While we usually strictly endorse internationally recognized etiquette and manners, it goes without saying that politics, and especially geopolitics is pretty hard to avoid when visiting Israel.
We suggest that you part company with the usual rules of polite company and embrace this new mode of being, just while on tour. Barely a conversation in Israel fails to have a political, historical or religious angle – so we recommend that you get full involved and take advantage of our many activities that explore the unique geopolitical situation Israel faces. Whilst travelling in Israel you will feel the presence of the army as an integrated part of Israeli society – the vast majority of 18-21 year old Israelis – men and women – are serving soldiers, as Israel has compulsory enlistment beginning at age 18 for all those able to serve. This is a defining feature of Israeli society.
Last week I went to experience an IDF style training at a facility run by retired members of elite units and those who still serve in reserve units. We tend to call it an army experience, but having experienced it first-hand it is so much more. Of course getting to fire a fake, then real, gun was fun and quite exhilarating. But the main focus of this experience is to understand and appreciate Israel’s historic and current need to defend itself, and the crucial role that its renowned army plays in Israel’s safety. Referencing the immense loss of life in the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel in its aftermath, our Instructor, an active reservist in the IDF, spoke with pride and determination of his service to the State. He discussed the importance of effective counterterrorism, both active and through intelligence, in securing Israel’s future and referenced key events in Israel’s history as well as personal experiences.
And not wanting to brag, but… I did shoot the balloon from 25 metres. First time! So definitely count this activity in if you are a group of friends or a family who are happy to get a bit physical and enjoy a bit of competitive fun. If this sounds too energetic, or just not your thing, we can arrange a geopolitical briefing from one of our expert Speakers Bureau – for example I was recently fortunate enough to hear Amos Harel speak – he is the chief defense correspondent for the prestigious Haaretz newspaper and worth his weight in gold if you’re looking for the inside edge. From Political Journalists to Accredited Academics we will arrange a briefing to give you a first hand insight into the historical background of Israel and the Middle East and a deep appreciation of the key issues facing Israel today. This is a unique opportunity to spend quality time with someone with immense knowledge and experience. In a private briefing over coffee or a meal you will be enlightened, educated and have the chance to ask your own questions to deepen your understanding of the region. Just let us know what type of focus you would like your discussions to have and we will select the most appropriate person for you to meet. Another option I recently explored is to get well off the beaten track and meet people who are living their lives in the less obvious areas of Israel. I recently took a group to spend some time with Jessica and Musa who promote co-existence encounters from their home in a small Arab village near Jerusalem.
Musa comes from a well known Arab family which has inhabited the village for generations, and Jessica is originally British and converted to Islam before marrying Musa. We walked a little, to understand the landscape – Jews, Arabs, Christians, Villages and Kibbutzim all within a few kilometers of each other – and heard about how most of their population, whilst true to their own ethnic identity, believe strongly in cooperation and co-existence and furthering this in their communities and through their children.
This type of encounter gives tremendous insight into the real lives of those living in Israel and is another means of understanding the complicated nature of the region. In the comfort and intimacy of their home, and over a delicious lunch, we heard about the history of their community, everyday life and hopes for the future. Such encounters are honest and extremely enlightening, and suitable for all ages.
So … if you are looking to embrace the complexities of geopolitics in this region, these are just a few examples of how we can enrich your experience. For more ideas and to plan your entire trip do get in touch with one of the team: [email protected]
Ps – weren’t we polite not to mention religion! That of course will take an entire new blog post!
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