Carolyn and I just spent three weeks in Israel. Let me share some of the experience.

Let’s start with visiting leafy Perlstein Street in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv/Yaffo. In 2014, I discovered the street and “walked” it via Google Maps. It was a kick to be on a street bearing our name. Well, that of Jacob Perlstein (no relation), a developer. Life is good, right? But Elisha, our taxi driver, told us how hard life is in Israel. As in San Francisco, buying a home is out of reach for many people.

In high-energy Tel Aviv, we ate several breakfasts and a lunch (gigantic portions) at a café on Habima Square. It contains two theaters where large groups of new soldiers—men and women—see films and hear lectures there about Israeli history. Recruits—military service is mandatory except for the ultra-Orthodox, some of whom serve voluntarily—also visit museums like Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and archaeological sites. All to better understand what they’re defending. By the way, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and Israel Museum in Jerusalem are standouts.

The young soldiers made me want to cry. They’re drafted after high school at about 18. (Torah sets military service—men only—at 20.) Why should young people—Israelis and Palestinians—continually face death? Chalk that up to the intransigence of Iran-backed Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Former prime minister Golda Meir said it best when she castigated the Palestinians not for killing Israeli children but forcing Israelis to kill theirs.

I mention this because English-language newspapers reported Palestinians in Gaza being killed during Friday protests near Israel’s border fence. It’s terrible. But let’s not delude ourselves. Protests urged by Hamas don’t seek a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The goal remains getting “their” land back—the right to return to all of Israel. Which would annihilate the world’s lone Jewish State.

Note: Fifty-seven totally or heavily Muslim nations belong to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Fifty-seven!

Do Gazans and West Bank Palestinians expect Israel’s 6.5 million Jews to desert the thriving nation they and their ancestors built over 70 years of statehood and in previous decades since the late 19th century? In 1947. the U.N. partitioned Palestine—an administrative area, not a nation. Israel accepted partition. A Palestinian state was available. The Arabs rejected it.

Easily overlooked: Many “Palestinians” migrated to what is now Israel from other nearby regions of the Ottoman Empire and following World War One, the British Mandate. Jewish economic development created jobs.

I’m no fan of the Israeli right’s desire for either a single state—which likely would disenfranchise Arab citizens—or Palestinian autonomy in part of the West Bank rather than independence. The former, would legitimate Palestinian cries of “Israeli apartheid.” Palestinians show no inclination to accept the latter. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to oppose Israel’s right to exist. Gaza’s suffering worsens.

Israel is a marvelous country built with pluck and brains. Still, beneath the glow of technology, medical breakthroughs, great restaurants and superb arts—in Tel Aviv, we attended a Batsheva company dance performance—an undercurrent of anxiety remains.

It’s easy to comment—and sometimes condemn—Israeli politics from the safety of North America. Also, no matter how well-intentioned—a bit dishonest.

Next week, I’ll offer thoughts on religion based on visiting the Western Wall and family re our Passover stay at Masada.

To respond, click on “comments” to the right just below the title of this post. Then go to the response space at the bottom of the post.


  1. Jerry on April 13, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    David – thanks for these insights. See you tonight?

  2. David on April 13, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    See you then.

  3. Claudia Long on April 13, 2018 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I really look forward to next week’s insights. Glad you enjoyed your visit. Someday, I’ll go too!

    • David on April 13, 2018 at 8:43 pm

      I hope you do go, Claudia. Imagine a nation where, even if you’re an Anglo (American or British and so on), you’re part of the fabric of life. Someone in the majority like most everyone else you see. Fascinating feeling.

  4. Sandy Lipkowitz on April 13, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    It’s always easy to be an armchair quarterback in the safety of one’s home, 10,000 miles away. It’s another thing to send your children into battle and harms way for 70 years; to live in fear of when the next bomb will explode on the way to the grocery store. Attitudes harden. Until we walk in their shoes…

    • David on April 13, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      In a way, visiting Israel is humbling. You realize that you don’t share the risks, so you have to be very careful about your opinions.

  5. Judith Levy Sender on April 14, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    Great movie to see about Israel is “Foxtrot”. The existential situation is tragic. Settlement creation
    has added to the problem. I feel that Israel’s best allies are: The New Israel Fund, Neve Shalom Wa’hat al Salaam , Givat Haviva etcetera.

    We didn’t support the Vietnam War but we befriend Vietnamese refugees; we don’t support Trump because we love this country.The idea of cross-cultural and religious groups communicating as through the work of Bishop Swing and Rita Semel and Elias Botto and the
    Traubmans. Therein lies the hope of better co-existence.

    Criticism of Israel and the Rashomon aspect of Israel and the various perspectives is
    dealt with in the J Weekly. Brian Lurie was particularly illuminating.

    Always enjoy your writing and observations. Thanks, David.

    • David on April 14, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Judy. The situation is horribly complex, and Israelis have many different opinions as do Diaspora Jews.

  6. Joan Sutton on April 15, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for this, David. I don’t see how this situation can ever be resolved.

    • David on April 19, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      At the moment, I see no resolution, either. The future? It always remains to be seen.

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