Did you know there is more then just bombs and terror and IDF raids in Israel? It might come as a shock but it’s actually true: All of that stuff you are used to seing in the media is just a tiny percentage of what Israel is all about and if you went there you might end up realising that you can stay in Israel for months and months without really getting in touch with the topic. If interior politics are fucked up enough it even might not appear on the frontpages for a while.
So for one there is food. Israeli food consists of nearly everything someone brought to Israel from the diaspora but for the most part it resembles – guess what – arab food. Which is, and I am sorry I have to turn you down on this one, not because Israelis stole the arab culture but because there used to be Jews in Israel (or “Palestine”) even back in the last centuries. And they of course were levantine people who were born there and whos parents are born there and so on and who, naturally, do have levantine customs and cook with levantine plants and levantine receipes and likely have done so just as long as their arab neighbours.
So there are two types of food you get arround no matter if staying in “Israel proper” or the PA: Hummus and Falafel both made out of chickpeas. The first being a paste and the second being deep-fried balls. They have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Just all the time. But for some reason you can eat quite a lot of it before you are completely sick of it. It’s fascinating. And delicious. (And it has little to do what is sold as “Hummus” or “Falafel” here in Europe … I recently ordered it in what was supposed to be a levantine restaurant and they wouldn’t even give me bread with it so I had to order it seperately.)
And they even made a movie about Hummus and Falafel. It’s called “West Bank Story” and features the Israeli “Kosher King” and the palestinian “Hummus Hut” figthing a small yet destructive war on their own on the food they both cook until an Israeli soldier falls in love with a palestinian waitress and their love finally makes the palestinian and israeli chefs cook Hummus and Falafel together. At least in movies produced for foreign countries there seems to be no way arround the war-and-terrorism-issue. (Yet if you watch Israeli movies made for an Israeli audience that changes; I don’t know about palestinian movies but I guess it’s just the same).
And then there is the desert. Actually there’s two of them: The Judean desert and the Negev being the one in the South and the Judean desert being the one rather in the East of the country. The Western Negev, by the way, also is that region where qassam-rockets come as often as rain in the rainforest. In the desert there are whole cities and a lot of kibbuzim and of course animals. Like camels. And donkeys. As I recently learned there is a “save haven for donkeys” in Israel. Neat idea.
Actually you can find everything you can find in the US or Europe in Israel too. Even pork and chocolate Santas. You just have to have a look in Russian stores or Kibbuz Lahav in the Northern Negev. Yes, and international pop stars. And no, I am not talking about Dana International which really is a rather old issue by now, but about Yael Naim. Yes, she’s Israeli, believe it or not. Having grown up, as do many, half of the time in France, half of the time in Israel. And they do have singers. Like Ofra Haza, though I have met a lot of people believing her to be Egyptean which doesn’t make her any less Israeli.
And of course Israel being a country resembling the US or Europe a lot doesn’t make the “conflict” any less threatening. Yet there’s a survival strategie which won’t protect you from suicide bombers and qassam-rockets, but might safe you from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for a while: It’s called denial. And somedays even I try to denie that another civilian got killed today …