As I am coming close to my 3rd week in Israel I wanted to take a minute to reflect on my experience thus far.
Although I have spent most of my time in the bubble of Tel Aviv, I had the opportunity to take a few trips; to Jerusalem, Ein Gedi (Dead Sea down south) and Mount Hermon (up North past the Golan Heights). With each of these trips I gained a bit of insight into the current situation here in Israel. I would like to point out that I am not coming to Israel as a blind supporter just because I am Jewish or that I am naive to the complicated and unfortunate nature of what has and continues to go on here. As much of an optimist as I am, always looking for a win-win and mutually beneficial scenario; it is hard for me to come up with a way in which Israel and the Palestinians can both win, it seems like a lose-lose scenario. It is extremely sad and unfortunate that many of the Palestinian people and Israeli citizens are pawns in a political and religious struggle. I am simply reflecting on my experiences thus far and discussions with various Israeli’s I have come in contact with.
Our first weekend we took a day trip over to Jerusalem to walk around the old city: which had just received some snow which isn’t so common in Israel. As we drove through parts of the West Bank we were in the middle of a separation barrier, mostly in the form of stone walls. This topic of these wall is one that I have conversed about many times with people in the U.S. and is yet another complicated Catch-22 in my mind; it is there to protect the travelers along the roads but also to keep those outside of the wall separated because of prior attacks. Once in East Jerusalem we met up with a couple whom work in two extremely interesting and controversial places; Gaza & Ramallah. These are two places most Israeli’s have never been to and frankly have no desire to visit.
I had heard of an entrepreneurial/tech even in Ramallah called Rammalah Open Coffee Club (ROCC) modeled after the BOCC in Boulder. I was eager to find out more and find out if it would be safe and even allowed for me to enter Ramallah and attend this bi-weekly event. I have never had to question nor inquire about my physical security to attend an entrepreneurial event.
Last Monday I went skiing in Israel. Yes, you heard that correctly… Skiing. And guess what… the snow, pretty decent. I woke up at 3AM to make the 3.5 hour trip up north to Mount Hermon from Tel Aviv. The day before there was news that five or more people were killed; an Iranian General and 4 Hezbollah members in a strategic military airstrike. There were talks of restricting access to the Golan for U.S. Government employees and recommended caution for visitors. For the first time in my life, I had to weigh in a possible terrorist attack before I got up early to go skiing. I looked at a map and the proximity of where we were going to the attack. I also asked my Israeli friend what he thought about going considering the escalation at the border, his reply “maybe the line will be a little bit shorter [it won’t be as crowded] :-)”. I decided it was extremely unlikely for anything to happen where we were going and that if it wasn’t safe, we would not be allowed to enter the roads up to the mountain.
Lastly, I have been corresponding with and meeting with Israeli entrepreneurs to discuss potential internships with their companies. I continue to learn that short and sweet is how to communicate over here (and in dealing with high velocity individuals in general). I have had interesting discussions with them about their background and businesses. I will have a company locked down in the next week and start Hebrew ulpan (language classes) next month followed by a 4-month internship. Should be a great experience filled with learning: language, business, culture & skills.
That’s all for now, and always some pictures.