”Before you say one more thing about Israel – come here!”

Hej kära vänner!

So… Originally I wanted to write this letter in Swedish, but I gave up on the idea since my Swedish is far from being perfect and since I want to convey my message as coherent as I can.

I read some of the letters here, and they’re very touching letters about the conflicts here in Israel and about the terror attacks and all of the threats we are dealing with from all of our neighbors. Unfortunately, our neighbors are not Norway, Finland and Denmark, to say the least :-).
I do have a lot to say about the political aspects, about the European hypocrisy and the ”human rights” activists, who are falling into the trap of Hamas and terror organizations. I have a family in the South of Israel, and my brother spent his birthday in a shelter, and in general I have much to say about the conflict.


I don’t want to focus on the negative and problematic sides, but on the positive ones. Because that’s how I am. I guess that most Israelis and Jews are like that – ”everything will be alright” (”Allt ordnar sig”). Maybe because my people have been through so much…

In order to truly understand the mentality, the way of thinking, the culture, the conflict and all what you might thought or heard in the news about Israel – you just have to come here. There were so many people who completely changed their mind about Israel after visiting. There is so much ignorance in the Western world in the Israeli subject, it’s just unbelievable. In my four visits in Sweden, there were Swedes who thought the language we speak is Jerusalem, some thought that Israel is in Africa and were surprised to see that I’m white; others thought women have to work with their faces covered, and so on. The only way to fight that ignorance is to come, see by yourselves and tell your friends the truth. Så kom!

Before I tell you what Israel is for me, I’ll tell you a bit about myself. My name is Dan, I’m 21 years old and I live in Tel Aviv. I was born in Moscow and my parents immigrated to Israel when I was one year old. I grew up in Be’er Sheva, a city in the South of Israel. I moved to Tel Aviv just after high school because I got accepted to Law studies at Tel Aviv University. This year I’m finishing the fourth and last year of my degree, and afterwards I go to the army to work in the law unit there. I speak Hebrew, English, Russian, Spanish (from TV shows I watched when I was a kid) and some Swedish. My romance with Sweden started a long time ago, in the beginning with the Eurovision and the Melodifestivalen. Since March 2009, I visited Sweden 4 times and also started studying the language. I really like your country, the culture, the people, the music and even the weather (probably it’s the Russian genes…).

But anyway, we are here to talk about Israel. Do you remember Mika’s song, ”Grace Kelly”? It has a sentence – ”I could be brown, I could be blue…”- If someone would ask me what the magic of Israel is, and why people fall in love with it, I would answer, without any doubt, that it is its diversity.

Israel can be the Holy Land, with all of the sacred places for Jews, Christians and Muslim people and you can feel the Holy Spirit in the different holidays, as well as during the weekends in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Safed, and more. Jewish Rabbis are praying in the Western Wall, Priests and nuns are walking down Via Dolorosa road in the old city of Jerusalem, and Muslims are looking at the beauty of the Dome of the Rock. If there is a G-d watching us from above, he is definitely overlooking at Jerusalem and the holy places.

But at the same time, alongside with the religion and the tradition, we can see at the same Jerusalem city bars and pubs and night clubs, celebrating the miracle of life until dawn. If you go a bit west you will find Tel Aviv, the most liberal city in the Middle East. With endless night life, it earned the name ”the city that never sleeps”. Pride parades, amazing beaches and a beautiful port, big club scene, Parties – all of those contributed to the image that Tel Aviv got – young, funky and maybe a bit of a crazy city!

Israel is known for also other unique places: The Dead Sea, where you can lie down and relax. Go in the footsteps of the heroes in Masada, explore the Negev desert (and the craters there – a night walk in the desert with all the stars above is an amazing experience!), look at what is left in Caesarea, use Israel’s ski resort (yes, we also have snowy mountains) in the Hermon Mountain, swim in the sea of Galilee, enjoy the water in the Mediterranean sea all across it’s shore – including Haifa and the outstanding Baha’i gardens, dive and swim with dolphins in the Red Sea, in the beach of Eilat, Israel’s southern city, and much more.

It has everything for everyone: different religions trips, families, young travelers, adventurous people, straight, gay, and practically – each and every one of you will fall in love with Israel and will find what he likes. We truly made the desert blossom. Once you also meet the people and communicate and listen – you can understand the truth and the beauty of it. You can find a lot of information and pictures once you search the stuff I put in bold online, but I also made a collage that shows the different extraordinary places in Israel.

This is Israel

Other than the different cities and religions in Israel, another aspect of this diversity is the diversity in languages, people and ethnicities from all around the world. In every corner you will find a mix of a truly Moroccan spirit, the Polish or ”Yiddishe Mame”, French accent, flags of Russia, Hungarian Kiortosh, Egyptian pride, American youngsters, Argentinian meat and ”Assado”, and much more. The reason is of course the gathering of all of the Jews around the world in this small country. I think that makes life much more interesting. People from different backgrounds, with different mentalities meet, know each other and even get together. It can also be very funny and amusing, when for example a Russian lady tries to find her way in the line to a Falafel store. No wonder it’s called the ”Melting Pot” of the Israeli society!

