Our time in Israel is over and we’ve been back for a couple of weeks now. I’ve been overwhelmed by my impotent blog output. I really am guilt-ridden that I have not added anything since February. So much has happened (for another perspective and to fill in some of the gaps, see my wife's blog ). So here goes…
For those born in the 21stcentury and even the decade before may have to be informed that this title comes from Joni Mitchell’s song, California. My daughter has recently shown more interest in music and singers. I felt like I had to expose here to more “classic” music, meaning pre-Selena Gomez or even pre-Selena Gomez’s birth. Joni, Billie, Ella, Stevie, Rickie, Cassandra, etc. I forced this song one afternoon after picking her up from school and I caught the lyrics through the lens of our recent experience….wow. It has never been so meaningful and relevant than upon our return.
For example… “Oh it gets so lonely When you're walking And the streets are full of strangers All the news of home you read Just gives you the blues Just gives you the blues”
“California I'm coming home Oh will you take me as I am”
Warts and all, Cali took us (Cali and Sac have plentiful warts anyway). I came home changed and missing Israel, but yet I felt at home back home. We met a number of Americans in Israel who spoke of having this feeling when arriving in Israel. I can understand this and could live there easily. In fact, my standard answer for those asking whether we are moving there was/is “give me a job and then we’ll talk”. For the most part, I always felt safe, people were friendly (maybe not the guy who angrily said “Shalom M----F----” because we wouldn’t buy his crappy knives), and loved the culture, etc (I’ve written about this in previous installments). There was, however, nothing like coming home and nothing like the US (warts and all…).
I wanted to lay out a few lessons I learned about Israel (and vicinity) that surprised me. I was surprised because the media paints a very different view. People may disagree or find errors, so I’ll preface this by this was MY experience.
Israel was much more integrated and diverse than I expected (what I anticipated based on the media). We had Arab villages/neighborhoods in our city and throughout Israel. Any park we went to or event or anything, there were always Israeli Arabs too. At the universities, Israeli Arabs were a large part of the student population. I think I read somewhere that the University of Haifa is 40% Arab.
This is somewhat related, but the Israeli population is not homogenous. There are people from all over- Russia, US, Ethiopia, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, Philippines, etc.
This diversity runs in politics too. There is not one homogenous block of political views. We spoke with people ranging from supporting their government and policies (not to mention loving Trump) to those strongly opposing the government, wanting peace and a peaceful solution in the region. My point is that it these views are as diverse as they are here in the US.
I felt perfectly safe in Israel, Jordan, and Morocco. Never did I feel hesitant about going anywhere. In each location, we interacted with some of the most generous, kind, and friendly people anywhere. Driving was scary, but I would go back to those places in a heartbeat. I should also point out that in each location there was also much more of a military presence in many places.
As we left Israel, spring was in full bloom and we have returned to a similar explosion of wildflowers. Most people think it is all desert there. The climate in Israel, Jordan, and Morocco are similar to California. Cool and wet in the north (with identical vegetation) and it becomes desert in the south. There were rural farming areas, coastal dunes and tide pools, mountainous areas, oak woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands in each of the areas. You would be hard pressed distinguishing them from pictures.
I may have more blogs that come to me, but these were impressions I had offhand with our return. I plan to revisit ideas and locations from our time in Israel in this blog in the future. I imagine when it is time for grading or preparing a lecture here, I will have an overwhelming urge to write another installment of this blog. So, please check in once in a while and feel free to give me a little nudge. I've added a few pictures from the spring prior to our departure. Thanks for reading….
This blog will follow my experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Israel (University of Haifa) during the 2017-18 academic year. Also check out the family blog for another perspective. This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State website, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.
*To try to increase the speed of website loading, I take down the photos after a while.