I recently traveled with my husband to Israel, a country about the size of New Jersey. Established in 1948, Israel (meaning “He Who Strives with God”) is a democracy in the Middle East and the only Jewish-majority state in the world. Since its founding, Israel has fought several wars with neighboring Arab nations. The citizens, eight million strong, represent a wide array of ethnicities, nationalities and religious beliefs. It is Israel’s greatest strength and one of its greatest challenges.
I want to share a few of my experiences in order to provide you with knowledge of the heritage of this country and its exceptional people.
Everywhere we travel, my husband and I ask questions. Questions lead you to answers. This is my fourth trip to Israel, and I never stop questioning and learning about its people and the country. This particular blog is about some of the people I spent time with on this trip, from President Shimon Peres to our guide to waitresses and shop owners.
Restaurants are a perfect place to ask questions. This is a typical conversation between me and the waiter or waitress:
“Hi. Were you born in Israel?” I ask.
“Yes,” they reply, with a huge smile.
“Were your parents born in Israel?”
“Yes.” Another smile.
“What about your grandparents? Where were they born?”
“In other countries,” they answer. They are beginning to wonder why I am asking these questions.
“Where?” I asked.
Here are some of the fascinating replies:
“My grandmother was from Iraq. My grandfather was from Morocco.”
“My grandmother was from Egypt. My grandfather was from Turkey.”
“My grandmother was from Iran. My grandfather was from Russia.”
“My grandmother was from France. My grandfather was from Africa.”
“My grandmother was from Germany. My grandfather was from Argentina.”
“My grandmother was from Spain. My grandfather was from Australia.”
I asked our guide, Haim, the same question: “Where was your family from, Haim?”
“My grandfather and my grandmother were born in Alepo, Syria.” Heim married a seventh-generation Israeli from Eastern Europe.
The last person whose heritage I will mention is Shimon Peres, the President of Israel.
“Mr. President, may I ask you your heritage?” I asked.
His reply: “Both of my grandparents were born in Poland.”
Israelis from all over the world! From Africa, Poland, Argentina, Egypt, France, Spain, Iran and Iraq. I was taken aback and knew that God had a purpose for the Jewish people to resettle in the Land of Israel, homeland to the Jewish people dating back 4,000 years.
Do Something GOOD Today: Ask someone of a different culture about his or her traditions and background. You never know what you might learn!