Sunday, December 27, 2020

The real oases of Israel


[Desert oasis*]

Israel traditionally is a magnet for tourists. They come to touch the portkeys, as Harry Potter would say, to their spiritual past, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Bajai. Whether it involves the Wailing Wall, church at Capernaum, Dome of the Rock or Bahai Gardens, the touch with these old stones creates a magic connection for many visitors.

For those open to and seeking the modern Israel, the magic is its omnipresent oases, not those in the desert but in the surprises hidden in its people. What makes physical oases so special is neither their greenness nor the sandy color around them. It is the sudden wealth that appears from nowhere, from deep under the ground. Likewise, Israel is an extremely heterogenous country with people from all countries of the world and all backgrounds. Even the tourists in their air-conditioned buses cruising the country from one old rock to another notice how excited and energetic people are. The constant babble of Hebrew and Arabic, among the many languages, creates an almost monotonous background. However, even a monotonous short conversation reveals unexpected wealth.

Unlike many countries, outside appearance simply does not reflect the person. For example, as part of the introduction to the course I teach, I ask my engineering students, in the early to mid 20’s, to tell me about something special they have done (in their short lives). In response, I have met national swimming champions, winners of international karate championships and professional divers, to name just a few surprises. Just recently, the head of the Israeli Translators Association, Uri Bruck, gave a fascinating and detailed Zoom lecture on the history of the English translation of the Bible. I have known him for many years but had no idea that he was so knowledgeable in the subject and had delved into it out of curiosity, not as part of any religious studies.  In fact, it is quite common in Israel to discover the person next to you in line in the supermarket wearing old jeans and a faded sweatshirt is the head of a hospital department or institute of academic learning. Appearances can truly be deceiving.

Granted, like the slug jelly beans in Harry Potter (again), the surprise  is occasionally less than pleasant. A seemingly innocent comment can trigger a wild tirade from a taxi driver. However, far more often, the modern Israel is filled with omnipresent oases, the unexpected fruit riches of its people. These discoveries are, in my mind, more interesting and palpable than its famous old rocks and clearly render any trip to Israel unforgettable, as Nat King Cole would say.

* Always add caption to pictures to allow access to the blind. 

Picture credit:Image by <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=3281084">Peter Fischer</a> from <a href=";utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=3281084">Pixabay</a>

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