such hope for the future.
    I would have been interested to hear your thoughts on how these women could harness their energies to solve the wider problems of all the children of their land.

  18. 5th July 2011 / 8:50 pm

    Thanks for commenting.
    I would say that the aim of the trip was to look at the positives of the country beyond the political issues but that, of course, everything in Israel is political. As a mother, I felt very unsure about many things I saw – as I wrote in my previous post (It’s Complicated)
    Many of the women we met are massively committed to peace and are actively working towards achieving it, as well as creating these amazing resources for Israelis of all faiths – but there are only so many things I can include in a post, and to be honest, I’m wary of talking about the political issues in too much depth because if I learned anything in Israel it’s that my understanding of these issues is still very limited.
    Shari Arison, for example, has created a centre that helps children achieve inner peace, because she believes peace can only be achieved externally when we have it internally – her centre invites children of all faiths. We also visited the Biblical Zoo which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is one of the few places in the country where all faiths can go socially, and anything that promotes this can only be a good thing.
    I suppose what I personally feel is that we can celebrate these qualities and these women without ignoring or pushing aside the very difficult issues that are faced by everyone involved in the Palestine/Israel conflict.

  19. 5th July 2011 / 11:03 pm

    I love that you are a hugger!
    lets hug more!
    ok hugging freaks me… but for you….

  20. Dona
    6th July 2011 / 9:06 pm

    You have transformed your life into commodity, your parenthood to cash and your child to….
    shortly: You became a DigiSlave.

  21. 6th July 2011 / 9:40 pm

    Thanks for the perspective – I’m pretty happy with my life, though.

  22. 6th July 2011 / 10:08 pm

    Sounds like an amazing trip, truly inspiring. x

  23. jo
    7th July 2011 / 11:50 am

    Really excellent articles – sounds like you had a fantastic trip. I’ve been many times and am going again in October – as you say, its complicated on both sides but its lovely to see the positive aspects of Israel – both sides sleep at night without knowing what will happen in the morning so there’s very much a ‘now’ culture out there which transcends to music, dance and art as well as bringing this amazing sense of history and geography to its surroundings. Thanks again

  24. 10th July 2011 / 1:24 pm

    Well, thank heavens for that. I’ve been skin crawlingly anxious about accidentally cheek kissing you ever since CyberMummy.
    Have nothing else intelligent to say; I’d have been too scared to go and would have clearly missed out on so much.

  25. Patrick
    11th July 2011 / 12:18 pm

    Wow, just read this post and your ‘Its complicated’ post and I have to say amazing. Not only does it seem you avoided meeting any Palestinians but you also manage to avoid using the word in both your blogs. It truly must have been “The land with no people for the people with no land”. Well done for ignoring 20% of the population and helping keep the myth alive.

  26. 11th July 2011 / 8:42 pm

    Thanks for commenting – what I would say is that I think I’ve mentioned very clearly that there is massive political conflict happening in Israel – as a Mum, I’m very aware of kids going into the army, walking around the streets with guns. I found it shocking seeing a fence dividing communities and knowing there’s another community 50 feet away, in some cases, living a vastly different life to.
    But the purpose of our trip to Israel wasn’t political – and I wouldn’t have accepted if it was. How could any trip with a political agenda possibly be impartial enough for anyone to come away informed?
    Instead, the trip was to illustrate that there is more to Israel than politics and conflict. That there are women living lives there (and in Palestine) and working and raising children alongside the political situation.
    Of course, we talked to plenty of people we met in Israel about the political situation – some people I agreed with, some people I really didn’t. But I don’t feel it’s necessary or appropriate to share my political perspective on Israel or Palestine on this blog – and at the end of the day, it’s my blog so I choose what I share.
    Thanks for reading.
    s

  27. Mary
    12th October 2011 / 5:00 am

    I was privileged to go to Israel with my school for two weeks this past fall…so many wonderful memories of a truly remarkable, beautiful country!!! Your lovely experience reminds me of those good times 🙂 Wish I could go back!

  28. 30th October 2012 / 10:17 am

    Thanks for the post. Did you meet any Palestinians?
    roGER recently posted..CreativeMy Profile

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