Guest Post: A Traveler’s Thoughts on the Middle East


Thank you so much to Katherine B. for this fascinating personal account of her trips to Israel and other Arab nations. And now to Katherine B.’s post:

A Traveler’s Thoughts on the Middle East

In listening to the commentary on the recent confrontation between Israel and Hamas I’ve heard mention of the use of cement that Israel let into Gaza thinking it would be used to build schools and hospitals. As we all know now, the cement was turned into the tunnels that Hamas planned to use to infiltrate Israel and kill its citizens and soldiers.

The issue of the use of concrete for peaceful means versus war making reminded me of some of my own reflections on the region during my several visits there. I first went to Israel in the 1970s shortly after the Munich massacre when the Israeli athletes were taken hostage by PLO terrorists and ultimately killed. I was living in Germany at the time and left on my journey to Israel from Stuttgart on board an El Al plane. Security, to put it mildly, was very tight. Everyone boarding the plane was subject to a pat down search and the plane loaded on the tarmac far away from the main terminal.

I had no agenda in visiting Israel other than curiosity. I just wanted to see the place. Israel was then and continues to be a land of amazing contrast between the ancient and the modern.

I’m a city girl and the closest I’d ever come to agriculture was houseplants on windowsills. Nevertheless, one of the most striking things I saw on that first visit was the drip irrigation system developed by Israel to reclaim otherwise arid land. I was amazed at the creativity that delivered water on the ground close to the plants thereby avoiding the evaporation that comes with spraying. Remember this was the 1970s long before I was ever aware of soaker hoses being available in Home Depot. I went to an open market in Jaffa, an artsy community outside of Tel Aviv, and was struck by the size and taste of the Jaffa oranges that were being produced. Jaffa oranges are about the size of grapefruit and, at the time, were a successful cash crop being exported to Europe.
The other image that has stayed with me all these years was the sight of small campfire-like open fires on dirt floors in the homes of people living in the Arab section of old Jerusalem. I’m not sure if these were in a courtyard or in the actual homes but it was amazing that people would have these open fires in such a congested populated area.

Years later I took my second trip to Israel with an informal study group of Arab and Jewish Americans that I had been a part of in my home town. They turned out to be a mostly peacenik anti-Israel group and I was uncomfortable with them. But I got to see places and meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily have access to on a regular tourist jaunt. We went to the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip. We met a group of young Palestinian men, several of whom were educated as engineers in the U.S. My group was very interested in why Palestinians weren’t willing to adopt the non-violent tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. I’m not sure we ever got a reason, but it was very clear that these young men weren’t interested in using non-violent means to achieve a peace with Israel. I remember at the time wondering why they weren’t putting their talents to work building infrastructure in their own communities- better sewer systems, better roads, modern hospitals. But they weren’t. One house we visited in the Golan Heights had the bathroom right next to the kitchen, presumably for plumbing reasons. It reminded me of my grandmother’s old home which had a similar layout. The Palestinian run hospital we went to see was dim and dingy. The one doctor I met there received his medical training from the Israelis.
Many things have been built by the ravaged Jewry of Europe and their offspring since the founding of the modern state of Israel a little over 60 years ago. There are art museums, concert halls, modern hospitals, luxury hotels, a state of the art airport with a security system the envy of many, and impressive government buildings. The Palestinians (or perhaps it is more accurate to say the Palestinian leadership), by contrast, seem to me to stay mired in their sense of victimhood. They are content with using the vast amounts of money that have flowed into their coffers to buy weapons not to build a modern society.

On my last trip to Israel, l I expanded my itinerary to include other Arab countries and the contrast to what the Palestinians have or have not achieved is remarkable. The emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the UAE have built up modern cities with flashy shopping malls and supermarkets, luxury hotels and a thriving banking industry. Bahrain has one of the most elegant airports I have ever been in. Egypt, though poor by comparison, had a thriving tourist industry until late. It also has a sizeable segment of the population that is well educated. One could only imagine what the Palestinians could accomplish were they to turn away from war. Maybe they are just too embittered to ever let their grievances go.

Thanks so much for this personal account of your trips to Israel, Katherine. Great post, and MUCH appreciated.

I wanted to recommend a good article as a companion piece to Katherine’s post, and that is this WSJ piece, “In Defense of Zionism” It was written by the former (recent) Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren.

Thanks again, Katherine! Okay, folks, feel free to discuss this great piece, or whatever else is on your minds.


