I live in Modiin, a new city, soon to celebrate 20 years of existence. We have watched the city grow, seen the trees mature, and watched a large shopping mall spring up in the center of town. It is not unusual to see Arab workers there- serving food, and cleaning, or Arab men and women shopping, and eating in the food court. In our local shopping center, there is an Arab dentist. To us, this is perfectly normal. Often, I just want to take photos so that the haters will see what Israeli life really is like- that we mix freely and are pleasant and respectful. Of course, the Jews here in Modiin are not of a sort. We have native born Israelis, English-speaking immigrants, and immigrants from Russia, former Soviet republics, France, Morocco, Mexico, Holland- and the list goes on. And somehow, all of us, Jews, Arabs- Muslim and Christian, get along. The atmosphere here is relaxed and calm.
But this week, my husband and I decided to go on a short vacation to a hotel at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea, is of course, the lowest place on earth and the Dead Sea waters are full of salt and minerals. You probably have seen the photos of people sitting in the water reading the newspaper. It is true. You can literally sit in the water. It is warm and pleasant, and there are those who will swear to its medicinal properties.
When we checked into the hotel, we were a bit surprised to see that we were among the only English-speakers and that there were not many native Hebrew speakers. In fact, most of the guests at the hotel were either Russian speakers or Arabic speakers. The hotel was filled with Arab and Druze families. Oh yes, we also had some visiting Koreans with us. Again, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed- with helpful conversations as to the hotel’s facilities, with smiles in the dining room and and laughter.
I wanted to film it, to show the world that this is the real Israel- a place where we don’t just talk about accepting each other, but a place where it happens- where people spend their hard-earned money on a vacation where they know that they will be among people who are different from them, but ultimately, with people who share the same values and are looking to build a future together.
A few years ago we took a short trip to Bulgaria on an Israeli charter flight. At our hotel, there were other Israelis. We signed up for day tours. In our van of about 10 people, there were 4-6 Druze, 2 Arabs, and us. We had a great time together. This is the real Israel. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. I am here and see it firsthand.