Nice Israelis, nice.

We are often asked since how long we are traveling, and we answer eight months before realizing that no it has not been eight, but nine months already. Some weeks ago as we were camping on the side of the Nile river, we decided to make a list of the people who marked us during our trip. The people we spend time, we converse and create links with are a big part of this trip. Some of them marked us genuinely and we would like to see them again if randomness of life allows it. In our list many of these people are Israeli encounters.

We talked about what we perceived of Israel, Palestine, the conflict, a good part of the culture, but we didn’t talked about the trip itself.

From the start to the end in Israel we didn’t had to think much, the encounters chained themselves all naturally. Before getting there we had a contact: Rémi met Lauren in Albania during a hitchhikers gathering last summer and she made an impression on him when she arrived and decreed, full of energy, that we had to collect the trash with the kids of the village. Mission they totally fulfilled! She lives now in Nes Harim with Alex and Johnny where the three of them take care in a farm of a goat herd and some plantations. We spent quite some times in Nes Harim with them, the cheese and the goat yogurt being a blessing and the long nights spent drinking and talking on the terrace happened to elapse too quickly. One hard morning we struggled to extricate ourselves from sleep at sun rise, not without the help of the shepherds armed with water, in order to walk the goats together, all of them taking advantage of our mollusk’ shape to do what they wanted. It is a great place, peaceful with a warm welcome and good food/ We also helped a bit, for example playing the guinea pigs for the curry ice-cream. It is Lauren who advised us some places to visit south of Haifa on the way to the farm and how we got to know Ein Hod and Jisr az-Zarqa.

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Ein Hod is an artist village chilling on the side of a hill. Everywhere many quite fancy houses rise together with works of art, sculptures of any kind, installations and galleries. While struggling to find a place to camp, somebody called us from his balcony and ask us in Hebrew if we are doing the « Shvil Yisra’el », a hiking path going through all Israel from north to south. A bit everywhere on the way one can find the “Shvil Angels”, camps or simply people welcoming the hikers. The one of Ein Hod being certainly a bit different from the other ones with its big teepee and its giant eagles sculptures. Great, we got there and shared the evening with few hikers who for once sat up a little later and who had left long time ago when we woke up.

The next days we got to Jisr az-Zarqa. It’s a small Arab village and also the poorest of Israel. To enter we passed through a tunnel under the highway whose facade is painted with all colors and announces « Welcome to Jisr az-Zarqa ». Going through this tunnel is a little bit like taking an inter-dimensional door that makes you change space-time. And there we are, transported to a typical Arab town, with its regular amount of mess, cars honking and trash a little bit everywhere. People are outside, say hello to you, kids play in the street and everybody knows each other. It’s an other face of Israel that we discover here which has nothing to do with the rest.

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On Nes Harim heights, which is located between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, while watching the sun set we can catch sight of Tel-Aviv’s buildings and even the sun diving into the sea when the sky is clear. On the other side of the hill we see the first habitations of Jerusalem‘s periphery. It was time to leave the goats, so we rose our thumbs for Jerusalem and Elisha, a university mate of Lauren; hosted us. Both study oriental music and we got the chance to listen Elisha playing on his Saz and to try it as well. For Elisha, no way we sleep on the floor, so he gave us his ultra comfortable double bed and slept himself on the floor. Any guide will tell you very well how not to miss the unmissable in Jerusalem so we will not talk about it. Still from our opinion, some things are worth seeing. During our wandering through the small streets of the old town we went up on the roofs after trying several stairwells and it’s really nice to this the city from an other point of view. We also liked the Jehuda market that changes completely atmosphere when the sun sets: during the day a colorful and lively market, it transforms at night when the bars open playing music on their speakers and when youngsters come to hang around and make their instruments resonate in front of the closed iron curtains. During this transition time at the end of the market, we had to keep control on ourselves not to get more veggies and fruits, judged a bit too old, that we can use. In the Nachlaot neighborhood next to the market, we loved to discover the small streets and other hidden gardens. Another night we went to a concert of Bint el Funk, an Israeli band that rocks, mixing Yemenite music, funk and other styles with lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Jerusalem is a very religious and very touristic city, but also a lively city that still leaves many things to be discovered. The city surprised us when we tried to hitchhike at night, in the city, and a very kind small grand-pa drove us to the tramway station.

