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By Matania Ginosar
The energy level all over Israel is amazing. I saw a country full of vitality wherever I went.
I spent days just roaming the streets of Tel Aviv to sense the feeling of my old grounds. I spent hours on the fine beach where I got so many sunburns in my youth I could not count them. I travelled around the country and opened my eyes. People were enjoying themselves, going on with their lives, their errands, chatting with friends in the park. As they were strolling the streets or shopping, their faces were relaxed, just enjoying themselves. They have good reasons to: the economy is buoyant, the Shekel is rising every day against the dollar, income is rising, employment is good; I did not sense concerns about security, of either the current situation or the future.
Life in Israel is good. Even a great many Israeli Arabs say they’d rather live in Israel then any other country. I watched a waiting line in a pharmacy, an Arab lady stood in front of an orthodox Jew, without any fear. I saw Arab families strolling on the shore of Tel Aviv , no one paid attention to them. When will a Jew be able to travel in peace in an Arab country?
As I emerged from the modern, clean, quiet, train in central Tel Aviv I saw a skyline full of soaring glass office buildings in most directions. If any space was left, it was now full of tall construction cranes busily erecting new office buildings inside the cities, and modern tall condominiums in the suburbs. Sometimes a few old, small apartment buildings are being replaced by a single, ultra modern 20 stories lovely condominium. And the money is just rolling in. I was wondering if I was in the same old country I knew. Could it have grown so much in less than four years?
I was just amazed at the pace, continuous traffic, the no end construction, and the relaxed mood of the people. It is both a busy country of seven and a half million people and a small informal family-oriented place at the same time: Every one talks to you as if you are his brother. The bus driver lets people off when they asked, even if there was no station there. People were very helpful giving me directions when I did not know were I landed. I rarely heard a car horn; even in the busy market place of Shuk Hakarmel no one was pushy or impolite.
I also stayed in small communities; saw new constructions of private homes in many places, all of it by Arabs. They spoke Hebrew well but with a heavy accent. They did not like that I took so many pictures, so I answered them in English, they did not understand me but left me alone.
Every where I went, from a kibbutz, small communities, medium cities, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, I got two strong feelings; Israelis are so busy building the country they do not have time to worry about their enemies. And they are enjoying themselves at every opportunity.
I went to a few modern restaurants, lovely places, excellent food, on par with excellent ones here. But all parking lots within a good distance were full. One of the most difficult problems in central Israel , the greater Tel Aviv region, is parking. Every one has a car despite the excellent public transportation. The cars are quite small and energy efficient but at $8 a gallon it is quiet a load. Luckily most Israeli distances are short. Tel Aviv to Jerusalem takes less than an hour and a half by a slow bus at traffic time. Jerusalem is now such a sprawling city; it is the area of Paris . And I used to walk from one side of the Jerusalem to the other in an hour when I lived there in 1948.
Israelis seem to be relaxed about terrorism because they have been hardened by experience; because the number of attacks dropped down drastically, because of the fence, the dedicated security services, and because the rocket attacks from Gaza seem so far away.
When I heard machine guns in Jerusalem I asked where it came from. My relative told me: In Israel, unless they shoot directly at you, you just ignore it.
Iran ? Our military will take care of that when necessary, they told me.
Politics? So many views on internal matters, but almost united that Muslim terrorists, Hamas, Hizbullah, all the others, should be defeated with strong military arm. The Left’s dream that giving territories away would settle the Palestinians was shattered after the Gaza giveaway. Hamas terrorism in Gaza hardened every one’s attitude; we gave them Gaza and they shoot rockets back. I was surprised by the change in mood of people I knew to be so idealistic before. You hear very little from what remained of the Left.
Israel population is almost that of Sweden and twice that of Norway . These countries have a uniform population and surrounded by friendly neighbors. They, nevertheless, preach to Israel how to live in this hostile region. Israel thrives despite its enemies and because of its open society, mixed population, wide range of views, and a vibrant society. When you see the rainbow of color of the people you realize what it means: “the gathering of the people.”
The ability of Israel to cope with terrorism, to have such powerful military yet respond with humanity, to advance so rapidly economically especially in Hi Tech, and to produce so much from such a small piece of land is amazing.
from the July 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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