A Travellerspoint blog

Background in the midst of hostility

United they stand; divided they stand

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View Israel and Jordan on paulej4's travel map.

Israel is undeniably surrounded by often hostile neighbors. If I lived there, I might be tempted to, from fear if nothing else, shift to the right toward nationalism. Fear from physical attack is as strong a motivator as one can imagine. At home in the U.S., fear is the motivator for some voters to shift to “America First” nationalism. Their fear, however real or imagined, is economic fear rather than immediate fear of war or daily physical safety. Certainly, fear of immediate security in such a way remains unimaginable to most Americans.


Simmering constantly in Israel are potential violence with Hezbollah from Lebanon on the north or Hamas on the south or terrorists on the street anywhere at any time. Civil-war-torn Syria is on the northeast—on the far side of the Golan Heights where the political situation just radically changed. President Trump recently reversed decades long American and global policy when he said, “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty” over the Golan Heights. And, of course, it was less than a year ago that the Trump administration relocated the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, radically changing the political reality of that multi-national, multi-ethnic and multi-religion city.

A brief, almost unbelievable history lesson might help.

1948: The State of Israel is created. Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Syria invade and are repulsed
1956: The Suez Crisis and war with Egypt
1967: The Six-Day War with Egypt ending in a cease fire that gave de facto control of the former Egyptian Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights and the Jordanian West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel
1973: Simultaneously, Egypt attacked in the Sinai and Syria attacked in the Golan Heights in what is known as the Yom Kippur War. Israel retained control of both
1978: Israel and Egypt sign the Camp David Accords
1979: Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is signed
1982: The Israeli Defense Force invaded southern Lebanon in response to Palestine Liberation Organization attacks emanating from there
1991: The Gulf War with Iraq
1993. The Oslo Accord provides for withdrawal of Israeli forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to allow for self-government by the Palestinian National Authority
1994. Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty clarifying their mutual border
2005: Israel disengages from Gaza
2006: Lebanon War in response the Hezbollah attacks
2008: Gaza War
2012: Eight-day response to rocket fire in the Gaza Strip
2014: More airstrikes in Gaza Strip against Hamas

Two Months Ago: A rocket fired from the southern Gaza Strip near Rafah flew over Tel Aviv (and airspace near our hotel) large_a8f96020-7dec-11e9-bccf-498a8ce4e704.JPGbefore hitting and destroying a home in the village of Mishmeret. Hamas said the rocket was fired accidentally. Twelve hours later, Israeli fighter jets bombed dozens of Hamas targets including the office of a Hamas leader.

Young Jews perhaps see life differently than young Americans might. They have grown up with the history just mentioned. They partially make up the Israeli Defense Forces, a conscription force that drafts most Jewish 18-year-olds of both genders for two years or more of compulsory military service.

Try explaining compulsory anything to a young American; they don’t believe something like that is legal or even possible. The eyes of my youthful employees grow wide when I explain that I joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1970 only because I knew that had I not volunteered I would have been involuntarily conscripted.

Military leaders in Israel are generally looked at with trust, according to many analytical press reports, because they have seen the horror of war and kept Israelis relatively safe along the way.

However, I read that tends to motivate some of them to move to a less hawkish political position because they have more closely seen the horror of war. One former general, Benny Gantz, campaigned and narrowly lost in last month’s election on an almost purely civilian agenda: LGBTQ rights, help for struggling farmers, increased benefits of Israelis with disabilities and efforts to reduce the cost of living. Security was not his primary talking point. Perhaps it was simply assumed; I am not in a position to know.

El Al, the Israeli national airline, was our transportation provider.


While B4 and I were in New York City over the weekend of April 20-21, I read that the Israeli Ministry of Health released information about an El Al flight attendant who was comatose after contracting the measles on a March 26 flight from NYC to Tel Aviv—the same one we are on. She suffered from the measles-related complication of encephalitis—swelling of the brain which can cause brain damage, deafness and death.

The State of Israel—Ministry of Health reports that there have been 3,900 cases of the measles in Israel in the past year; two of them were fatal. The Ministry’s web site says, “A small number of tourists and travelers had brought the disease to Israel, which later spread among the unvaccinated population.” We have read conflicting reports about how large the unvaccinated population actually is but it was recently reported that 96.5 percent of first graders in Jerusalem had up-to-date vaccination compliance; statistics about adults are harder to come by.

For contrast, in the vastly more populous U.S., 555 cases of measles were confirmed in the first three months of this year.

Since B4 and I flew the same flight, we decided—with the advice of our respective physicians—to get vaccinated—presumably again for both of us—as an overly cautious precaution. The nice Doc at the Minute Clinic took care of us both before dinner and theatre. I last got an MMR booster in July of 1983 prior to a trip to Africa. Call me crazy but my theory is you can’t be too cautious.

Only one thing is beyond debate: “It’s Complicated.”

Posted by paulej4 23:22 Archived in Israel

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