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After Jerusalem we wanted to see Tel-Aviv, Israel‘s capital city, but as well the cool, alternative, on the move city, where for example gays and lesbians often emigrate to escape from the other cities’ conservatism. Alex the shepherd came with us and introduced us to Oren, our first host in Tel-Aviv, a big teddy bear currently training to catch objects with his feet. Alex took as a duty to bring us to the best hummus of Israel and to make us visit the places he likes. Alex took the bet not drinking beer until he will brew his own: the last news were that the equipment was ordered and we hope that he didn’t give up, because for a guy like Alex, not drinking beer is like not eating cheese for Frenchman. When we left Oren, we found a refuge close to Karmel market, this time at Maxim’s; while his girlfriend left us for the ‘Backstreet Boys return show, we went with Maxim to listen to a crazy pianist and his band at a nice jazz bar in the same street. Yonathan, a friend’s friend, who introduced us to Maxim joined us a little bit later. In this market, just like in Jerusalem, the amount of abandoned avocados at the end of the market overwhelmed us. Be careful to arrive before the big mega bulldozer that comes to clean everything. Ok, a bulldozer to clean a market sounds a bit weird, but it’s a weird country anyway. Yonathan and Maxim will put all their efforts so we could do longboard, eat at a hummus place (yes again), giving us some clothes or helping us to sell beers when we broke Rémi’s computer and Arthur’s bag got stolen.

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In Tel-Aviv, we like the Yaffo/Jaffa neighborhood of Arabic origin, much prettier than the new and big buildings Tel-Aviv is made of. In its really cool flea market, we bought our new mocha pot, the most indispensable tool of our journey.

With Manu the real Brittany guy, just like we like them, found in between two potatoes and a lemon at the end of the market, we met one night Laura on the beach. She was coming back from the Midburn and the days she spent there made here change her vision of the world, she wanted to help everybody, not care of anything and screw everything. She therefore hosted us without further questions.

When one travels, it is a common saying that people always meet twice. And sometimes even more! In Tel-Aviv we met again randomly Scott who we already met in Cyprus, and Freddy with whom we shared Christmas in Turkey, and already met randomly in Cyprus as well. Zincredible.

From a random research online, we saw that Driss was playing at the Groove Attack festival. The festival was way too expensive for us but we know Driss because he was the director of Hadra festival in Grenoble where we often volunteered. A quick email and the invitations were in our pockets. So there we went to party hard and destroy our ears with Infected Mushrooms and other very good artists. Driss also put the crowd on fire under the water vaporizers of the dance floor. One thing leading to another, we found back the contact of the Exodus organizers, festival where we volunteered in Cyprus. On the beach where the party was organized we met all the crew, except the big Shaman who we will see again later. A crazy one, but also a bit touching once the first impression put aside. It’s where we got our bag stolen and where we discover that the computer screen is broken.

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Sometimes we are tired of hitchhiking. And then something happens to remind us why we do all this: Rimoch and Jeky are part of it. At this time we already wanted to leave Israel but Rimoch promised that we could come and drink some good beer if we came to visit their kibbutz. Because we never went inside a kibbutz we allowed ourself this detour. Rimoch and Jeky are this couple that make concerts dressed as giant space lizards. Rimoch speaks with no pause if you don’t manage to control him, which probably takes years of training, on all different topics and in detail. Jeky doesn’t listen anymore since long what Rimoch says but still looks tenderly for head lice in his hear.

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Kibbutz watizat? Kibbutz are collectivist villages created by Zionist movements during Israel’s colonization. First mainly agrarian they developed later industrial activities. Historically, kibbutz members were known to be engaged and militants, advocating egalitarian values, cooperation between members and the absence of private property. With time kibbutz changed a lot and many of them did not keep much from their values while their industries and agrarian activities have been mainly privatized. The kibbutz’ importance in the Israeli society as well as their number is in clear decrease since 1970. Today one can probably still find kibbutz with these original values while the others range from village a bit more communitarian to a simple memory of the past.

Ginegar, the kibbutz in which we stayed some days keeps some traces of this history. The common laundry or the dinning room are still here, and if they were yore important components, they are nowadays optional. The newcomers don’t necessarily share the egalitarian values and are not really part of the community while the kibbutz population is getting older. Nevertheless it is true that we feel a particular atmosphere, the feeling of community is here, people look happy and get along well with each other, and religion is almost nil, astonishing for this country.

