I’m in Israel for two weeks. At first I considered myself a tourist. Turns out I’m a pilgrim. Until now I thought pilgrimages were Bucket List top ten for the superstitious hyper-religious.
It’s way too early to say how this trip will impact my life, but having spent a week here now, I know one thing for sure. Three of the great world religions and several of the minor ones collide on the same piece of real estate, and it’s extremely complicated.
As a newbie outsider it’s easy to oversimplify. If Israel would just stop confiscating property in occupied land and limit wall building to its own property, violence would likely diminish, and life in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank would improve. But then an incident at dinner last night made me realize just how complicated the solution really is.
We’ve been staying at a lovely guesthouse in east Jerusalem. It’s our home away from home for two weeks. We eat breakfast here before heading out in the morning, and after a long day of touring we come back to a lovely home-cooked dinner. Our first week there we mostly had the place to ourselves.
Mid-trip we packed light bags and headed up to Nazareth. It was a great weekend, but as we made our way back to Jerusalem on Monday, we were looking forward to coming back home. We arrived late afternoon and the place was bustling. There was a small group from China, another from Eastern Europe, and a very large contingent from California. “Nice,” we thought… until we got to dinner.
When it had just been our group, we’d leisurely queue up, mozy down the buffet line, and make our way to the dining room where we had our pick of seats. Not tonight.
When we arrived there was already a long line at the buffet snaking into the dining room where people were shoving their way through to get to the tables, annoyed that we were blocking their path. We were told the first three tables were reserved for our group, but, the Chinese contingent had staked out half of one of them. We made our way to the table of Californians, but they were quite vocal that this was their turf. We wandered around hoping the staff would help us out, but no one seemed to notice.
Eventually we managed to find single seats here and there. We huddled and quietly conversed with those we knew around us, but it was hardly the leisurely meal experience from the week before.
Finally the Chinese contingent at our table got up and came back with cake and coffee. Until tonight, dessert had been fruit. “Was it good,” I asked? “Yes!” they replied in English. We went back for some too, and finally started to talk.
This is a great story, Mom. And a wonderful example of how food unites people. Thank you for sharing! Next time I have a group of awkward guests – I’ll just bring out some cake.
Yes, let them eat cake!
I guess we all want our place in line. It’s just that some of us, are better at fending for ourselves than others and are used to competing for the best spot.
It’s survival of the fittest.
it’s interesting how we all have right to be important and first.
I love your blog and the recipes are great!
As an Israeli I must say I wish the situation was as “complicated” as your story. I understand what you were trying to say,but I find it inappropriate to compare the loss, pain and suffer of both sides to your group not finding a place to sit at the dinner table.
I live in New York now,I’ve heard people all over the world talking about this crisis and I know how hard it is for many of them to even comprehend what’s going on in the middle east, and, of course, there are so many things non of you are aware of, or know of.
I understand you never meant to hurt anyone. I’m
reading your posts for quite a while and they always make me smile. I know you are a good person with the best intentions, I’m just trying to explain that two weeks in Israel or in Gaza or anywhere around can not give you the feeling of what’s it like to be a part of it.
And again, I am not expressing an opinion here, and speaking about the loss, pain and suffer of both sides.
Oh, and I WISH we could’ve work everything out with food, both sides has wonderful dishes. I think this is the area which we had the most successful joint ventures 🙂
Enjoy the rest of your trip,
Thanks for your comment. Spending 2 weeks in Israel and the West Bank in no way makes me a Middle East expert which is why I called myself newbie. But being there helped me understand just how complicated the situation is, which is the whole point of my post.
It’s easy to judge and offer overly simple solutions until you’re faced with something so insignificant as finding a seat at your dinner table occupied by someone else. When it’s your home that’s been taken or a family member who’s been killed… well there’s no comparison.
It’s going to take a lot of forgiveness and a willingness to move on. Most of us humans just aren’t capable of that, but we can still hope.
Since my visit I’m starting to care about what’s going on over there. As in our country, the extremes control the agenda. I’d love to start a group called the Extreme Center, but it’s hard to be passionate about moderation, eh?
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
Thanks for your comment. It really warms my heart to hear how much you care about everything that’s been going on over there 🙂
mary ann says
I, too, was disappointed by this post. . .particularly by the biased political comment in paragraph 3. But, it’s not my blog.
I have enjoyed every other entry in the year or so that I’ve been following TMC. I plan to make the lentils and rice this week.
They do more than collide – their origins are there. I wish they would all realize that and stop hating one another considering their common beginnings. But, it sounds like you’re time in that home turned into what anyone would dread.
And I, too, am disappointed by your biased, one-sided and woefully uninformed political commentary in paragraph 3. You say you hate to oversimplify and want to demonstrate how complicated the situation is but instead you clearly place blame on one side. You suggest that the violence began because of Israeli policy. Violence would exist regardless of Israeli policy and it always has. Moreover, the wall was built to protect the lives of Israeli children their families because prior to its being built, bombings in Israeli civilian areas were commonplace.
I’ve always liked you and have three of your books. But after this blog post, I found myself cringing at your article in the Sunday magazine of my newspaper. Perhaps you should stick to cooking.