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Update – 2 December 2009

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Posted by Emily Chrapot on 2 December 2009 at 12:15pm:

Israel – A Personal Reflection

My jetlag lingers but already it feels like I am back in the swing of things -monitoring local newspapers, checking the Israeli press on a neurotically regular basis, and reading commentary and criticism about the situation in Israel.  

I have returned from what was a wonderful four weeks in the land biblically and poetically referred to as the “Land of Milk and Honey”. The journey was of a personal nature, so I can admit to you all that those weeks were not spent reading the Aussie press or checking the local news, and certainly not following any sort of criticism on an external level.

Instead, I spent my time travelling, meeting up with old friends and experiencing a different kind of Israel, the Israel that dwells in a place far beyond the headlines in the World News pages.

I went to the North and visited the Kibbutz where I enjoyed several months working in 2002 by the Sea of Gallilee, went snorkelling off the coast of Eilat in the South, made my way through the winding paths of the Old City of Jerusalem and floated into weightlessness on the Dead Sea. I even learned to drive on the other side of the road – no mean feat for a simple girl from Caulfield as anyone who has ever dared to navigate the streets of Israel can attest.

All the while, instead of hearing about last winter’s war in Gaza or the status of the settlements in the West Bank, I heard about the internal issues that seem to matter to Israelis. The economic situation, the insurance hike for motorcyclists and whether this winter will finally bring enough rain to fill up the Kineret. And when the rain finally came, the complaints began about the way in which the country is not prepared for heavy rain… That’s Israel and Israelis for you! 

This is exactly what I learn over and over every time I visit this country – that it is beautifully unique; that it is not in spite of Israel’s flaws, but precisely because of them, that I love the country so much.

Israelis have a reputation around the world of being rude and abrasive, and perhaps to some extent this wild generalisation is true, but they are also incredibly giving, helpful and have a strong sense of family and community. I saw this at it’s most purest the day before the wedding of my boyfriend’s brother when family and friends pulled together to ensure everything from the Mikva to the Henna went forward seamlessly and without a hitch.

The trip was not all fun and games though, and the plight of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was never far from my mind. One morning I was at Benedict, a Tel Aviv café that specialises in 24/7 breakfast, when I noticed a lone chair standing in the front with a sticker that sadly read “Reserved for Gilad Shalit… Until he returns“. On landing in Eilat, we found ourselves on a walkway to the luggage surrounded by paintings of Gilad’s childhood story, “When the shark and the fish first met”.

These experiences were a strong reminder that while I ate breakfast amongst the yuppies in Tel Aviv or took a mini vacation over the Negev, that Gilad Shalit is being held against his will in a dark dungeon of Gaza by heartless, depraved thugs.

What I discovered, is that no matter how much I might argue with friends and family members about politics, the one thing that we could all agree upon was that the situation with Gilad Shalit has gone on long enough and the time has come to bring him home.

Please join the Zionist Council of Victoria for a community debate on the topic:
“The Israeli settlements are not an impediment to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process”
The debate will be taking place tomorrow night (Thursday 3 December) at 8pm at Beth Weizmann Community Centre. Speaking for the affirmative will be Sam Tatarka, Nadav Prawer and Adam Goodvach. Speaking for the negative will be myself, Johnny Baker and Elon Gersh. 

If you only come to one more ZCV function this year, let it be this one!

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