Ginegar is a very green place where the buildings have a strange aspect (who said Soviet?), and adjoining the village a huge cattle exploitation with cows that see only concrete all their lives. Proof that industrialization got the better of traditional farming. We also keep in our minds the image of the golf carts that parade everywhere, only a few cars pass by, which we adore to observe the coming and going.

It is Rimoch and Jeky that advised us the spot next to the Dead Sea were we hitchhiked to with Johnny. Remember Johnny? It is our friend shepperd. If Alex and Lauren are young in age (like us), Johnny is young in his head (like us). It is this South African dude who at one point asked himself what the hell he was doing with his life. He decided to leave everything behind and to go meditate in the Sinai mountains. He then found his luck with the farm that he brilliantly manages. A great soul who learns by experience, his cheese getting better at each batch while the sheep heard is everyday more behaved. Even with his curry ice-cream he gets better. The coast sides of the Dead Sea are very impressive. We went not far from Metsokei Dragot where people swim naked, where nobody comes to harass you or sell you a regenerating spa. There it is chilled, with a small pool of clean water to rinse that we shared with the passing people. This is where we met Rivi and Katja who took us back to Jerusalem to spend the evening at the light festival of the city. Rivi studies in the US at Naropa University in Boulder, a pretty special alternative university that she seems to enjoy. And if we get there one day we might say hi.

In Israel people are cool and open. Maybe a bit too speed, a bit too much cutting your speech off and not listening to you (isn’t it Rivi?), but we like them anyway. We are as much in disagreement with the government and its way of managing the situation and the inside issues we talked about in previous articles, as we felt well with the people we have met. There is in this country a kind of solidarity hard to re-transcribe by writing, some kind of trust and easy and straightforward communication. Israel was a great moment of our trip.

This is for our forth and last article about Israel, if you still have any questions just shoot them us.

Flexouilles!

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Israel, Palestine 3/3 – Can I have the hummus?

Here is the third and last article on our reflections about Israel.  We hope that you carry on and that at least one or two of you will read until the end. If you missed the last episodes here are article 1 and article 2, easy!

« I realized I was not only defending my country. » a friend that signed a 10-year contract after his military service tells us.

Invoking self defence Israel allows itself to replicate with huge power. The military technology and the means of Israel are by far superior compared to the Palestinian ones, like the Iron Dome for example. On the website Breaking the Silence soldiers talk about their experience explaining that often orders are not given respecting war conventions and that civilians are not spared as much as they should. The unbalance of forces is terrific, the Israeli army is overly powerful, and if it is of course normal to defend yourself from terrorist attacks, the truth is not that simple. Many Palestinians are killed while the amount of dead on the Israeli side is insanely less. Often the fault is given to the “terrorists” that are said to use civilians as human shields and to launch rockets from inhabited places (schools, public buildings, etc.). It is likely that these people use this methods and commit many war crimes, but Israel doesn’t strive all the time to protect the civilians as the international conventions ask for. While reading the testimony of these soldiers it becomes obvious that the Israeli army, considered as legitimate, is far from being irreproachable. As an example, during the last war against Gaza in summer 2014 (“protective edge” operation), there has been according to the UNO 1400 Palestinians civilians killed against 6 Israeli civilians.

But the imbalance is not only in the amount of people killed. The Palestinian people suffer, their country is not recognized and is getting surrounded by a wall, their freedom is taken away. And during this time, one hour driving away in the Tel-Aviv bubble, David is jogging and doing push-ups on the beach. A surrealistic gap that makes one quickly forget about the rest when spending a few days playing beach racket on the water side.

“Ah this is an Arab town.” one of our first driver tells us.

