Any time you visit a new country there are always preconceived ideas that you have coming in. When I left for Israel I had a picture in mind of sand, mountains, and camels. Of course I also had the thought of one or two surface to air missiles and maybe a suicide bomber. I could tell that these were the same thoughts that some of my family had in mind too. I think that is part of the reason why I didn’t really get too excited about the trip, why it “slipped” my mind and why I did not talk about it much with those closest to me. My preconceived ideas had laid a foundation of fear.

Then I arrived in Israel.

I saw it.

There was no filter, there were no reporters or editors choosing what to show me.

I saw it with my own eyes.

What did I see, you ask?

I saw Tel Aviv and modern bustling city filled with people. There were kids on the beach singing and barbecuing. There were clubs thumping the bass so that you could feel it in your chest. There was graffiti. There were coffee shops and pubs. There were people jogging and riding bikes along the Mediterranean Sea. I saw a five star hotel that was had everything you could imagine.

I didn’t see a single camel. The only sand I saw was on the beach of the Med. I didn’t see a gun or a missile or suicide bomber. There were some explosions later in the weekend, but it turns out that people like to shoot off fireworks after Shabbat is over!

It’s a time to celebrate and party.

That first night in Israel I saw my preconceptions explode like an old land mine in the Golan Heights…