”60+ years in this country – and a history of over 3000 years – and people still don’t think we deserve to be here”

Hey, I am Gil, 25 years old from Israel.
For a long time I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about, so I decided just to talk about my daily life in Israel.

Well, for a long time (24 years) I lived in a town called Nazareth Illit. A nice Jewish town side by side with Nazareth – yes the town from the Bible.
I grew up there, school and stuff, used to play football with friends and I even had a nice Arab friend I used to play with.

When I turned eighteen I joined the army. Almost every Jewish boy and girl goes to the army after they finish high school. Unlike many countries in the world we have to serve in the army to protect our country.
I had a nice three-year-service in a computer unit – it passed quickly. For many of us who served in the army we feel and say that the army kinda forced us to grow up.

Anyway, after that period of time in my life I worked for a year in a mall between the two towns, many Arabs and Jews work there. A nice and friendly place.
I then moved to Tel Aviv to study computer science and work.
I can’t stop thinking about what I would have done with the three years I ”spent” when I served in the army, I could have finished college, travelled the world and so on…
But Israel is a special little place and I still wonder what is wrong with this world: after World War 2 not a lot of stuff has changed – people and countries still want the Jews to be eliminated from the world, and yes after 60+ years in this country and a history of over 3000 years they still don’t think we deserve to be here.
So yea, this is how I realize and accept that these three years in the army weren’t a waste.

I truly believe and hope that in twenty years my kids won’t have to serve in the army, but live side by side with the Arabs just like when I was little.
But if it will be needed I’ll send my kids to serve in the army, just like my father sent me, the same way he served thirty years ago.


On the Jerusalem Light Rail

I was born and raised in Israel, and live in Seattle, in the northwest corner of the United States, where I am a consultant, speaker, and educator focused on modern Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  I manage an online resource center about Israel at www.BroaderView.org, and invite you to visit!

I lived in Jerusalem for six years when I served in the Israel Defense Forces and studied at the Hebrew University.  But until last week, I had never been on the Jerusalem light rail, which only opened last year.  (On a previous visit I saw Jaffa Street torn up as the tracks and infrastructure were being built.)  You can see a video montage of the light rail at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWnEP_4hlXo.

My first ride was during a crowded rush hour on a warm July day.  I was impressed with the human landscape: men and women, young and old, Jewish and Arab, secular and Orthodox.  I observed the riders near me and took some notes….

The teenage girl standing next to me, wearing too much makeup, talking passionately on her cell phone while loudly chewing gum.

A couple sharing a set of white earbuds of a music player, one in each person’s ear. The man wore a black kippatzizit fringes, and a beard; the woman in long sleeves, a skirt and sandals, her hair in a scarf.  Their dress identifies them as Orthodox; they sway in unison to the music only they can hear.

Three twenty something guys with large backpacks, speaking Spanish.

A family of four: a cute little girl, maybe six years old, and a toddler boy, with their parents. The father, with a trim beard, has his Arabic-language newspaper open full spread.  The kids are so quiet and well behaved, the girl looking curiously around her just as I am, the toddler cooing on his mother’s lap.

A slender young woman gets off at the train stop.  She’s wearing jeans so tight they look like they were painted on her, a tie-dyed tank top, and strappy high heeled sandals. At the train stop, she’s warmly greeted by an older woman who lingers for a moment in her embrace. The middle aged woman—the other one’s mother?—is wearing a long skirt, opaque heavy stockings, and sensible shoes, and not a single hair is visible under her headscarf.  An interesting mother-daughter pair, if that’s indeed what it is—one quite Orthodox, the other provocatively secular.

The soldier sitting next to me looks like he’s about to fall asleep, but he’s clutching his heavy weapon, as though afraid it might drop if he nods off.

The young mother, holding a baby in one arm, is struggling to fold her stroller, one-handed. Another woman helps her, reminiscing wistfully, “I used to have one of these.”

The kid next to me, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old, is wearing cutoff jeans and a knit kippa. His large instrument case—a cello?—is front-heavy and keeps falling over. He apologizes profusely each time.

It’s my first time on Jerusalem’s new light rail, and I’m not sure where my stop is. I ask one woman where to get off for the Central Bus Station and three others chime in with helpful responses.

I love Jerusalem.