“Hein? What do you mean by this?” We are a little bit shocked at first when we hear about “the Arabs over there”. But actually the Israeli society is really organized like this: there are some “Jewish” villages and some Arab villages located only a few kilometres away from each other and with very few exchanges between them. An Arab village is different from a Palestinian village because it is on the ground of Israel and the Arabs who live there have the Israeli citizenship. But it is as well another world where the laws and the general organization are not quite the same as anywhere else. This ghetto-phenomenon, although happening all around the planet, seems very strong in Israel. The society is divided in a great deal of mini-groups, the Arabs in their villages, the settlers in their new barbed-wired residential cities, the Palestinians surrounded by walls, but as well the Sudanese district, the kibbutz and the Druze towns (a surprising stream of Islam). It is almost like there was a will to separate folks, it is better that people don’t meet too much. The Israeli Arabs for example don’t have to do the military service as their allegiance to Israel or Palestine is doubtful, but it actually only keeps each side far away from each other. If instead of doing nothing they would have to do a civil service to integrate the global system?

We ask ourselves about the Israel-Palestine programs that really exist. People often talk to us about the Arabs, who are like this, who build their houses like that and so on. And like many clichés there is a part of truth. “But have you been to Palestine?” “Euh no not really or I was a child.” We want to compare it to the ‘banlieues’ (suburbs) in France where people that have never put a feet in these places allow themselves to criticize them. When you only live with the same people and when mixes are rare it does not really helps mutual understanding and does not make hate vanish.

No English” answer us an orthodox man when ask him our way.

If there is one surprising community, not to say weird, in Israel, it’s the ultra-orthodox Jews, the Haredi. They are people who dedicate their lives to religion, the study of the Torah and who are strictly following the Halakha, the Jewish laws. Different branches exist in this community. The classical ultra-orthodox man walks around with a black suit, a black hat with wide edges and a white shirt. Very often he has a long beard, has some kind of long braids in pig tail shape that grows on his temples (payots) and wears the tzitzits, kind of weaved strings that hang from his pants that is visible to make them remember God’s commandments. You cannot miss them. The women also have an official clothing style, not really sexy, going along with a quite ugly hair cut. They are spending their time pushing pushchairs. Pushchairs, pushchairs, pushchairs everywhere, the orthodox Jews are making many many children and the families with ten kids and more are not rare. They live recluse in neighbourhoods or entire cities, the children are going to specials schools. They meet only people from their community and are only learning the Torah, oh yes, no Mathematics or English for these little orthodoxes. It then becomes difficult to get out of this system in which their thoughts are completely focused in one narrow direction. And the people who have the courage to get away from that end up completely lost, to find a job for example, because they lack so many skills. Hearing somebody telling us “no English” in a country where everybody speaks perfectly English is a bit weird.

With an early marriage and an immoderate number of kids by couple, it is easy to see how the Jewish orthodox population is growing and how important it becomes for the Israeli government to win the votes of this community. This part of the population that is dedicating their lives to God and the reading of the Torah is a problem that impacts the rest of the Israelis. Since they are not working they live from the help of the State, especially the child benefit, while doing some arrangement in between their very closed network. With a little signature from the rabbi, they don’t have to do the military service. But well, they already have a quite high dose of brain washing from their life style and religion, it’s maybe enough.

To the ghetto-phenomenon we talked about earlier about the Arabs, we need of course to add the ultra-orthodoxes who are a perfect illustration of it.

Don’t hitchhike with Arabs car” tell us approximately 10,000 Israelis.

The Israelis are afraid, they are afraid of the Palestinians, they are afraid of rockets. Often when we are talking about our trip and we are saying that we want to go to Palestine, Jordan or Egypt, they think we are crazy, they tell us that we are going to get murdered. Every Israelis repeat to us that we should never go inside an Arab car when we are hitchhiking, those same Israelis who have never been to Palestine.

This fear make us often laugh, and is completely out of step with our hitchhiking experience in Israel, where it’s not rare that a young women give a ride to the two bearded guy we are, at night, on a small road. It never or very rarely happens in Europe.

Today we celebrate the day when Jerusalem got captured. Should I say captured or liberated ?” “Well it depends of the point of view” we answer to an Israeli teenager not sure of his French.

Jerusalem is one of the main disagreement point of the conflict. High place of many religious streams, Jerusalem hosts tourists and pilgrims from the whole world. 1967 following the Six Days War Israel took over the control of all the city, and every year the ultra-nationalists Jews happily remember it to everybody in a giant manifestation during Yom Yerushalayim, the day of Jerusalem. Of course, the Palestinians don’t agree with this occupation. While Jerusalem could be a place where every religion live in peace, it is instead the demonstration of the inability of some men to deal with their differences.

It is when we ask a boy in the street during Yom Yerushalayim pretending not knowing anything, what the origin of this agitation is that he answers this superb sentence. During several hours we will make an indigestion of blue-and-white flags and exacerbated nationalism. Jews from all the country came to follow the procession in the street of Jerusalem. Some teenagers were throwing fliers asking the expulsion of the Muslims from the last place in the old town that they still really control, the Temple Mount. We have been warned, a package of hundreds of army and policemen is on-site, and it’s actually quite normal when we see that the march passes through the Muslim quarter yelling very elaborated slogans like the classical “Death to the Arabs!”. A little bit of originality would have been appreciated. Many altercations happen with the pro-Palestinians and their anti-protest is of course kept aside by the “peace” keepers. utds_2015_05_17-17_40_26

In all that mess, a small group of people are carrying roses and offering them to the crowd to cool everybody’s ardor. From both side of the protest, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, people asked for a flower with a genuine smile before destroying it petal by petal in front of their face and throwing it on them. It’s quite difficult to express the human madness that we experienced this afternoon. They were no more men, only enraged sheep going crazy with every slogan, waiting for the next friction to find a reason to hate the other side even more, and if possible to fight a little bit.

The women had a different track than the men’s that we didn’t follow, so we can not say if they dared also to destroy the roses.

Actually, it was a quite sad day for us and we got home with an heavy heart. But that being said we saw the city during more normal days and Jerusalem is a really cool city.

We made a small video of the day to give an idea what Yom Yerushalayim looks like.

The best hummus it’s here.” We still didn’t got where it was, every Israeli has a different address.

The Israelis are proud of their few specialities. They all know the best address in Israel to eat falafel or hummus, and they all have the best recipe to make a shakshuka or to prepare the tahini. In the end, they admit it, those meals are originally Arab while they integrated them to their culture. When you get to know both cultures it becomes a game to spot all the similarities between Israelis and Arabs. The language is a good example, most of the Hebrew words having an Arab origin.

“Make hummus not walls”, the solution is all found for this street artist on the separation wall of Palestine in Bethlehem.

« Hey but in France you are not afraid of the extremism rise?! » many drivers tell us.

In Israel, and even more in Tel-Aviv, we hear all the time speaking French. Many French Jews, often from Paris, emigrated to Israel using the law of return in order to get Israeli nationality. Many of them moved out because they think being more safe in Israel. We often got this same discussion with Israelis explaining us that they saw on TV that it is dangerous to be Jew in France and that the country is full of Islamic extremists and Anti-Semitics. We are very surprised and needed every time to explain that no, the Islamic extremists are not doing the rules in France, and that no, it’s not very dangerous to be Jewish in France. We still wonder because we only have a limited knowledge on the topic, but we have the feeling that the French Jewish community, closed on itself, tends to exaggerate anti-Semitism and the problems Jews could face in France.

Trying to summarize everything, we ended up with something quite long and we didn’t even speak about our experience as travellers (which was great), but it will be done in a future article.

Hummus to everybody! Arfer and Raymi.

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Israel, Palestine 2/3 – Walls again?

Here is the second article on our reflexions about Israel. If you didn’t read the first one, it’s here.

I got my car’s window broken by a kid that threw a stone at me.” a woman tells us. She wanted to stop to take a young Palestinian who was hitchhiking.

Before coming we had some trouble to really understand what Palestine was. The territories are composed of both West Bank and the Gaza strip.

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West Bank, the biggest part, is more or less occupied by Israel that doesn’t acknowledge the existence of an independent Palestinian state. It is divided in three areas, A, B and C, and despite reading ten times about it, we could not really put a picture behind the words. But once we got there the difference became clear. The A areas are entirely controlled by Palestinians, and Israelis cannot enter it except for some soldiers once in a while for military raids and operations. In B areas Palestinians are in charge of the civil sector while the security is split between both Israel and Palestine. Israel’s army is everywhere in these places. C areas, completely controlled by Israel, are inhabited by settlements since 1967. A settlement is a small village build out of nothing and surrounded by barbed wire with a check-point at the entrance, often inhabited by very Zionist Israelis. This smart technique from the government to colonize the territory blocks slowly all chances to see the conflict ending. The settlers who come to live in Palestine consider that it is there right to live everywhere in the Holy Land, no matter the climate of fear that the extremists could create. And they benefit as well from the government’s subsidies to help them enjoy the joys of familial colonization.

The other part of Palestine, the Gaza strip, is a little region in the South-West of Israel. First military occupied by Israel, the management is given to the Palestinian Authority in 1994 with the Oslo Accord, until the Gaza strip is left entirely autonomous since the revocation of the settlements in 2005. With the election of the Hamas in 2007 and the Israeli-Egyptian embargo, the relations got worst and worst and some big fights took place. Between the embargo, the state of war and armed attacks, the people of the Gaza strip undergo huge humanitarian and sanitary disasters. Adding to the chaos, the Hamas has implemented a very strict Islamic regime where very few freedom exists and in which it is taught to children to be ready to die as a martyr in a suicide bombing on Israel.

After the recent fights Israel decided to protect itself against all kind of attacks, like the stone-throws that this women describes to us, and quickly got equipped with an entire and efficient anti-terrorist system. The Gaza strip was completely surrounded by a wall stopping all communication with the outside world, which lead to the traffic tunnels that were dug year after year. The cities considered as ‘A-areas’ are similarly isolated with little consideration for the children that come back from school and find in front of their house a 12-meter high wall. The roads with risks are surrounded by a wall anti stone-throws, and Israelis are not doing things gently when it is about fences and barbed wire. A bit everywhere in Palestine check-points grow and decorate the landscape.

« Can you open your bags ? » a soldier asks us at the entrance of every public building.

When entering any mall, university or else, cars must open their trunk, our bags are regularly opened for a rather superficial check and we go all the time through beep-beep doors.

« We need a wall to protect us from the terrorists. »

All the measures of protection and population control are justified with the anti-terrorism fighting argument. And it works! The attacks on Israelis have significantly diminished while people are always more convinced that this measures are unavoidable. However, these techniques that are undoubtedly efficient, maybe even necessary, are only a short term solution. How can you hope that Palestinians will calm down when they feel parked like animals? Does the government really believes that he is working towards peace when he limits the freedom of movement from the Palestinians?

While discussing with a friend we were questioning ourselves about the term terrorism. If terrorism is the creation and the use of terror to achieve certain goals, it is normal to ask who creates the fear. For the Palestinians civilians it is with no doubt the Tzahal, the Israeli army considered as legitimate. Because in fact Israel came and imposed itself where Palestinians lived, killing civilians to achieve their aim. As for the Israelis, this comes from the organizations internationally declared as “terrorists”. So is it really possible to talk about legitimate army and terrorist groups?

The engines of the terror and the groups that feeds it exist on both sides. In Palestine for example we see on the walls propaganda pictures of young soldiers exhibiting their most beautiful riffle gun.

« From time to time there is a cow exploding in the Golan Heights. » a friend tells us while sipping a beer. Or two. I don’t remember very well.

While Jordan and Egypt signed a peace agreement, Israel is still in war with two neighbor countries, Lebanon and Syria. The borders with these two countries are completely closed and opaque. The Golan Heights, an area in the North still disputed with Syria and witness of different fights, is full of land mines very handy to stop Syrians from passing. And from time to time a very nice and cute cow, totally lost in this conflict, gets her head blown up while she was quietly eating her grass.

« Last summer we often saw rockets above the farm. » our friends sheepherders in Nes Harim tell us.

When you travel in Israel it is easy to forget that you are in a country in war, and even with some long periods of calm, a climate of tension is in the Israelis’ minds as many details reminds you daily about the situation. We see fighter planes passing above the beach, we see soldiers shopping with their assault guns, we see armoured cars everyday, we see regular people with a gun popping out of their belt and we see bunkers in most buildings. It is not rare to hear about “last summer” when rockets were launched all the time. We were in Israel when a simulation of war was done, a day during which alerts ring all across the country to warn from a combined attack from more or less all their enemies.

Another interesting anti-terrorism project is the Iron Dome, smart system that intercepts rockets launched from the outside if they will fall on inhabited areas, and which has a very good interception ratio (with a cost going along with the efficiency).

Israel is actually some kind of island surrounded by land, hard position to keep in these times.

« What is this? You turn 18 and they put a gun in your hand. This is how you start your adult life. » a young driver tells us and she, for once, has been to Palestine.

First day in Israel we see in a bookshop a soldier with a huge gun choosing a book for his little sister. And then we see some everywhere, and after a while we kind of get used to it. Israel is a small country, but with a three-year military service (depending on the position, the unite or else, it can be two or sometimes five), almost all the citizens, including women, are potential soldiers. People that we meet are fighter plane pilot, were teaching the newbies how to drive tanks, or were serving in a submarine. Every now and then the ones finished with the military service must come back for a short amount of time. A good way to force into the mind of the 18-years old teenagers the message of the government. The argument that is used? “Seen our position, we need everybody to be a soldier”. Even if the military service is not as hard as the professional army, once finished, the young Israeli go invade India and South America to let go with the pressure.

The military service is a great tool to control the young Israelis’ mind. It is a way among many others that make that many Israelis are not aware of half of what is happening, rarely question the legitimacy of Israel, and don’t realize to what extent Israel impose its power and will to the Palestinian people.

Israel needs an army, this is now undeniable. But does it really needs everybody to be a soldier? What would happen if half of them would do a civil service working towards a peace process instead?

« They are lonely soldiers. » a bartender tells us while showing a table.

Because Jews are settled all around the world and some feel very close to Israel, young non-Israelis come as well for the military service under some social pressure, answering familial duties for example. These are the “lonely soldiers”, often American, that do the military service but have no family to spend their permissions with. The law of return, one of the principles of Israel State, guaranties to any Jew the right to immigrate and to get the Israeli citizenship. A melting-pot of cultures and opinions are thus found all across the country along with a certain tolerance.

« No but I don’t care, I prefer to give them a lot of land and that we make peace. » a young guy tells us.

Zionists will most likely not agree with this and are not ready at all to let some of the Holy Land go. However a very large amount of people would prefer that the conflict comes to an end and make two independent states. It actually is the most supported solution at an international scale instead of trying to integrate Palestine to Israel that no longer seems a viable option.

And soon, the third and last part of our article, that will transcend you, that will make you fly, if you manage to read it entirely.

Tractor love,

Us.

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Israel, Palestine 1/3 – Holy Land?

Israel is a complicated country that made us ask ourselves many questions. We decided to divide this article in three parts, because there is to much to say that seems important to understand the country. We will later write an article about our stay in Israel, where we loved travelling, and you can also have a look at our pictures in the gallery.

« Don’t worry this is standard procedure. » the immigration girl tells us.

We get out of a cargo-boat in Haifa in the north of Israel. After two hours of interrogation during which we get asked what we want to do in Israel, why we come by boat, who we know in Israel and their addresses, how long will we stay, where we are going after, but also how we pay for our travels and more, then comes the bags inspection, followed by a second person asking the same questions, and we finally have our stamp, on a separated paper as we wished to. We got it, Israel is not joking about borders and the fear of terrorism make them do deep search on the travelers coming inside the country. Even more since we are two French guys coming by boat with a non-common traveling story, we don’t fit into their boxes and they find it suspicious. We’ve been warned, Israel is a special country. Let us discover it!

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What do you think about this miracle?” a cool-looking Orthodox asks us.

“What miracle?” we answer. “But, THIS!!” – while showing the landscape – “Israel!”. Oh yes Israel, I see. To understand this country we needed a small historical refresh.

Since the end of the 19th century the Jews of Europe were undergoing a rise of anti-Semitism with a climax in World War 2. Jews all over the world had the desire to create a Jewish State while getting back to the Holy Land. Zionism is the philosophy and the political movement that supports the existence of a state for the Jewish folk on the land of Israel, where Palestine had settled in the meantime. Therefore since the beginning of the 20th century the Jewish community were buying little by little land in Palestine. After the Second World War the creation of an Israeli State was made possible thanks to the British Government that handled its mandate on Palestine to the United Nations. 1948 Israel does its declaration of independence which leads to a war with the surrounding Arabic states. Israelis win the war and many Palestinians are forced to exile. In a great movement of humanism and compassion, what will be called later Israel came and imposed itself in a place where people were living since generations, and knew it perfectly. Ben Gurion, Israeli Prime Minister at that time, said in 1938: “The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.” (Address at the Mapai Political Committee (7 June 1938) as quoted in Flapan, Simha, Zionism and the Palestinians).

During twenty years the Israeli population doesn’t stop to grow and the economical help of the diaspora allows Israel to develop quickly. However tensions with the Arabic states do not disappear, they still disagree with the presence of the Jews in the area and bloody attacks occur inside the country. The 5th of June 1967 the neighbour Arabic countries, Egypt, Jordan and Syria attack at the same time Israel in the “Six Days War”. The Israeli army, the Tzahal, answers back and destroys the Arab offensive. After six days the war ends and Israel more than defending itself, conquered the Sinai Peninsula, East-Jerusalem, the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights, proving at the same time its superiority against the Arab armies.

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1979 a peace agreement is signed with Egypt and in 1982 Israel leaves Sinai.

1982 Israel invades Lebanon in order to stop the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), 17,000 Arabs and 670 Israeli soldiers die. Many will later say that Israel acted against international laws and the United Nations considered the Sabra and Shatila massacre as a genocide. During this massacre the Phalange, a right Christian Lebanese party, attacked refugees camps and killed many Palestinians right under the eyes of the passive Israeli Army.

The First Intifada (“uprising” in Arabic) starts in 1987 and during six years an over-equipped army will fight with demonstrators throwing stones. 1162 Palestinians and 160 Israelis died.

The years following will be marked with different treaties according more autonomy to the Palestinian people, especially Gaza and some cities in the West Bank which are becoming independent, but the tensions with the Palestinians remain vivid and Israel continue to protect itself. 2000 the second Intifada starts resulting again to the death of 4400 Palestinians and 1000 Israelis. During this conflict Israel starts the construction of a separation wall between Israel and Palestine.

Until today different wars and military operations are taking place one after the other opposing Israel and Palestinian armed groups, like Hamas that took control of Gaza in 2006 during a legislative Palestinian election. Palestinian civilians are killed each time, meanwhile Israel is building up an always more efficient defence on its territory, assuring a huge decrease of the numbers of Israeli civilians killed. For the Zionist, just like our orthodox, everything is like a miracle.

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Israel imposed itself and the Jewish folk conquered the Holy Land. Everything is in the right place. During that time, the first Jewish migrants made many kids, who are born Israeli, with an Israeli passport and not necessarily the one of their ancestor.

So even if the conflict got stuck, one cannot send them “back home”, we need to find an other solution.

On the road, we pass in front of many buildings or parks “generously offered by …”

How Israel was able to resist so long and so efficiently, even if it was only a state in construction? In fact, Israel is getting money from a bit everywhere: many Jewish people around the world are part of really rich families, many of them high positioned in the society. Therefore Israel took great benefit of the economic help coming from the diaspora. The United-States is Israel’s number one economic partner and is a big financial help to the country. Meanwhile Israel quickly became a modern country and is now really advanced in sectors like agriculture or weapons, hereby creating a huge gap with its Arabic neighbours.

Are you Jewish?” two out of three drivers ask.

“Euh no.” One of the questions we got most asked. “Oh so you are Christian?” Still not there. In the beginning we didn’t understood well because some people told us they were Jewish but not religious at all, or didn’t had the faith. It’s only after few weeks that we got it. To make it short, being a Jew means getting circumcised when you are 8 days old and having a Jewish mother. And you cannot escape from it! One doesn’t loose his Judaism like one can loose its Christianity and one can be a Jew (being part of the Jewish folk) and be in the same time atheist.

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It’s also of course a religion, but it’s mainly a culture, with many rites and rules that people are more or less strictly following. Sabbath, the equivalent of our Sunday, is a special day when you are not allowed to press buttons, including the use of a phone, an elevator or a gas stove. You are also not allowed to move too far from your home. All these rules come with a good amount of strange things and work-around. For example around the villages you can see a kind of metal string 4m high in the air, like an eletric string, that is used to limit the village: during Sabbath you’re not supposed to go beyond it because you should not go from a private sphere (village or district) to a public sphere (the rest of the world). There is also the famous the electrical counter to light automatically the devices in the house without touching any buttons, or even the elevator that stops at every floor for the same reason.

The state of Israel is a Jewish state that respects the Jewish law of Talmud.

Following soon, the next article.

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