I was thinking about this as we arrived at Ben Gurion airport and I was struck by the number of Arabs at the baggage claim and passport control, mostly because of how perfectly normal it was for everyone there.
I had the same thought when, on our first full day in country, we took a 2 hour raft trip down the Jordan River at a place called HaGoshrim. It was really fun for kids of all ages, anyone above the age of 5. In adjacent rafts on the river were a number of Arab teenagers, having fun, splashing us and others (as we were to them).
It was just a moment where I kind of thought..."you know, I think most Israelis and Arabs just want to get along in 2 states side by side and it's only a few percent of haters that keep the animosity going." It was both sad and uplifting at the same time.
Then, I contemplated the inverse...how would Hassidic-garbed people or people in yarmulkes get treated arriving in Riyadh or Beirut or engaging in a recreational activity in Egypt or Algeria. That just made me sad.
But I'm burying the lead.
The primary reason for our trip is to celebrate my nephew's Bar Mitzvah next week. In the lead up to that, however, 33 (yes you read that number correctly-- THIRTY THREE) people (all related to each other) spent shabbat together at the Kfar Giladi Hotel on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi.
It is rife with history (in fact, tomorrow is their 100 year anniversary celebration).
It wasn't cheap (full disclosure), but it was SO worth it.
The food spread was...RIDICULOUS, but again, I'm burying the lead. The surroundings were magical.
We were right on the border of Lebanon and had beautiful vistas of the Hula Valley, the Golan, and Mt. Hermon.
The weather was perfect. Balmy, a nice breeze, and secluded. I took a few long walks around and it was a perfect space for reflection and meditation and family bonding.
I also took advantage of the sauna, workout room, and the kids utilized the pool.
The rooms were great as well.
I can't recommend it highly enough (well, I didn't love the cats, but as any visitor to Israel knows, that's not unique to this one place.)
This is visit #11 or #12 (I think) for me to Israel and it's always fascinating to see how the country stays the same and how it changes from trip to trip.
One thing that has stayed the same, for me, at least is the genuineness of Israelis. I noticed this in many encounters. I think it comes from a deeper appreciation of how tenuous life is and recognizing that it's not always worth it to sweat the small stuff (though, of course, they have their moments).
I particularly enjoyed a chat I had with 2 ten year old twins (and their dad) who were born in Ukraine and came to Israel 8 years ago in the sauna. They were so cute, saying "everything we learned about America, we learned on the computer and everything in America is just SO MUCH BIGGER!"
I'm on a bus with 16 kids now so it's a bit hard to concentrate, but we're headed to Jerusalem now and I'm sure that it will be (as always) stimulating.