Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Small Packages

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 14 December 2003

You may not realize it, but Israel is actually a very small country. This past summer, our family took two brief vacations; one near the very northernmost part of the country, the other at the southernmost point.

During the first vacation, in Eilat, my husband and older daughter went for a walk one evening. When they returned, they told me that after a brief stroll, they had come upon a sign that informed them that the border with Jordan was just a few meters ahead. Although theoretically Israel and Jordan are at peace, it is not a country one would feel comfortable stumbling into in the middle of the night.

Several weeks later, we traveled to the north, to a moshav called Ramot Naftali, just a few minutes' drive from the town of Qiryat Shemona. One day we decided to take a drive down one of the many scenic roads in the area. All too soon, we saw signs reading "Gvul Lifanecha" - "Border Ahead." A few meters more, and we would have been at the fence that separates Israel from Lebanon.
To reach Eilat, we had a drive of nearly five hours. When we traveled to Ramot Naftali, the drive was much shorter, perhaps two hours. In fact, the distance from Qiryat Shemona to Eilat is only about 530 kilometers, or around 315 miles. (By the way, from Netanya on the coast to the closest border with the West Bank is 15 kilometers, or less than 10 miles).

Of course I had known Israel was a diminutive country, but coming up against those borders during both of our trips made me physically aware of that smallness in a way I hadn't been before. It is one thing to know that the borders are there, and another thing entirely to encounter them when you least expect it. I now have a much greater appreciation for all that we have here, and how vital our army's constant vigilance is to our survival.

As tiny as this country is, however, there is an abundance of riches to enjoy. You can bask in the sun on gorgeous beaches, admire the wildlife in scenic wetlands, marvel at the stunning colors to be found in an arid, empty desert, float on the surface of the Dead Sea - the lowest spot on earth, and ski down a mountain wrapped in snow during the winter. You can tour the ruins of Roman cities and palaces, visit the oldest city in the world, and view places you've read about in the Bible. You can go parasailing or surfing, attend the symphony, opera or theater, take in a soccer or basketball game, or visit an art museum or the site of an archaeological dig. Indeed, Israel is a country of many wonders.

There are many more places I want to see in this country of under 8,000 square miles. Every year, I visit sites I have never seen, learn things I did not know, about this amazing country in which I live. Yet there is always more to see, more to discover. And with each discovery, I learn something new about myself.

(c) Amy Samin

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