I need a vacation...badly...and it isn't really going to happen this year. We had planned to go this week but a bunch of things happened - client demands, a change that needs to be made in the office, and more. So what we are doing is grabbing days.
Today, Elie and Lauren, Aliza and Davidi and I drove up north to go kayaking on the Jordan River, barbecuing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As I sit here unwinding, there are two things that I am thinking about. The first was a cultural thing - all day, every where we went, we were surrounded by Arabs enjoying the beauty of this land and the final days of summer.
When we arrived at the kayaking place (one of several in the north), there were long lines. We heard Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian - a true blending of Israel. We waited and waited in line and finally decided to cancel our reservation. We'd paid in advance via the Internet - so we advanced and asked for a refund. The woman behind the window was about to process our refund when she asked if we wanted to go immediately.
We took our tickets, got our life jackets and oars, and were quickly launched onto the river. For a huge amount of the time, we found ourselves surrounded by groups of Arabs. They were rafting in the river beside us - bumping into our rafts as often as we bumped into them. We politely asked a group of Arab young men not to splash our rafts as we passed them - and later as they caught up with us, we bumped into them and one said, "we didn't splash you and this is how you thank us?" And we all laughed as we floated down the Jordan.
They surrounded us at the beach where we were barbecuing - to the left of us, to the right, behind us and in the water. Only once was there any second of tension - when their youngest children were throwing rocks and I asked them nicely not to do that - and immediately, the parents called out to the children telling them to stop.
At one point, Elie and Davidi faced Jerusalem and said our afternoon prayers; several of the Arabs faced Mecca and said theirs. And as the day was ending and we headed back to the cars, I was left with the amazing thought that people dared to say Israel is an apartheid country. Apartheid? There was no separation today as we stood in line, as we kayaked on the river, as we barbecued on the shores of the sea. What nonsense!
The second thing that I wanted to write about...I'll do in a separate post tomorrow. It's late here and I have an early morning appointment. August is universally known in Israel as a month of vacation. Today, that was so apparent as thousands of Israelis converged in the north. It's a bit cooler than the center of the country, infinitely greener and it has rivers and seas and springs.
The Arabs came to these places, waited in the same lines with us - some ahead of me, some behind me. They drove to these places in cars that were the same as mine - some nicer, some newer, some older. They barbecued the same types of meat - on grills that were the same as mine - and some nicer, some fancier. There is no apartheid in Israel.