Kokande kropp i fyragradigt Jerusalem

Fotot är från en tidigare resa (Döda havet).

Jag har ännu inte skrivit några rader om min senaste (femtonde?) resa till Israel.

Det har sina orsaker som vi inte måste gå in på nu.

Jag kan dock säga att vad den unge mannen hade ordnat för mig med anledning av min födelsedag var… Det finaste och mest romantiska jag varit med om under mitt förvånansvärt långa liv.

Tänk: kibbutzhotell på bergstopp i närheten av Jerusalem (med spa, bubbelpool, simbassäng, enorm frukost osv) samt kvällen därpå utomhusfilmvisning mot väggarna i nämnda stads äldsta delar.

Det var fantastiskt. Det var vackert. Det var romantiskt.

Jerusalem bjöd på ynka fyra grader och regn – men min kropp kokade av hetta.

Jerusalem Light Rail, Revisited

Once again, my family and I are visiting Israel from the northwest corner of the U.S., in Seattle, Washington, where I manage an Israel resource center (www.BroaderView.org).  And once again, we are spending our summer in my hometown of Rehovot.  While the kids are at day camp—“kaytana” in Hebrew—I roam the country by bus and train and car to see friends and acquaintances, old and new.  Once again, my travels bring me to Jerusalem for a day of meetings.  I wrote last year about my adventures on Jerusalem’s “CitiPass” light rail, and got some very positive reactions, so I thought I would post an update.

The air is cooler in Jerusalem, drier, crisper, breezier than on the inland plains.  It feels different not only physically, but also spiritually—literally, uplifting, where my step is lighter.

The security checkpoint at the entrance to the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem is closed.  It is not abandoned; the x-ray machine and metal-detector gate are still there, but pushed aside, unused.  Two security guards stand around, more engaged in talking to each other than observing the passersby.  Ironically, I feel more secure, not less, with the lax security.  Obviously, Israelis are no longer anxious about suicide bombers, and it’s easier to come and go.

Walking along Jaffa Road, I note that it is back to the bustling commercial area it once was, before it was torn up for years to build the light-rail lines.  There are fewer cars now and more pedestrians, and the Mahane Yehuda market is as busy as ever.  Hair salons and clothes shops, hardware stores and cafes, a youth hostel and a hat seller, old buildings and new line my route, along with quite a few construction sites in progress.  The economy is obviously booming.

The light rail passes by every ten minutes or so, silent on its tracks but clanging a bell to warn pedestrians to get out of the way.  I fumble with the ticket machine but eventually figure it out and deposit my coins, 6.60 NIS (about $1.85) for a single-ride ticket.  On the train, it seems that pretty much everyone is talking into a cell phone–speaking Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, English, Spanish, and a few other languages I can’t quite make out.  (One of them was probably Amharic, spoken by Ethiopian-Israelis, based on the speakers’ skin color and facial features.)  An ultra-Orthodox (“haredi”) man with long side-curls seems unperturbed standing next to a young woman in shorts and a tank top.  An elderly Arab man helps an Orthodox mother maneuver her baby stroller onto the train.  Another mother is talking on the phone about her teenage daughter who is bored at home, looking for advice on what she might do during the long summer vacation.

Next to me is a group of teenagers, each with a tag in a plastic holder hanging around his or her neck.  I squint to make out the fine print, not wanting to appear nosy (though obviously I am).  The tags say “Athlete,” and in smaller letters, “USA –Tennis.”  The green lanyards say “Maccabiah 2013.”  These young men and women are part of Team USA, the largest delegation to the “Jewish Olympic games” that open tonight.  I start chatting with them, and learn fairly quickly that one of the boys is from Mercer Island, Washington; his family and mine belong to the same synagogue.  A small world indeed!

It’s good to be back in Jerusalem.


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.

”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,


Swedish-American: Looking at Israel in a Different Way

Well, there are so many things I would like to say, and write down in this letter, but I will probably miss out a lot that has faded away from my thoughts throughout the 18 years I’ve been in Israel. It’s been a long roller-coaster ride, through good and bad experiences which have become bitter-sweet memories.

For starters, I am a young Swedish-American living in Israel since 1994. My Christian – Zionist parents brought me here at a young age, against my will I must say. But as time passed, I learned to love Jerusalem and it became my home. After reading Yossi’s letter, I’m reminded of how getting on a bus on a daily basis to public school was nerve wrecking. The endless bus bombings and the terror in the air made it difficult to concentrate on the small and happy things kids should grow up on.

Exactly ten years ago, on Friday, March 29, 2002 I was in my room in Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem and I remember hearing a loud sound coming from a distance. Minutes later we could hear the sirens and the helicopters flooding the area. And then the phone calls began – the routine of calling your family members, your friends, or anyone in the area, hoping it’s not another bomb, and praying your loved ones are safe. But tragically, 17 year-old Rachel Levy, a dear classmate was killed on that day by a teenage Palestinian female suicide bomber. At the time, being 17, I didn’t really grasp how such a young girl could kill herself and others for an idea or belief. Just thinking about it makes me cry. But I am writing this letter, since the world needs to know our stories as well. And this is just one of so many! I have no doubt the Palestinians have their own tragic stories and losses, but it’s crucial to understand each side, and not justify just one.