64 Responses to “Guest Post: A Traveler’s Thoughts on the Middle East”

  1. kenoshamarge Says:

    Thank you so much for this informative and personal piece Katherine. I just wondered, if the mostly peacenik anti-Israel group you traveled with on your second trip to Israel changed their mindset any during or after the trip.

    Thank you also for reminding me of drip irrigation in Israel. I think I first read about it in a Leon Uris book decades ago. And then, as with so many things, forgot. (I do by the way have a “soaker” hose and use it to water plants and lawn instead of wasting water by spraying.)

    I enjoyed reading about “Jaffa” oranges. Are they still grown and are they still as big?

    • Katherine B. Says:

      The group I was with did not change their opinions, In fact, they became even more entrenched even though they had stones thrown at the group in Nablus by Palestinians. As to the oranges, I looked it up and it seems they are no longer being exported from Israel, although other countries are exporting oranges under that name. From what I’ve read it seems Israel has authorized that, but all I know is what I’ve seen online.

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        Thanks for responding Katherine. I thought perhaps seeing the reality might nudge some of that willful blindness just a bit. But experience has taught me that it seldom does. If reality gets in the way of ideology, ignore reality. What a sad way to live.

        Pity about the oranges – they sounded fantastic!

        • Katherine B. Says:

          Ignoring reality in the face of ideology is a good check for me too. I have to make sure I’m taking in all information and not just that which comports with my own thinking.

          Having said that, I will never forget the first time I read about Obama’s church (the name of which escapes me at the moment). I was reading this article online and thought, “this can’t be true.” So I googled the church and their website hadn’t yet been scrubbed. There it was all their hatefilled rantings. I was stunned. It was then that I started paying attention to what was being posted online by sites critical of Obama. I wasn’t going to find any of that in the Lame Stream Media.

          • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

            Excellent reminder, Katherine.

            And the church is Trinity United Church of Christ. One of my Systematic Theology TAs from Union, Dwight Hopkins, is a prominent member there. Dwight was a student of Jim Cone, the father of Black Liberation Theology, also one of my professors at Union.

            And yes, they most definitely scrubbed the site, but they haven’t been able to scrub Youtube of all of the hate-filled rants by Rev. Wright.

            Speaking of, the JournoListers, led by Ezra Klein, were the ones who intentionally refused to report on Wright and Trinity during the campaign, knowing it would hurt Obama’s chances. The same way they intentionally went after Sarah Pakin after hearing her acceptance speech. Did they do it because they thought she was stupid, like how they depicted her? Of course not, it was quite the contrary. She scared the bejeezus out of them, knowing she would make it harder for Obama. That began their savaging her relentlessly.

            Yep, the LSM indeed…

          • kenoshamarge Says:

            I felt much the same when I first read about and then saw videos of “Reverand Wright”. I thought it had to be some joke.
            (Remember Flip Wilson and the “Church of What’s Happening Now?”) Then as I listen I heard the hate and knew it was no joke and it sure wasn’t funny. Imagine Obama having the hubris to tell “folks” to stop hating when he listened to that for so long.

            As I realized it wasn’t some parady I wondered how anyone could vote for a man who sat in that church for 20 years. It was unbelievable to me then and still is.

            I have a problem with ideology and honesty from time to time – I think we all do. Ideology will make hypocrites of us all if we aren’t careful. These days I force myself to read dessenting articles which is something I never did when I was a rabid Democrat.

            I still cannot listen to Obama. I read a text of what he says because the very sound of his voice sends me heading for the anti-nausea medications. Come to think of it, there are a whole lot of politicians, and members of the LSM, who cause the same reaction.

            • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

              Good point abt the ideologies and how they can make hypocrites of us all. True that. And no kidding abt reading vs. listening to Obama. Cannot stand to hear him talk. But it is important to know what he is saying, I reckon.

              As for the hate filled church and message, there is no way to hear that kind of thing week after week for twenty years and not have it filter through. I think we have sen the “chickens coming home to roost” of that mentality with Obama’s policies…

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      What a great question, Marge. And telling that the peacniks did not change their minds even when they had stones hurled at them, Katherine.

      Thanks again so much for your post, Katherine!

