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lundi 9 juin 2014


A visit to Israel is an eye opener, even those who keep abreast of what is happening there. On a recent short visit, I was amazed how developed a country Israel is; in fact it has caught up with Europe/America in every way. Here Development at human and social and structural level is not a slogan (some other countries in Asia would proclaim: we will be a developed country by 2020, the citizens of those countries should visit Israel and see for themselves)
I had arrived at Tel Aviv International Airport from Amman, Jordan. The contrast is stark. Jordan is a very poor country with a large uneducated and unsophisticated population, who live bound by their culture. The level of development is at a low level.

(the public transport in Israel is excellent, you can go from the airport to Haifa in the north in one hour and twenty minutes by train)
On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport at Tel Aviv, the order and organization and efficiency is so apparent, you begin to wonder why two cities separated by such a short distance can be so widely disparate.
But the lessons I learned were not how structurally advanced Israel has become. It is called the Start Up Nation because of the number of Start Ups proportionately exceed most other countries on earth.
On the day of arrival it was the festival of Shabuoth, celebrating the harvest (historically). It was such a warm arrival at the home of my friends, as the entire family were present and I got to see them all in one place rather than visiting them at their own homes! We shared a traditional meal, and the patriarch of the family told me that, on every Shabbat and on each and every Jewish holiday, the entire family gets together and children grow up with the confidence and security of the larger family. This particular scene would have been repeated a thousand times all over Israel that night.
(cheese blintzes for Shabuoth)
The importance of having a life partner, children were also so evident. I made up a family tree of my friends family. And felt a little jealous that my family and friends are so scattered all over the world.
I am lucky to have strong family ties even though they are geographically separate and this visit made me realize that I should put more efforts in becoming closer to them.
Cuba where I spend time is a good example of people who show solidarity with each other, who go out of their way to help each other.
In Israel, solidarity with each other is so evident. There may be the threat of extinction from their Arab neighbours that consolidates that, but one can sense the solidarity. The way it is expressed is different. It is not the American kind of, Have a nice day but a genuine concern over each other. Each person is aware that his or her action would endanger the entire country, if solidarity were not taken into account. In Amman, for a small bribe, they would have waived my visa fees and thus let me into the country “illegally”, such an action by an Israeli would be unthinkable.
In Israel, they are not concerned which part of the globe you are from, it does matter whether you are an Israeli or not, Jewish or not, and if you are not Jewish, whether you are a friend or an enemy! I did not feel any friction towards the Arab population of Israel but again the contacts were very superficial: the wealthy owners of the restaurant, Abu Zayd in Haifa; the genial taxi driver Salim who has travelled all over Europe and has two sons at the University.
I was particularly pleased with the warm feelings people had towards Ethiopian Jewish migrants to Israel. They were universally considered to be hard working and willing to integrate themselves into the reality of Israel.
Believe it or not, Israel being an advanced country (the Gulf countries are far richer but much back ward in their development and treatment of their workers), there is a problem with Illegal Migration and it is from Moslem countries! It had forced them to build a wall, which has stopped the illegal migration almost completely.
(at EDEN, an entirely organic supermarket in Haifa)
The last lesson was the sense of Reality the people and the country of Israel gave me. I became acutely aware of the reality of the life. Being an anthropologist it had a greater sting. It is easy to forget reality a little in America or submerge in Magical Reality in Latin America, but in Israel reality stares at you. Israel is one of the few countries in the world where the future has already arrived and it lives next to the thousands of years of history that is evident physically when you drive around Israel. In names, monuments, archaeological ruin.
(at Abu Zayd, the salad alone will fill you up and the fish is as fresh as you can imagine!)
At the departure lounge at Ben Gurion Airport where I waited for my flight to Istanbul, the mixture of people were very different from the quotidian reality of Israel. There were the usual groups of Chinese tourists, there were many Christians on pilgrimage and you could see and sympathize with large number of Filipinas who are probably working as domestics in the Oil rich countries here on pilgrimage.  

On arrival at Ataturk International Airport after a short flight, it felt like a dream that I had seen the future just a few hours ago!
I wish Israel well, to be a guiding light on to this world, where the technology and human kindness can advance hand in hand.
For those of you who may not know, Israel has set up a field hospital near the Syrian border so that it can offer medical help to those civilians being butchered by their leaders, some of whom are actually flown into the medical centres in Israel for advanced medical care!
There is also help from IsrAid to the Syrian refugees at Mafraq: this time volunteers from Israel help deal with the Mental Health Issues of the refugees who face a long term exile from their homeland.

When I was an adolescent growing up in Australia, I was taught these words of Theodor Herzl:
After we establish our own state, we must look forward to helping others across the borders.
How nice it would be, both for Israel and its Arab neighbours, so that both sides can benefit from a peace and the development can be shared!