Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Israeli Departed

The new airport that recently opened here in Israel is spectacular. It's very reflective of the natural resources of its homeland. The rocks have a natural beauty and it's full of historical and religious articles displayed in shelving embedded within the rocks.

It's called 'Ben-Gurion-2000' and was scheduled to open at the end of the last century. After a slight delay of 6 years it finally opened and was worth the wait. It's huge and easily replaced the old airport, called 'Ben-Gurion'. As I walked through it I wondered what secrets it housed in terms of high-tech security. I arrived at this airport earlier this month to spend some time in Israel before starting my last year of residency.

I love this country. I've always loved this country. I was born here and I hope to die here one day. This country has everything anyone needs. It's got history, pride, tradition, variety, multinationality, scenery, soul, beaches, great food, great wine, and of course, beautiful women. The women are so beautiful that sometimes I wonder if it's really a holy war they're fighting here or just something more along the lines of Machismo.

It's so unfortunate that the people of the world only know Israel and the Middle East for the violence that occurs here. Rather, it's so unfortunate the violence occurs here at all. This place is so much bigger than that, yet, that's the first thought that comes to anyone's mind. Terror is the topic of the day. It rules the news; it rules the politics and life. Tragic and beyond comprehension to anyone who has never had the misfortune of witnessing a bombing, a mass murder of innocent lives. I've had that misfortune, I'd rather not discuss it now, it's really more along the lines of a horrible dream I've lived through.

It's so fascinating to me how in the middle of this chaos, this murder and this beauty, beats the hearts of a people that simply love. They love their country and they love each other. And, they have a character, a mentality that's simply hard to describe. This is a sort for impatient love. But it's so much more. It's ruthless and merciful at the same time.

My friend once described the difference between Israel and New York (where he lived at the time), he said "In New York they will pound you and pound you until you collapse to the ground and then they'll leave you there. In Israel they'll do the exact same but when you collapse they'll pick you up again". I guess it's the closest I can come to describing it. I'm sure some of you may disagree with me.

The mentality of Israelis is the secret and when I moved here to study medicine it took me a whole year to understand it. The best advice I received came from a Russian woman who cut me off at the local McDonalds in Haifa. She told me "The line in Israel is horizontal, not vertical". I came to learn the truth of that statement rather quickly. Most people would call that rude, I just call it "Israeli", and it always makes me smile.

Yesterday, I walked into a mall in upper Tel-Aviv. Of course, I had to endure the standard security measures as a security guard gave me a physical exam before I was allowed to enter. He jokingly patted my belly, since it protruded from my shirt and told me it looked "rather suspicious" (devilish smile). I told him I'll try to lay off the beers. We laughed, I miss that.

Last week we were on the beach, in a café. We ordered a Corona, and a 'strong' espresso. The waiter jokingly asked if there was any other way to make an espresso? It became a common theme and we began to order a 'strong' coke, a 'strong' salad. He returned quickly and gave us the Espresso, along with our 'strong watermelon', as he put it. I miss that too.

The past week was spent visiting old friends and family. Physicians I studied with who opted to stay here rather than return to the states. Friends I've had since I was a tiny toddler running around the streets naked in the sun. Aunts and uncles and grandparents who really want to see Jordan but pretended to miss me so I'd bring her along for the ride. It's been great but a rather exhausting week. I've been updated on the politics, the television, the books and the medicine.

The hottest topic of debate here are the settlements. Sharon would like them evacuated, as would the Palestinians and the U.S. Many see them as a barrier to peace while others see them as simply another excuse by the PA for delaying peace. The country is seriously divided over the issue. The clearing of Jews from their homes is heart-wrenching, even for those in favor of detachment. Soldiers are pictured daily in the newspapers as many tear off their helmets in defiance. They refuse to remove fellow Jews from their home. How can we judge them?

Along the streets people have taken to tying orange ribbons on their car if they are against detachment and blue ribbons if they favor it. Jerusalem is as Orange as a citrus Florida field, while Tel-Aviv is blue as the sky. The highways are a kaleidoscope of color. Debate, is the one constant here. It thrives in the hot air. But I promised to refrain from politics, simply because there's too much of it and I would not be able to do it justice.

For a country the size of New York this area generates news at a frightening rate. Israelis listen to the news incessantly. There's an update every hour and it's even played over the speaker system on the public busses. There's simply no escaping it. Not that you would want to, it's part of what makes this place so amazing. It's terrifyingly wonderful. Everyone is a politician and they all have three views on every topic.

This week I'm laying off the local events and concentrating on my tan, the beach, the pool and the alcohol. Let's not forget the watermelons. All I really ever wanted was just to relax and take a break before returning. You know a little sand, some beach, a beer and some coochi-coochi. Can it get any better than that? Oh well, at least I got some sand, a beach and a beer. Oh yeah, and some watermelon.