By Alan Stock
Our multi-cultural trip to Israel group was made up of eighteen people, all either listeners to my radio show or relatives of those listeners. It was billed as an opportunity to see the various Jewish and Christian holy sites, as well as an opportunity to better understand the geopolitical layout of the tiny Jewish state.
We spent time touring religious sites from Bethlehem in the south to the Golan Heights in the north. It is hard to write in a short column about all we saw, but I will note the highlights.
Bethlehem is a city run mostly by Muslim Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. They pay no taxes to Israel and receive very limited benefits. They are responsible for the infrastructure in Bethlehem itself and, ironically exude a great sense of irresponsibility in that regard.
The chosen way to dispose of garbage is for Bethlehem residents to find an empty lot and just pile it up right there. Sewage empties from each residence into the street with some of it winding up in a neighbor’s yard.
One mile from Gaza in the community of Sderot, children play in day care centers reinforced as bomb shelters. We got to witness spent rockets fired from Gaza that hit the day care center some time ago.
We walked the strategic hills of the Golan Heights and spoke with UN observers who, from their vantage point, can see the thin border that divides Syria and Israel. It is from this liberated vantage point, one can see why Israel must maintain control over it in order to be alerted to the activity that occurs on its border with a sworn enemy.
There are people who very much want to visit Israel to see the incredible achievements that have occurred in the short 69-year history of this tiny country. They want to see Jerusalem where the Jewish and Christian religions were born. Unfortunately, many of these same people are hesitant to travel to Israel out of fear of what is promoted and highlighted by the world press. I can only say this….
Israel is one of the safest countries to visit. Yes, the military has an obvious presence, but they are there to protect all law-abiding citizens and due to their training, have been quite successful. If you have ever thought of going to Israel and have put it off, don’t wait. You’ll be in for a great surprise what a truly amazing country it is.
Toward the end of the trip, I asked the various members of our group to share what impressed them most about all they had seen in the span of our tour. I recorded their spontaneous responses as a tribute to the impressive nature of seeing for the first time a country that rose from such hostility to the forward thinking, progressive, civilized nation that is today the closest ally to America in the Middle East.