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Israel: A country I've grown to love, but it is not a perfect country

Jan 09, 2017

Israel is not a perfect country. Some people, Israelis for the most part, know this and still continue to live here. Others know it is a safe haven for the Jewish people and the land of milk and honey. While it is the past, present, and future homeland of the Jewish people, it’s far from perfect. This statement isn’t meant to be cynical or undermine the country in any way; I’ve grown to love Israel over the course of this trip. However, I do think it needs to be said because some international Jews tend to over-romanticize it – call it the Paris syndrome for the Jewish people.

This thought process came from an entire morning spent at Mount Herzl, where we wandered through graves and graves of IDF soldiers overlooking the rolling hills of Jerusalem. We listened to stories not only from our Israeli soldiers but from our tour educator as well and she is what really made me think about Israel as an imperfect country.  She told us about her childhood friend that died while in service and wanted us to know that she thought that young people shouldn’t have to be fighting and sacrificing themselves right out of high school. She doesn’t want to have to send her now five-month-old son off to the IDF in 18 years. This, along with other stories, made me realize that Israelis have to fight for their lives and for their country every single day, whether that means physically fighting in combat or just justifying the Jewish state.

After an extremely emotional morning at Mount Herzl we trekked our way south to the Negev Desert for our overnight stay in the Bedouin “village.” I put “village” in quotes because it really wasn’t a village at all but a tourist trap for the kinds of people that want to experience a different culture but not actually have to live in that culture. They even had a gift shop. The first stop in the “village” was actually fairly interesting; we had an actual Bedouin man serve us traditional Bedouin tea and coffee while he taught us about the culture and significance of their customs.

One of the redeeming qualities of spending a freezing night in a Bedouin tent (with a heater by the way) is that each of us had the chance to spread out amongst the desert rocks and self-reflect on our time spent in Israel and what we might want to change about ourselves after the trip is over. It was a really special experience being able to spend some time alone with our thoughts in the middle of a freezing desert with just the lights from the “village” and from the stars lighting the landscape.

All in all, it was a good day. Being able to listen to the soldiers’ stories was extremely eye opening and traveling through the Negev gave us all a different look at Israel. I can’t say that I would want to go back to the Bedouin “village,” except for maybe the tea, but I would definitely want to see more of Mount Herzl and really appreciate what the IDF does for not only the country they serve but Jewish people all around the world. Israel may not be perfect, but it’s home and it’s family. And no family is ever perfect.

Alex Ruby 
University of Oregon Class of 2018
San Jose, CA

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