  2. foxyladi14 Says:

    Great post Katherine thanks. ❤

  3. helenk3 Says:

    just announced on tv actor Robin Williams was found dead in his home

  4. helenk3 Says:

    Katherine your article was very informative and I learned from it. the red flag for me on backtrack was his relationship with bomber billy ayres. the more I read about him the more I saw that he was mentored by anti- american people for most of his life. what you learn as a child stays with all your life and shapes your values

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      You ain’t only kidding, Helen. That the relationship between the two has been so downplayed by the Left and LSM is astonishing, but no more so than the SUPPORT this domestic terrorist has enjoyed even after saying he wished he had done more. Just astonishing…

  5. Cindyindie Says:

    Katharine B………Very interesting, educational and well-written post.

  6. kenoshamarge Says:

    Wonderful article by Thomas Sowell. As usual he is well worth the read.

    Attacking Achievement

  7. helenk3 Says:

    this article made me think just how lucky we are to live here

  8. helenk3 Says:

    here is an idea I really like. it could work

  9. helenk3 Says:

    remember when?? another lie from backtrack. should we laugh or cry?

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Oh, right – and his minions believed this hooey, too. It is really astonishing the pablum these folks swallowed, not just once, but TWICE!! And make excuses for him when he breaks eevry single one of these assertions…

  10. helenk3 Says:

    the ulsterman is usually pretty good at letting us know about things in DC. this might be something to watch

  11. helenk3 Says:

    a really good question

  12. Katherine B Says:

    I saw a video clip yesterday on CNN of an Iraqi helicopter dropping off boxes of supplies to Yazedi people and about 20 of them scrambled on board the chopper. Almost all of them were weeping – young, old, men, women. There was this one woman who was comforting a weeping child and she looked so stoic. Her face was like it was set in stone. I thought about these people fleeing with just the clothes on their backs. It was such a moving sight.

    Shortly after seeing that came the news of Robin Williams killing himself and it pushed the refugee story off the screen. The contrast impacted me so much.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Oh my goodness, Katherine, that sounds just heartbreaking abt the people getting on the chopper.

      And talk abt a juxtaposition between what is going on with them, and the news that pushed this off the air. Holy smokes…

      Just tragic what is going on there, no doubt abt it. It is sad that Williams apparently took his life, and I feel for his family as they deal with this loss. But what is happening at the hands of ISIS to thousands of people who are fighting for their lives is on a different scale…

  13. helenk3 Says:

    this takes the phrase “close enough for government work” to a new level

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Uh huh. They could never get away with that kind of crap in any other business sector, and should not be able to get away with it in the gov’t either. What crap.

  14. helenk3 Says:

    just because I look at this and think HOPE

  15. GinaR Says:

    Wonderful post, Katherine, thank you. I visited Israel as a child in the early ’60s, and fell in love with everything about it. I also remember my family taking a drive, and my dad made a wrong turn somewhere without realizing it. We turned a corner and were facing soldiers with BIG guns pointed at us!! I never saw a car turn around as fast as my dad turned ours around!

    My uncle lived in Israel for many years before he died, and he was a staunch Zionist. We had many discussions of what it meant to live in Israel and be in a constant state of war readiness. But he loved it there and would not have wanted to live out his life anyplace else.

    I think most people don’t understand that there is not an historic “Palestinian” people. Those living in the land called “Palestine” are mostly Jordanians and Syrians who were living in Israel at the time of Israel’s independence. Here are some very interesting facts that the world chooses to ignore:

    ~ In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.

    ~ The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution, and slaughter.

    ~ The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.

    ~ Arab refugees were intentionally not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own people’s lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.

    Amy, the article by Ambassador Oren was amazing. I’ve mentioned to you before that if I was 30 years younger I’d be heading off to Israel, too!

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      What a great comment, Gina! Thank you for the facts, too. It is amazing to me how distorted this information has become. The Left acts like the Jews went in and drove all the poor Palestinians out. That is not at ALL what happened as you noted so well.

      And I totally understand abt wanting to go back to Israel if you were younger (for more than a visit, that is). I totally get that.

      Glad you liked the Oren piece. Very informative, I thought!

  16. foxyladi14 Says:

    remembering the lies. 🙄

  17. helenk3 Says:

    good for the gun maker

  18. helenk3 Says:

    a beautiful woman, a great actress, one of the sexist voices ever

  19. helenk3 Says:

    interesting discussion on islamic terror groups.

    there are none so blind as those who will not see

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Oh, good grief. If he is that unaware, he has no business leading people. Liberal Christians are aware of the Westboro Church types, after all,and I imagine the same is true for most other religious traditions.

