For such a small country, there’s a lot to see in Israel.
Jaffa is the Arab neighborhood south of Tel Aviv.
We took a trip to the borders of Lebanon and Syria.
Sniper towers abound.
At the Syrian border residents in an Arab neighborhood have landmines in their backyard.
This man has to keep his autistic nephew away from the backyard for fear of detonating a mine.
In Ashkelon, we visited a house that suffered a missile attack. Gaza just recently got Katyusha missiles that have a much longer range.
The Old City in Jerusalem has beautiful architecture and an incredible mix of religious peoples.
Back in Jaffa, I saw a young Arabfind an Israeli flag on the ground as he was crossing the street. He picked it up and ran with it waving in the wind. As an Arab, he’s grown up as a second-class citizen in Israel but his generation knows nothing different. He thoughtlessly continued to wave his flag.
We took a day’s break to journey down to the Dead Sea. Its shores are the lowest dry land in the world at some thousand feet below sea level. It’s also one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world. You could float on your back for miles. It’s believed that the mud is good for the skin, but I think it’s good for the soul.
Nachman Meu’man is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Apparently it’s a bunch of ex-rave kids that turned to religion. They spread the word of the Torah by driving around in vans late at night blasting techno remixes, replacing all the words with “Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meu’man”. They pull over and dance like madmen. Nachman believe that dancing is a supreme form of prayer. We’re down with the Nachman.
Sderot is a poor town in the south of Israel near the Gaza border. It has been the target of thousands of Qassam rockets from Hamas over the last seven years. Those who could afford to move away have. Those who can’t must be strong.
n our first visit, we were in disbelief at the number of bomb shelters. On some blocks we could see three within running distance. On our second visit, we put them to use. It’s an almost daily occurence. The Red Dawn sirens sounded off as we were walking through a playground. We had 15 seconds. Mothers swooped up their children and ran for the shelters in hysteria. From inside we could hear blasts followed by mortar fire. When the sirens faded out, the children returned to playing. I asked a mother if she runs like that every time the sirens sound. “Yes, every time.”
As horrific as it is, this is only one side of the story. We’ve yet to get access into Gaza to see just why people feel the need to launch these rockets. Maybe next week.
I’m still in Israel working on a documentary called God Went Surfing with the Devil about surfers in Israel and Gaza. Despite being a country at war, Tel Aviv is a pretty relaxed place. It looks like how I’d imagine Miami did in the 70s. Everyone goes to the beach, which they refer to as the sea, and there are restaurants that just serve bowls of hummus. The girls are beautiful, but their boyfriends could inflict serious damage on you. Military service is mandatory for 18 year-olds.
We’ve had our heavy days, but here is a look at the lighter side of Israel.