The diversity is also shown in political views; from very right political parties, to the most left. There is a joke about Jews – ”Two Jews, three opinions”. It seems that you can’t describe the Israeli inner political conflicts in a better way. As a democracy, Israel allows all inoffensive opinions to be expressed (with Arab Muslims in the parliament). That’s why also a lot of political parties rise and fall; because they had the illusion they could unite most of the people into one opinion. Due to the different background and mentality of every person, it’s almost impossible.

In any case, please, before you say one more thing about Israel, or before you judge Israel because of something you heard in the media, come here. We’ll show you around. 🙂

I will be happy to get in contact with you, if someone also plans to come or just to ask any question – you can find me on Facebook (Dan Erukhimovich).

Shalom och hej,


Jag heter Oshra och jag har en bekännelse

Jag heter Oshra och jag har en bekännelse: Jag älskar Israel! Verkligen!

Vi har ett otroligt poetiskt språk, vi har storstäder och gröna ängar och gula öknar. Vädret är fantastiskt; det är aldrig för varmt eller för kallt. Vi har stränder och vi har vackra berg. Vårt utbildningssystem är ett av världens bästa; vi uppmuntrar stora tänkare och att tänka utanför ramarna. Vår sjukvård är inte alltför dyr. Vi får lov att säga vad vi tycker och att protestera när det behövs – och vi gör det utan våld. Israel är ett fantastiskt land. Jag älskar det. Verkligen.

Misstförstå mig inte – det är inte alltid lätt för mig att erkänna det. Jag håller inte alltid med om det mitt land gör. Jag är pacifist. Jag har vad man skulle kunna kalla en romantisk syn på livet. Jag väljer detta själv! Jag väljer att vara lite naiv och att tro att om människor vill ha fred så kan de göra skillnad. Jag tror inte att våld är svaret, men jag vet att det finns många tillfällen när det inte finns något annat val.

Det är ingen här som faktiskt vill ha krig. Vi vill leva våra liv i fred, vi vill öppna tidningen och läsa artiklar om fotboll eller vetenskap eller till och med om någon ministers genanta sexfilmer! Allt utom krig.

Vi hatar inte araber. Vi lever tillsammans med dem, arbetar tillsammans med dem, blir vänner med dem. Det är medierna som gör det hela så otäckt. Det är samma medier som alltid visar den smärta och det lidande som folket i Gaza lever med, utan att någonsin nämna de stackars människor som lever i Israel under ständigt terrorhot.

Det är så här: BÅDA SIDOR ÄR DRABBADE. Krig suger för båda sidor! Vi njuter inte av detta. Vi vill bara leva vårt liv i fred, dricka vårt morgonkaffe och koppla av. Vet ni hur svårt det är att koppla av här? Varje gång en överljudsknall hörs tror man att landet är under attack. Varje gång en motorcykel varvar utanför huset så att det låter som varningssirenen så får man hjärtat i halsgropen.

Jag arbetar som grafisk konstnär och illustratör. För en månad sedan, under de senaste bombattackerna, hade jag en kund från Be’er Sheva (i södra Israel) som bad mig att undvika röd färg.. ”Röd färg” är namnet på larmsystemet i södra Israel. Tänk er en värld utan röd färg! En värld där rött är färgen för passion och energi, i stället för terror och skräck…

Slutligen – vi vill bara leva vårt liv och låta andra leva sitt. Detta är Israels verkliga folks röst.

Oshra Pahima-Shemesh

Översättning: Ingrid Olsson
Read this letter in English.

My name is Oshra and I have a confession to make

My name is Oshra and I have a confession to make: I love Israel! I really do.

We have the most poetic language, we have city landscape as well as green meadows and yellow deserts. The weather here is phenomenal, it is never too hot or too cold. We have the beach and we have beautiful mountains. Our education system is one of the best in the world, we encourage great minds and thinking out of the box. Our health insurance is not that expensive, we have the ability to speak our minds and protest when necessary, and we do it non violently. Israel is a great country. I love it. I really do.

Don’t get me wrong though, it is not always easy for me to admit that. I don’t always agree with my country’s actions.
I am a pacifist. I have, what you might call, a romantic point of view to life. I choose to have this point of view! I choose to be a little naive, to believe that if people want peace they can make a difference. I don’t believe that violence is the answer. I do, however, know that there are many times that there is no other choice.

Non of us here actually wants war. We want to live our lives in peace, we want to open the newspaper and read articles about soccer or science or even ministers embarrassing sex tapes! Anything but war.

We don’t hate Arabs. We live with them, work with them, befriend them. It’s the media that makes it so nasty. It’s the same media that constantly portrays the pain and suffering of the people in Gaza, completely neglecting those poor people living in Israel, under a constant threat of terror.

Let me break it to you: BOTH SIDES SUFFER. War sucks, for both sides! We don’t enjoy this. We just want to live our lives in peace, drink our morning coffee, kick back and relax. Do you know how hard it is to relax around here? Every time you hear a supersonic boom you are sure your country is under attack. Every time you hear a motorcycle outside that sounds like a siren your heart drops a beat.

I am a graphic artist and illustrator. About a month ago, on the latest bomb attacks, I had a costumer from Be’er Sheva (southern Israel) asking me to not use the color red. ”Red Color” is the name of the alarm system in the south. Imagine a world without the color red! A world in which red is a color for passion and energy instead of terror and fear…

The bottom line is- we just want to live and let live. This is the voice of the real people in Israel.

Oshra Pahima-Shemesh

Read this letter in Swedish.