My final day in Israel, a 72 hour cease-fire announced, a chance for two hours of tourism in Jerusalem, and a final interview from Israel in Tel Aviv.
Chanan Elias from The Face of Israel met me first thing in the morning to head over to the Old City of Jerusalem and the older City of David. The place is the center of the universe for Judaism and Christianity, and the third most important city in Islam behind Mecca and Medina.
This is the location of so many major biblical events. Fascinatingly, over the past 150 years archaeologists have uncovered evidence supporting the events and continue making new finds to this day. I needed to see it first hand.
We began at the City of David, the much older and original Jerusalem, outside of the great walls that we see today. The sun was already beating down from a cloudless blue sky, slow-cooking the top of my head. It was truly magnificent to see the thousands of years of history uncovered in front of my eyes, the layers so carefully scraped back so we could see many different epochs ruled by the various dynasties.
The variety of ethnicities and religions represented by the tourists visiting was astounding. Represented were Africans in traditional wear, Arabs with hijabs, Germans in their sporting gear, Israelis with their small children, what appeared to be an American college-aged group, and more. There were far fewer numbers than normal due to the war.
After visiting the Western Wall (כותל), I wanted to visit the various quarters of the old city. We started by heading to the Arab Quarter and found ourselves denied entry by the police. Why? A “Day of Rage” protest was called by the Palestinian leadership. The police said no entry due to the danger as the previous week’s protest in another area had turned violent.
So much for peace or even a cease-fire. Within 15 minutes of the cease-fire time of 8:00 am, terrorists in Gaza continued lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians. Then approximately 90 minutes in to the cease-fire, the terrorists killed two IDF solders and a third is missing. IDF soldier Hadar Goldin, an officer in the Givati Brigade, is officially listed as missing in action. (UPDATE 8/2/14 18:48, Hadar Goldin has been declared deceased)
The police were everywhere. Absolutely professional, even-handed in their treatment toward all, and somehow not melting in the unforgiving late morning sun.
Next up was a trip to Tel Aviv. Chanan and Shay Attias co-ordinated an interview with Sendi Bar, a well-know Israeli actress for shows like the Unit and Prisoner of War, which is the original Israeli series that Homeland is based upon.
An actress wanting to speak out about the war with Hamas? I was intrigued. Our intrepid videographer, Joshua Fleisher, joined us to video the interview. Once the video is complete, I will share it with you.
In the meantime, let me just say that Ms. Bar is a kind, caring, compassionate, mother who is concerned for her country. She shared an analogy about instructing her son about schoolyard bullies and Hamas. She told her son that the first time a bully hits him, try to work it out with the bully. The second time a bully hits him, tell an authority figure. And the third time a bully hits him, punch him back hard. That is how she feels about Hamas at this point, enough is enough.
After the interview I went to visit Tel Aviv’s internationally famous beachfront. It was everything you have heard: cosmopolitan and beautiful, populated with tanned and toned bodies as if in Los Angeles. Except there were fewer people than a normal, late summer afternoon.
Finishing up my final hours in Israel, Sendi Bar invited me to a friend’s house for Shabbat dinner. Of course I said yes.
This was a traditional, yet modern, Shabbat dinner. Generations of family members gathered around the large table outside, friends, and stranger all joined together to light the candles, eat challah, drink wine, and eat well.
After the meal, I went to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion airport to head home. This was an exhausting trip, that opened my eyes to realities on the ground across Israel and the West Bank. There will be more to come soon.
Thank you to Vicky Culver, Haole Craig, the Gorson’s, Andrew in Austin, TX, and everyone else for contributing so far.
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