Israel trip is rewarding for dad, daughterBy Neil Berro
We had every kind of food we love in Israel - five-star hotel omelets, endless varieties of fresh tomatoes, olives and bread, street vendor pomegranates the size of Texas, cone-shaped waffles with gooey stuffings that only a child could order but that a dad could certainly eat, award-winning burgers in Tel Aviv and lovingly prepared home-cooked Shabbat dinners that gave my daughter a tummy ache from eating too much.
In traveling to Israel, we saw a renewed lesson in the positive power of people, of hope, of a yearning for peace by a country that lives for peace.
We were there in February in between the hustle and bustle of Christmas and Hanukkah and before the spring rush of Easter and Passover.
So, we had the country and its unseasonably mild temperatures pretty much to ourselves. All the Israelis we met and spent time with treated us like extended family. Of course, they could have felt sorry for my 13-year-old daughter who was traveling just with her dad.
There was Elon and Zahavi who along with their lovely kids, Roni and Ori, their parents and siblings, served as our much needed shepherds right down to loaning us their GPS so we wouldn't get lost in their tiny country. We needed it.
They worried and cared about us, changed their plans for us, put aside the pressures of their own busy work schedules and then called us to make sure that everything was OK.
For me, the airport terminal was new. The commuter train to Tel Aviv was new. The tour to visit a world-class, high-tech facility was a testament to the new global marketplace of Israel. There have been major expansions at Masada and Yad Vashem, which commemorates the Holocaust.
For my daughter making her
first trip outside the United
States, the whole country was new and it immediately reminded her of California as we left behind Connecticut winter for sunshine and green fields.
We saw a nation enjoying life outdoors. The only bunkers and shelters we saw had a musty unused look, and
we pray it stays that way.
We spent time with old friends who had worked in Jewish communities in America. Tamir is a friendly 50-something who still smokes too much. He used to drive a tank during the life and death days of the Yom Kippur War. A devoted educator and a kibbutznik, Tamir says he's glad his army days are over, and that he wouldn't know how to operate one of Israel's giant new tanks.
Anat is still in college at the Hebrew University studying accounting. She says with pride that she was the first, before her three brothers, to become an officer in the Israel Defense Forces and she knows some great dessert and falafel places in Jerusalem.
Emblematic of Israel is the Afula-Gilboa region where Connecticut and southern New England have a special relationship.
The Emek Medical Center is the region's largest employer. Both the patients and the healers come from every social, economic and religious background.
In Afula, my daughter received many lessons. She spent time in the children's ward decorating Purim masks with very sick kids. She went to an Arab elementary school where a sixth grader gave her a fun tour. She went to a home that now housed at least six more kids (on top of the six already in the family) because love can be shared when it is offered.
I visited with an American-born social worker who specialized in treating victims of abuse.
And, we saw the growth of hope between the Afula-Gilboa area and nearby Jenin, once a hotbed of terrorist attacks, thanks to new and improved methods of communication, transportation and economic exchange that help people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
Symbolic of the warmth and hospitality of Afula-Gilboa was Assaf and his family, whose perfect English and perfect love of Broadway shows immediately endeared them to my daughter and me.
Reality crept back even as we watched the falafel, said to be the best in Israel, being tossed high in the air in Afula. The Palestinians had seen fit to honor a "martyr" whose heroic action had consisted of participating in the murder many years ago of 37 Israeli civilians and an American young woman.
Spilling Israeli and Jewish guts is one thing. When will the Palestinians have the guts to move forward, make peace and embrace life?
Neil Berro of New Haven has worked for Jewish and Israeli causes since 1981. Readers may write him in care of the Register, 40 Sargent Drive, New Haven 06511. His e-mail address is email@example.com.