A Month in the Holy Land
Tzoran-Kadima, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
One of the reasons I was looking forward to spending some time in Israel was to actually meet some older Israelis. The vast majority of my opinions on the habits and culture of people from this country have been formed from the countless encounters with mid- to early-twenties backpackers tramping about the globe, which is certainly not your best group of ambassadors.
For those that aren't aware, all Israeli citizens are conscripted at age 18 (or the conclusion of 12th Grade). Typically men are required to serve for three years, and women for two. Following regular service, men may be called for reserve service of up to one month annually, until the age of 45, and may be called for active duty immediately in times of crisis.
It's after this mandatory conscription that many of Israeli's youth break out and go nuts abroad—drugs, drinking and uncontrolled hair growth is pretty much the de facto standard for these kids. I don't sympathize much for their lost years or even want to be around them in groups, but I do understand where it's coming from.
I've spent this past month in Israel in the company of a wide variety of ages and personalities. Some of them have been in their mid-twenties, others in their mid-50s. I've spent time socializing at large family dinners, and alone relaxing with independent bachelors. Some are very religious, while others are atheists. Some have been IT workers, some unemployed, and some actively serving in the military.
It's the breadth of these encounters has been really wonderful about my time here, and truly at the heart of what I was seeking in this country (which was certainly not a superficial religious/UNESCO sightseeing tour).
Tonight will be the third and final night we spend in the company of Julie and her family (before moving off to Jerusalem). This British-born Jew is a mother of five (four older ones, 21-28, from a first marriage, and a little girl, 6, from the current), and is quite a sweetheart. We've had waves of grown their children (my age) and grandchildren at the home off and on, and has been a real delight to let a confident, veteran mother mind Aidric every so often for even just a handful of minutes (he can be quite charming, when he wants to be).
Because of him we've been sleeping in the little girl's room on a bed that has an interesting split-rolling frame, instead of in the attic space that they normally place CouchSurfers within. With nowhere to go in this old, isolated neighborhood, we've pretty much just been letting Aidric play and interact with people as he pleases.
About the only stresses we've had here have been with regards to the kosher kitchen the family keeps, and the six-year-old that wants to play too rough with Aidric (he doesn't like to be manhandled or picked up without his permission).
Naturally, most of the snapshots I've been capturing of our time here have been Aidric-related…