I have always been a person that appreciates history and studied human history, as a hobby, for many years. I enjoy learning about different cultures and have always dreamed of seeing the places I was learning about. I have never had money, just kids, and have learned to just appreciate the time we are given and not worry about discovering the world. Plus, my kids kept me pretty busy.
After two failed marriages and three kids, I met the woman that destiny had planned for me. If I had met her at any other time, it would have been wrong, so it was worth the wait. So many different elements had to happen for us to cross paths, but it happened. This amazing woman happens to be Israeli and I thought, from my hobby, that I knew something about that region. I was so wrong.
During the next four years, my youngest son and I, acclimated to having a woman in the house and felt more like a family unit. My other kids also took to her well and she was fully accepted by my family, as anyone with a good heart is. Her family had visited on different occasions but I had only Skyped with her father. So they decided to add two tickets when they bought my girlfreinds tickets for a visit. We were going in August.
It was then, July 2016, that my oldest son died in a car wreck. He was a soldier, so there was a lot of travel around the country, for a bit. Then we received his body at home and where able to lay him to rest at Riverside National Cemetery. I was glad it was over but it had really just begun. After all this, I felt that we needed to get away for a bit.
As we discussed the trip and planned our visits we were all anticipating a great trip, let alone we had found out that we had a little girl on the way. It was also their first grandchild from three kids, so they were very excited. We had plans to stay were they lived in Haifa and would visit Jerusalem for two days. This was something I had dreamed about for years. To walk on stones with such history.
I am not a religious person, and my girlfriend is more of a Buddhist than Israeli, but I had some family that wanted me to add notes to the wall, so my son and I decided to add notes written to his brother, my son. All was set and we looked forward to having a great adventure on the other side of the world.
The fifteen hour flight was something I had never experienced, lots of movement, praying and such and smells I wasn’t familiar with. It was starting to feel like an adventure and I was happy to just be living the moment. Now, I have heard my share of stories about Jews but I had no experience to judge any of it, so I just decided to roll with it. My girlfriend has a Israeli passport so she went to a different line. So my son and I are standing in a crammed area, being bumped by everyone, without one “excuse me”. By now, the flights getting to me and I’m watching as a group of religious guys, I call the men in black, slowly talk their way in front of everybody else in line.
Now, I don’t know protocol, but nobody said a damn thing, and after being knocked around with a total absence of manners, I lost it. I picked one man in black, closest to me in the group and said loudly, “Hey, do you see us all waiting here in line or what?”. Nothing, ignored, blank face. I think that people may have thought I just got cursed, “well he’s going to hell”. So, I just sucked it up and was hoping it wasn’t just the beginning of a nightmare, thankfully it wasn’t.
The Mediterranean was amazing, Haifa was beautiful, the food and her family were incredible and all was well. We were excited to journey to Jerusalem and were planning to visit the Dead Sea, which we did, and it was as hot as sitting in a sauna, with a wind chill of 130 degrees. After that we made our way to our hotel in Jerusalem, and the day was starting off great. We headed to Mahane Yehuda market and got greeted with live music along the walk to the old city. We were enjoying the day and the weather was great.
The market was incredible and I felt like I was in one of the places I had seen on documentaries so many times. Which I was and even though I am not religious, the feeling of spirituality, I couldn’t shake. This physical contact to history and all that came with it. I was in awe. As I would learn later, it was delightfully deceiving. Filled with tourists, Arabs, Israelis and all different ethnicity, I felt very comfortable and at ease. We continued to walk the old city markets, but I noticed arguments among her two siblings and parents, regarding alleys that they didn’t trust. My wheels started spinning and my head started swiveling more than it was, I was a Marine and my youngest son was standing next to me.
One of the places I wanted to visit was Olive Hill, over-looking Temple Mount (pictured above), what I didn’t know, was that an Arab village sits next to it. Being American, I figured a religious spot here would be one of the safest places on Earth, Wrong again! My girlfriend, sister and mom headed to the hotel and my son, her dad, brother and I headed out. The first warning came when we parked, in the village for some reason, as my obviously American, teenage son stepped out of the car. There was an alley with about three teenagers that gave the “throat-cut sign” to my son as soon as he stepped out of the truck. And I do know, they probably mean it there. I tell her father, the boys had disappeared, and we drive to the parking lot where I took the picture.
I took a few pics and was ready to go. I asked my son if he wanted to ride the scroungy camel that the Bedouin was pushin, he denied. Now, I had some idea that my girlfriends dad is an extreme sport guy, he is, but the extremity I am about to tell you about was as risky as you can be with your life. So, wanting me to see what Israelis have to deal with everyday was his goal, unannounced to me. Keep in mind, I had just buried my son, and the last thing I wanted to do was risk the life of the only son I have left.
So we leave the parking lot to go back to the hotel and I let my son ride up front so he can check things out. As I look around, I notice that there are no soldiers, it’s quite dirtier than where we were before and the looks are a bit scary. Now, an argument in Hebrew starts, traffic is barely moving and the only thing I can think is if someone wanted to make a name for themselves, they have two Jews and two Americans, wrapped in a tin can that’s stuck in traffic. Instinct kicks in and I tell my son to tone it down, remove the shades, avoid eye contact and stay calm. Meanwhile, my girlfriends brother is blowing up at his father, agreeing that we shouldn’t be here. This is probably nothing compared to what he got from my girlfriend and mother, so I think he payed enough.
I have to tell you, I have never felt hate that strong. It is so present, that I think it would be impossible to live like that at least for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not everywhere, and some cities feel safe, but are they really? I even had a scary moment later while eating with her dad in a small village but nothing traumatic, so I let it go. This was all in 2016, so the current situation gives some indication that it is continuing. To be honest, in my opinion, this is a disagreement that will never be resolved. I’m not even sure it’s religious anymore, more about possession. I feel for my girlfriends family and everyone, not only Israelis, that have to deal with that kind of prejudice and hate everyday.
From my interactions with Israelis here in the states, they seem to want to work it out, but they are here. Kind of tells me they don’t want to live with it either. I don’t know all the details and I don’t get religious or political about something I know nothing about really. I do know this, you can’t put two Animals of the same species, different versions in the same arena and have them NOT fight. Example, tiger-lion, cheetah-lion, leopard-mountain lion….etc. Notice predators?
I wish it wasn’t like this but the lines were drawn long ago and I don’t believe any amount of negotiation or agreement will ever work. If it looks like it might be close, someone will sabotage it, one side or the other. It’s really too bad, it is beautiful country from what I have seen, and it deserves better than this, considering it’s history. So much good was intended for Jerusalem, how did it get taken over by selfishness and hate? I’m sorry I even had to say that, I like it there but couldn’t stay too long in the cities with any sort of feeling of comfort. It’s too bad it has to be like that.
I have been back since then, got to visit New York and London, that was nice. That first trip to Israel will always stick with me. There is such a feeling of hate, even surrounded by armed soldiers, I felt even more of a target. I hope things can change. The love of my life and my daughter visit regularly and their family reside there and every time I hear about something happening, they immediately come into my head. As of late, it’s not looking good. I hope things change for the better for all people involved in this volatile, explosive disagreement.