Saturday, February 05, 2005

Catching up

It has been difficult to blog on this trip. Too much going on to take time to visit an internet cafe. Perhaps it will be easier now that the less structured part of the trip is beginning.

Have been in Jerusalem the past couple of days. Heard an interesting speaker yesterday morning who told us that one of the differences between Israelis and Palstinians is that Israel is a post-ideological society, and the Palestinians, who do not yet have a state, have not reached that stage. What he meant (as I understood it) was that for most Israelis the things that motivate them are essentially quality of life issues, they want to be able to get a decent job, travel, raise their children. Palestinians are still struggling with identity, and their role in the world. One question is whether they will work to advance Palestinian interests, or remain a sort of proxy for pan-Arab or pan-Islamic interests. The issue to me is that the dream of (some) Islamists of returning the entire land of Israel to the rule of the Muslims, prevents the Palestinians from reaching a two-state solution, which if they can acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, they might be able to benefit by.

Being in Israel at this moment has been interesting. I was exhausted two nights ago, and did not go out, but some of my friends here did. They had some trouble getting around Jerusalem, because there were a lot of roadblocks, and checkpoints. The paper next day reported that a 16 year old boy had been discovered with explosives. It was not clear to me if he was a potential suicide bomber, or a courier. In any case, not good news. At the same time however are reports of Palestinian police patrolling in Gaza, siezing Qassams, and so on.

Interesting times.

Condi Rice is due in Israel soon, and apparently will be staying at the same Hotel I am in. It would be very cool to run into her in the lobby.

Spent today at Masada and the Dead Sea. I hiked up to the top, took about 40 minutes. It is rather steep, but being near the lowest point on earth, the air is rich, and breathing was much easier than it was a couple weeks ago in the Manzanos. Our guide was very interesting, and I somewhat regretted missing some of his commentary (the rest of the group took the cable car up).

Floated in the Dead Sea for a while, it was amazing. In water that went just two inches above my ankles, I could lie down, and be supported. It feels a little slippery, but not bad at all. Remembered my lesson from 33 years ago, and did not splash any in my eyes.

The lunch at the hotel was delicious. Hiking and soaking built up quite an appetite, and the buffet was much better than I expected. In the states a buffet is generally rather un-tasty isn't it? This was food that would have been well worth eating even in individual portions, and it was surprising to be able to get as much as I wanted.

Yesterday we volunteered at a soup kitchen. I do not think I am cut out for it. The man in front was giving me instructions in Hebrew, and I could not figure out how much chicken to put in a bag even when I understood that it was meant to feed five. Very frustrating.

I have more, but since I have not visited an ATM, I should go before the internet cafe bill exceeds the Shekels in my pocket.


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