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Israel liveblog: Israeli hospitalities, reflections, and goodbye Israel

Folks, this is the final installment of the Israel trip 2012 live blog. I hope you all have enjoyed it.

My last day in Israel was spent with a secular Israel couple, Ariel Ben Horesh and his lovely wife Dina. Kind people, they treated me like royalty. You might recall, I met Ariel last year at the Microsoft Mix Conference in Las Vegas:


My time with Ariel and Dina might best be described as seeing Israel through native Israeli eyes.

Too many folks just take a tour of Israel, and see only the guided on-the-rails Disneyland experience. Spending time with Ariel and his wife, and his friends & family, I think I saw a bit of real Israeli life – and it was great! Perhaps the most relaxing time of the trip.

First night, Ariel and Dina took me to a special celebration: Ariel’s company, CodeValue, was celebrating their 2nd year in business. They were kind enough to allow me to attend the party:

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That’s Ariel and Dina top left.

The party was lovely: relaxing, fun, goofy. It was a perfect night in northern Israel, and the party was held at a beautiful house, the largest I had seen yet in Israel:

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Lots of great Israeli food served. Fresh vegetables, hummus, breads, lamb, salads, wine.

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Since my Hebrew is pretty terrible, I had to jump into conversations that mumbled some English from time to time. I met a few folks and talked about tech and Israel and how Israel differs from the US. It was fun.

After the food, there was some goofy entertainment that, according to Ariel and Dina, was an Israeli TV star that nobody knew, and that the entertainment went flat on the crowd. (It was all in Hebrew; most I could make out was some awkward social situations.)

Then there was Israeli pop song karaoke and live music – ha!

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Sadly, I didn’t recognize any of the songs. I sat and watched, amused.

Finally, after the karaoke, they broke out with some dancing right there in the yard. I got out there and busted some moves myself – oh yeah! I love doing stupid stuff like that, just having fun and not caring what sort of fool you look like.

Next morning – my last day in Israel – Ariel and Dina had a full day planned for me. Over breakfast, Ariel and myself were talking tech, and I mentioned Chavah Messianic Radio. It launched into a little discussion, Ariel asking what is it, exactly, that I believe.

Dina came out of the kitchen and said, “I want to hear this, too.”

So I told them in plain terms at the table:

“My religious community is one that follows Jesus and keeps the commandments in the Torah.”, I said.

“What do you call it?”, they asked.

“Well, some people call it Hebrew Roots. Some of it is called Jewish Christianity. Still others, Messianic Judaism. You should know, the Jewish religious world generally doesn’t like us, because they think we are deceptive about our beliefs when we say we’re Jewish, while they insist Jews can’t be Christians. But I say Jesus was Jewish, all of his followers were Jewish. There are some goings on in the Jewish religious world that are beginning to recognize this. For example, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Daniel Boyarin, and others are acknowledging the Jewishness of our beliefs, even in the Orthodox Jewish world.

“And what about you – what do you believe?

“As for me, I’m a follower of Jesus who keeps the commandments in the Torah. And seeing Jesus was Jewish and kept the commandments himself, I think it’s perfectly a Jewish thing to do to follow his teachings.”

Dina interjected, “I think Jesus has good teachings. In Hinduism, Jesus is one of their prophets.”

The conversation went on for a few minutes. They asked about what holidays I keep, and so on. I think it was good and honest.

I get the sense that Ariel and Dina are secular, Ariel more so than Dina. They’re both heavily involved in yoga, sounds like they look up to Hinduism, and Dina’s mother works in astrology in Tel Aviv. Whatever the case, they were both opened with me, as I was with them, and that was beneficial.

After breakfast, we headed out to the beach – oh yeah!

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This is the Mediterranean beach in Holon, northern Israel.

I zonked out on the beach and got some sleep – all this hiking and traveling was catching up with me! – and just had a relaxing time.

The water is not fit for swimming, as you can see in the sign above: the water tides can pull you out to see rather quickly. And worse yet, the whole beach is infested with frisbee-sized jellyfish. And it doesn’t take touching these things to sting you – they actually emit some acids that create red, itchy skin blotches just by going into the water.

Ariel and Dina fell asleep, and I was just waking up from my nap, so I thought I’d go walking down the beach. Suddenly, I see something black in the water several feet out. I decide to brave the waves and the jelly acid to fetch the black thing.

As it turns out, it was a kippah. Ha! Maybe God was telling me to be more traditional. I snatched it out of the water, and threw it into my backpack. (Hopefully the kippah wasn’t a hint that someone drowned! I didn’t see anyone around in the water, so I suspect it had been floating for a long time.)

After the beach, Ariel and Dina took me to their friends house – a beautiful, multi-level house, luxurious. Ariel’s friends were these former IDF folks he served with during his 8 years in the military. I spoke to several of them and had some good conversations.

We left the friend’s house and headed over to Ariel’s parents. Now this was the highlight of the day: a multi-generation home for this family. Big, 3 story house. Beautifully decorated.

The family, also secular, treated us like kings. Dish after dish of great Israeli foods. I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore.

At the table, I spoke with Ariel and his father about Israel – what do they think about land for peace? What about the situation with Egypt? Concerns about Iran?

Ariel’s father, former IDF soldier himself, had some strong opinions on these things.

Their niece, a young western-dressed teen, longed for living in the United States. I told her she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Israel is beautiful, historic, a heritage. The US isn’t the place to be! I told her that as someone who has lived in several states in the US, it’s pleasant, but it’s not Israel. “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

We were invited into their little pool, which they had filled up that night. I jumped in with Ariel and his father. We talked about some Hebrew and past experiences and Rabbi Carlebach’s music. When I mentioned I knew a few traditional Hebrew songs, Ariel’s father demanded I sing a few.

I sang a bit of Hevenu Shalom Aleichem, and Ariel’s father sang along with me. Singing old Jewish tunes in Israel with a old Israeli veteran – how cool is that?!

We even sang a few more before he left the pool, and Dina joined us. I had their niece, the young girl, snap a few photos:

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Oh yeah!

Ariel and I spoke about religion a bit more. He told me,

“The thing I can’t stand about the Orthodox is they’re just stuck on one thing, never move on. God, if there is a god, would keep adding new stuff. Where are the prophets now? Where are the miracles? That’s the way I see it.”

I just nodded in understanding, didn’t argue. I want to see miracles, too. I want the real prophets of God, too, and not the charlatans we’ve been stuck with in the diaspora. I think it will come when Messiah arrives.

Ariel’s parents pampered us further: they served us watermelon. Then ice cream. Their hospitality was unbounded. When it came time to leave, Ariel’s father told me, “You come here, to Israel, you bring your family, you stay here with us.”

I’ve encountered such kindness on this trip, folks. This was the icing on the cake.

By the time we got home, it was nearly time to head to the airport; had to be at Ben Gurion airport by 2:45am or so. I took this last video from the Holy Land, then again at each stop along the way. Goodbye, Israel!

Folks, I hope you have enjoyed the Israel 2012 liveblog! I hope you have tasted Israel! I hope you are encouraged to go there yourself and experience the land.

Shalom from Minnesota…err, gosh, that just doesn’t sound as good as “Shalom from Zion”, does it? I guess I’ll just have to go back next year.

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