      But for this imam to deny ever having heard of AL QAEDA is just laughable and inclines one to believe he is a liar, or ignorant, or both…

    • mcnorman Says:

      What cave are they living in?

  20. Katherine B Says:

    I was scanning the online front pages of the WA Post and the NY Times to see what they were saying about Iraq. Not much. What a surprise. Lots about Lauren Bacall and Robin Williams. Th NY Times was particularly interesting in that it had a story about France sending weapons to the Kurds and Britain sending non-lethal aid. Then further down in what has to be the smallest type size possible was a headline about the U.S. sending 130 more “advisors.” These media presstitutes are still covering for Obama and they always will.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Oh, for heaven’s sakes. It truly is astonishing, isn’t it? It is just mind boggling the way such a formerly stellar media outlet has sold itself like this. I remember when they would boot people from their emply for being caught doing things they shouldn’t. Now, they routinely cover up massive wrongdoings by the most powerful man in the world.

      Same with WaPo. What the hell happened to the august publication that ferreted out criminal activity by our elected officials?!

      It just makes me ill what the “Fourth” Estate has become. Heck, the tabloids are more reputable now…

    • kenoshamarge Says:


  21. helenk3 Says:

    US would consider using US ground troops to assist Iraqis in rescuing Yazidi refugees, senior White House official says – @nytimes

    here we go

  22. helenk3 Says:

    hamas just broke the truce and fired rockets into Israel before the time was up

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      SHOCKING – Hamas would do that?! Ahem. Sorry, just couldn’t stem the sarcasm. Of COURSE they did – they always do. And now Israel will be expected to give them YET another chance. Enough with these cease fires already. Hamas will never play by the rules, never. Why anyone ever thinks they will is just beyond me. Yet, Kerry, Obama, et al., continue to act like it is a viable option. Sheesh.

      • helenk3 Says:

        Israeli police say rocket lands in Israel 2 hours before end of Gaza war temporary cease-fire – @AP
        end of alert

  23. Katherine B Says:

    Have you ever seen an administration more ridiculous than this one? Apparently, Obama is considering dispatching more troops to Iraq to conduct a rescue mission of the Yazidis stranded in that mountain range. So here from an article on FOX News is this comment: “One of those options, a White House official indicated Wednesday, could include ground troops — just not combat troops.” Ground troops that are not combat troops? Must be a military band.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Um, no. I truly have not, Katherine. I am still just shaking my head in disbelief at the lunacy of such a statement by this Administration. What in the world is wrong with these people??

      Btw, I showed your comment to my partner, the daughter of a 3 star, and she was shaking her head, too.


  24. helenk3 Says:

    pretty bad when the French tell backtrack to come back from vacation and do something. that has to be a historic first

  25. helenk3 Says:

    Hamas must be thrilled

  26. mcnorman Says:

    Some will never listen or learn.

  27. helenk3 Says:

    clueless on Martha’s Vineyard

  28. helenk3 Says:

    I can understand why

  29. Katherine B Says:

    Well, Claire McCaskill and a string of other Democrats are inserting themselves into the Ferguson situation. Apparently, the Democratic governor is planning to relieve the entire Ferguson police department of their duties and replace them with (?) – not sure – possibly the FBI. What is so amazing to me is the statements from several politicians including Nancy Pelosi that we must get justice for the victim – not so much for the police officer, I guess. I heard one brief report this morning that the officer involved in the shooting was treated at a hospital for injuries to his face right after the event. Perhaps he slapped himself.

    My fantasy is that the entire Ferguson police force resigns and lets the Democratic party handle security in the town.

    • helenk3 Says:

      good idea.

      shame they do not have a mayor like Mayor Rizzo of Phila. when they rioted he said box them in and let them burn their own neighborhood

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Outstanding idea, Katherine. Yes, let Pelosi and her posse handle those who are committing all the violence now. I am sure a few refrains of “Kumbayah” are all they need to ratchet back the violence…

      Oh, and what a surprise that Al Sharpton has already insinuated himself into this situation.

      At least the father of the slain young man is calling for people to stop the violence – that speaks far louder than anything Sharpton could say. It is alreayd a tragic situation, and the rioting just does not help anything. Neither does Sharpton (IMO).

  30. foxyladi14 Says:

    TGIF have a safe happy and blessed weekend friends ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: