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The All-Nighter

So here I am the night before I leave still trying to unpack in order to actually pack for my trip to Israel. I fly out tomorrow morning – so I’ve decided to just not go to bed so I can sleep on the 14 hour or so flight. I figured if I’m pulling an all-nighter I might as well squeeze in another blog post before I jet away. . .

I really have no clue what I’m going to pack for Israel, because all I keep thinking about is planning for Bulgaria & Europe. That being said I have been thinking a lot about what this trip to Israel will be like. I haven’t been to Israel in 9 years and this will be my 3rd trip to Israel – yet I’ve never been in the Dead Sea! Last time I went with 4 other students from my town as Ambassadors to a city outside of Jerusalem called Beit Shemesh. Before that I was 7 and visiting distant cousins who lived on a Kibbutz near Haifa. Now I’m nearly 25 years old and I know I’ll have a different perspective on everything and it should be a genuinely new experience over all.

The organizer for my Birthright trip is “Stand With Us” and they are only sending one bus this summer due to the current economy. What originally attracted me to this trip was the educational & political aspects of the sample itinerary, which included meetings with local government officials and debriefings at the Palestinian territory borders. But, according to a friend of mine “Stand With Us” leans more politically to the right with regards to Israeli policies. It’ll be interesting to see this political slant in the debriefings and day to day activities, especially because I am definitely more liberal when in comes to Israel’s  militarization and settlement policies over the past 8 years.

I am what you would call a “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Jew” – thank you J-Street for that term. I hate when people think that just because I am pro-Israel that means that I agree with all of the government’s policies. A large percentage of Israeli’s don’t even agree with their own government – and I’m sure a lot of you reading this didn’t agree with the Bush Administration either.

I am pro-Israel because . . .

1) It is a homeland & haven for Jews who have fled and are still fleeing persecution,

2) Israeli’s turned a desert wasteland into a flourishing country with trees, gardens & wineries.

3) All of the historical & religious sites (Jewish, Muslim & Christian) were/are beautifully restored, preserved and looked after.

4) They created Kibbutzim, which shows the strength of communities and how every person can contribute to the greater good of the whole group.

5) As an industrialized nation they are on the forefront of new science and technological advancements. Many products & vaccines we use here in the states were created in Israel.

6) It is my homeland too . . .

That being said, I am strongly opposed to the continued expansion of settlements into the West Bank because it completely counteracts any efforts being made for peace. I also feel that diplomacy should always trump militarization – a view our own Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shares. I know some would call this naive – since Israel is surrounded by countries that have historically done everything they can to wipe them it off the face of the earth, but Israel has made some bad decisions recently in its military operations.  And just like the U.S. had a public opinion problem under Bush, right now the majority of the world do not think highly of Israel. I’m not saying that Israel should settle and play the role of the innocent victim – but, I do believe that its current policies are counterproductive and do/will not benefit the country in the future.

I was saddened to learn the other day that several Muslim countries will refuse entrance to any traveler who has an Israeli stamp in their passport. My friend from Clark will be visiting family in Lebanon at the same time I’ll be in Israel and I mentioned to her that it would be great if she could meet up with me in Israel for a day or two. It turns out that as a Lebanese citizen if she tried to re-enter her country after coming from Israel she could be detained and charged with spying. This is absurd and it makes me mad that certain countries would resort to such extreme and ridiculous policies. My friend will be only an hour or more away and she cannot come see me for fear of detention, torture or even possibly death. And even if I could get away from my tour group to go to Lebanon – I would be denied entry.

Now, the moral activist in me is enraged and wants to get 10 Israeli stamps in my passport in protest of such policies – but, the practical traveler in me thinks that maybe I should see if I can avoid getting the stamp so my travel isn’t restricted.

What do you think? Comment and let me know . . .

Time for me to actually pack . .. .eeek

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