” The existence of Israel is like a birth of a child. We all know the science behind it but every time a child is born it’s a miracle. What we have to do is to nurture and protect it so it has a chance for a long and healthy life. ”
These were my thoughts sitting at Ben Gurion International Airport July 29th 2017 waiting for my flight back to US. I only spent two weeks there but the country and its people touched me in a way few things in life have had.
I will try to walk you through my trip chronologically even though I started with the end.
The opportunity to not only visit Israel but also teach at a local hockey school presented itself couple years ago. Longtime friend, knowing of my public support for Israel, asked me if I would like to go. I immediately jumped on the opportunity and committed. Things took little time but ultimately it worked out better than I ever imagined.
I do a lot of reading and I focused my attention on Israel before my trip. Sometimes I feel I know more about the place I’m visiting than people who lived there. That was not the case in Israel.
There is so much to talk about, there is so much to discuss but I will stick to few of my own experiences.
I grew up in very secular world so I did not spend much time analyzing the spiritual side of life until last few years. Czech Republic has always been very secular and forty years of communism was not the place to contemplate “the big picture”.
Israel and especially Jerusalem with its most incredible history took my breath away. It inspired me to add another prospective to what I have learned about the last thousand years. The words cannot describe the feeling you have walking through the old city and learning, sponging the historical events that took place here and what they lead to. I firmly believe people of all faiths or no faiths at all should visit Jerusalem. It did not change my life, it added something I’m still in the process of understanding.
Next stop on our trip to Israel (not literally but as part of this blog) is the ancient fortress Masada. Fortress built approximately 2500 hundred years ago by King Herod. The incredible structure sits atop a mountaintop overlooking the Dead Sea and the country of Jordan farther east. This fortress had food storage areas, water reservoirs, mosaics decorated baths 2500 years ago some countries don’t have today. Of course, it’s all in ruins now but easy to imagine in its full splendor.
One of the books I read before going on this trip was The Raid Into the Sun. This book talks about every detail of Israeli Air Force went through to prepare and execute the bombing raid of Iraqi nuclear facility. IAF took American made F-16s and pushed them not only to the limit but beyond its limits. Those planes have never been through anything like that mission before or since and never will be. One of the reasons for success is their incredible discipline to train.
As we were walking towards the top of this fortress I hear distant sound of jet engines. One last overhang to clear and I look up. There are two F-16s buzzing right over us heading east and making the ninety degree turn south over the Dead Sea avoiding entering Jordanian air space. Two more jets do the same. I felt like they were showing off just for me. I understood their maneuvers especially after reading the book. Israel is such a small country the jets traveling in supersonic speeds cover it in no time.
I cannot describe the feeling I had. To see the best of the best train with your own eyes on top of ancient fortress is hard to beat.
I have seen my share of modern, cosmopolitan cities. Tel Aviv is one of the standouts. It went from an area with only few houses and farms to modern city within less than hundred years. Very hard to find similar example anywhere in the world. Now you can experience world’s finest cuisine couple blocks from eastern Mediterranean. Shopping, culture and the tech industry rivals any other place in the world. But most importantly Tel Aviv is keeping its own identity. Something you cannot always say about many other places. They fall victims to the globalization in every way.
The produce and food in general all over Israel is the best in the world. The whole country is basically farm to table. What the people of Israel have accomplished with turning the desert into extremely fertile land through hard work and ingenuity is miracle itself. We in the USA can learn a lot from Israel about producing better quality of food and efficiency in farming amongst many other things.
The last mention before I move on the hockey school experience is giving lot of credit to Israel Defense Force, Israel Air Force and all the other security services keeping the country safe. They get the worst press around the world but I would love to see anybody else doing better job providing security yet helping to create an environment where the economy, education, healthcare and the high tech industry are at the world’s leading edge.
The plans for the second week of my stay were to drive up north, all the way north to Metula. This town is the northern most place in all of Israel. Surrounded on three sides by Syria and Lebanon. You would not know you are that close or that far into enemy territory if you did not see the bomb shelters sprinkled strategically throughout the town. People there go about their businesses each and everyday without hesitation. I love the Israeli resiliency, determination and seriousness to keep going forward. It’s inspiring. If they can get after it why not I ? And they get after it.
That brings us to probably the most fun time I had there. Teaching, coaching, spending some quality time with the Israeli kids. As much as I taught and coached I also learned about their hockey programs but what would make ours better. Easily available ice, equipment or coaching is not always the answer to better your program because the kids can lose the inner drive if things are too accessible. The Israeli kids were driven, attentive and focused. These things don’t make your job easier, they just make it more fun.
The local coaches and managers in charge of the school were also excellent to work with.
Somebody who has known me for a long time might be saying to themselves where is all this positiveness coming from. I was not always the most positive person to be around during my career. Well getting to know Israel and its history, its present, its future and its people will do it to you.
I feel like I did enough reporting for now. There might be another blog with more memories or things I learned there that could help us here but it’s time for some opinions.
Everyone have heard of peace through strength. Israel has it now. What is coming next is peace through prosperity. Some might call it radical, some will call it crazy and some might actually agree but I have read much on this subject and thought it through. The trip to Israel just confirmed it.
The West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights will eventually become official part of Israel. I am not sure when but I am sure it will. How is it going to happen? Not through wars anymore. Israel has made it clear nobody can win a war against them, especially none of their neighbors. The enemy’s leadership is too fractioned , always will be. Israel will eventually “turn” the Arab population within its borders through prosperity. Their economy is offering opportunities to the Arabs that the Arab leadership can never even promise. The Arab population, not all but more than not, will recognize it and will embrace prosperity through Israel’s economy instead of poverty and oppression through their own leadership. It will take time but it will happen. As Israel is getting more prosperous the Arab leadership will have to radicalize even more to offer alternative and that will eventually drive the masses to better decisions.
Some of you wonder if there is anything negative I took from this trip. Yes, there is. The US and the world’s media coverage of Israel is down right disgraceful but that is nothing new. The other negative is how many Jewish people especially in the United States do not fully support Israel and the actions it takes to protect certain way of life for its citizens. They are trying to be “fair” I guess. I prefer survival over fairness. I come from a small country that was overrun by empires and dictatorships for centuries. One of many reasons why I fully support Israel’s right to do whatever is necessary to keep the country free and safe. That brings me to my last point.
Land for peace
I have two very good examples where the idea of “land for peace” deal did not work out.
1938 Munich, Germany
Hitler asked the British and the French (both of them had treaty with Czechoslovakia about helping each other if one is attacked) to sign the declaration to annex the Sudetenland. He promised if he gets his land there will be peace. They agreed. The document was signed September 30th 1938. March 15, 1939 Hitler occupied the rest of the Czech Republic and created the Protectorate. With the total occupation of Czech Republic he gained the most advanced military hardware in Europe at the time (Winston Churchill ‘a quote not mine). The hardware and the industry he needed for his next move. September 1st he invaded Poland and WWII started. What a deal this “Land for peace” was.
American Indians or Native Americans.
They were asked by the US government to give up some of their land for new settlers and they will peacefully be escorted to the designated Indian lands and they were “asked” to farm that land. The Indian lands turned out to be the least hospitable land in the west and the tribes could not sustain their lives there. Some of them rebelled, fought and then were mostly forced onto the reservations or were actually massacred. Another example of “land for peace deal”.
There is no such a thing. Golan Heights and the West Bank are so strategically important to the survival of Israel it will never be negotiable. It is hard for some to understand but that’s the reality of our world.