When I watch the news about what’s going on in Israel -specifically Gaza – it makes me very sad. It is unrecognisable from the place I spent time in.
When I was 22 I went to stay on a Kibbutz in Israel for 3 months. There was a lot going on in my family and I needed to distance myself from things and get my head together. The Kibbutz I was assigned to is called Ein Hashlosha and it is right on the border of the Gaza Strip. It was a beautiful place, mostly Argentinian Jews, which was quite amusing as the Falklands was happening while I was there and I missed it! If you walked far enough from the communal bunk rooms you actually met the barbed wire fences. I don’t think we realised how close we were to trouble. Although it was nothing like it is now.
It was Watermelon picking time and we were set to work on mile long rows and I learned a valuable lesson in how to squeeze the melon to check it was ripe. Believe me, after a 10 hour day you just wanted to shower and sleep.
I am quite fair and my head where my hair parted and the tops of my ears were always bright pink…I soon learned to wear a head covering!
I was quite lucky because I did A level Spanish so could at least speak to the Kibbutzniks and soon landed myself a cushty job in the cool kitchens peeling veggies. At least I could listen to the radio.
Everyone in Israel did a conscription into the army. It was just a fact. You sort of got used to seeing young people in army uniform carrying machine guns when you were on the occasional bus journey anywhere.
We had one trip from the kibbutz to the city of Eilat, which is right on the beach where Jordan, Israel and Egypt come together. You can walk from one border to the other! We just slept on the beach under Palm trees looking up at the stars.
Just before I set off home some of us did a quick tour of the country. Jerusalem was an interesting place, beautiful, international and full of sights and smells for the tourists. There were people trying to buy either me or one of my friends for a camel or two. The Arab men actually seemed more interested in a male member of our group! Everywhere you went there were professional beggars with carvings in their legs…horrific. The Mount of Olives was amazing. So many different churches all the way up.
Tel Aviv was a dirty city. The best and worst thing there was the Holocaust Museum. I came out of it and cried…I mean actually sobbed my heart out.
The prettiest place was the Sea of Galilee, I slept on the banks and skinny dipped for the only time in my life. The only snag was that I got bitten to death!
An interesting place was The Dead Sea. It’s really strange trying to swim in it – you can’t really, it’s like custard in it’s consistency, just very salty! When you come out of the sea you have a salt crust on your body…lucky there are showers on the beach!
Another absolutely gorgeous place was Haifa. Situated on the Coast it was almost like Covent Garden – arty and interesting.
My least favourite place was Bethlehem…a dirty Arab town.
It didn’t bother me travelling around Israel, I never felt compromised. But would I allow my son or daughter to go now, knowing what’s going on? Would I heck! These bombed out places look nothing like I remember. The families mourning their children is just awful. It all seems so futile.