Well I'm back again. It was a whirlwind trip in more ways than one and I'm mentally exhausted from it. Normally I have an easy time articulating my experiences in travel, but this one's tough. My last trip to Israel was just a cursory looksee really, I enjoyed it but didn't get a lot out of it. That definitely changed this time around. We had an excellent local private guide for the trip which really made a world of difference. It's one thing to see a place but quite another to get the backstory of every single thing you're looking at. The history of the place is just amazing. So much hope, and life, and death and destruction all packed into such a tiny space. In fact I can't even describe how tiny it really is. From the edge of the West Bank, at Israel's narrowest point, you can actually see the beach in Tel Aviv, it's just 25 km. You realize when you're there that history is a very real and present thing, being made moment to moment, which is a feeling you just can't get in good old safe and boring Canada.
The bottom line is that I came away with a great deal of respect for the Israeli people, much more than I ever had before. How they manage to live in a state of constant conflict and yet still build an advanced and extremely liberal nation and maintain some sense of normalcy to every day life just amazes me beyond belief. I really hope one day that true and lasting peace can be achieved there. If the beautiful city of Haifa, a place where Jews and Arabs co-exist peacefully, is any indication then it's certainly possible. It definitely gave me some hope. Fingers crossed.
The side effect of the constant threat they face though is that at a very subliminal level they really strive to make the most of each day. Few work harder than the Israelis but nobody parties harder. We always say to ourselves to live each day like it's our last, but the reality here in North America is that it doesn't work, we will likely live to see tomorrow just fine. In Israel though it's different, there's a real and constant danger involved in living there, one that only fluctuates in intensity but never goes away, and it breeds a zest for life in the people that is just utterly infectious. I wish I could explain it better. It's one emotional and inspiring ride that's for sure haha.
Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing Jerusalem of course (it still has that special magical air about it), seeing Masada, where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans and committed mass suicide instead of accepting their inevitable defeat and slavery, and visiting the Israeli Air Force museum, an enormous well of contemporary history. It's one thing to see a Mirage III in a French museum, and quite another to see an Israeli one with thirteen Syrian and Egyptian Mig kills painted on its nose from the Six Day war. Impressive as hell. I also saw one of the IAI Lavi prototypes from the mid 80's and suddenly realized that the Eurofighter is just a shameless copy haha. Put pictures of the two side by side, you'll see what I mean.
On the flipside of the trip, we went through New York city on the way to and from Israel, and in both cases I was given an unjustified and protracted grilling by the gestapo that the US Customs system has become, including bag searches and being detained for upwards of an hour with no explanation. And that's me, an upstanding Canadian citizen who has never committed a crime of any sort. I feel truly sad for anyone else trying to visit the country. The unfortunate result though is that this trip must represent my final flight into a US city. I'm not putting up with that anymore. In the future I will drive to the US when I need to go there, though I'm not really sure how long that will last either. It's sad really. I lived in the US for many years and used to really look forward to going south. No more. Thankfully one can fly to just about anywhere in the world from Toronto, though Pearson International airport may be that city's only really useful feature haha.
Anyway, here's a few piccies from the journey. Enjoy.