For me, a high point of our trip was the visit to Israel – and our stay in Jerusalem at the David Citadel Hotel which overlooks old Jerusalem. So much to see and do that Donna and I concluded one could not experience (if not “see”) everything in less than a week or ten days. We floated in the Dead Sea, visited Masada, collected water from the Jordan River and wound our way through the security of the West Bank into Bethlehem. And of course there was Jerusalem . . . .
We learned a bit of Israel that you don’t read about in the news. The population of Israel is about 7 million. Of that 21% is Arab and 4% Christian. The Jews and Arabs (who are Israeli) apparently get along okay even though most of the Arabs are related to the Palestinian contingent in the Occupied Territories (there is no “Palestine”). Arabs are allowed – but not required – to serve in the Israeli army. The “Palestinians” (who were led by Yassir Arafat – an Egyptian) are not regarded favorably by any of the Middle Eastern countries. Hamas (Palestinian’s military wing) is committed to the destruction of Israel and inflicts its senseless violence. On Israel. And on its own people. The Palestinians have had numerous opportunities to resolve the issues with Israelis but either stupidity or stubbornness get in the way. The issues could have been resolved years ago. But as one of our cruise ship lecturers said, “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
An internal concern of most Israelis is the Haredim (ultra-orthodox) community which numbers 11% of the population. The men refuse to work given their perceived religious obligation to study the Torah. They also refuse to serve in the Army. Unlike Quakers and pacifists in America, Haredim will not even serve as medics. Because they refuse to work, they and their families live off the dole. More than half of the Haredim live below the poverty line. Thus there are the obvious political pressures from outside of Israel. But there are political tensions from within as well.