How incredibly quickly time went by! My mind and heart are still full of fond memories and experiences that I lived while I was in Israel. Your country is so beautiful.... Everybody was so gentle and kind to me that I have the best impression of Israelis.You are all now really dear to me in the Servas family.
Many thanks (Toda Raba!) specially to you for being so nice to me on the different occasions I got to see you, when you were so generous with your time to show me around or to come and see me. And your nice present which I like so much and will keep as a souvenir.
wish you the best. Be well and we'll keep in touch, hoping that I will see you again.
My Servas report on my trip to Israel, February 3-28, 2006
ISRAEL: A LAND RICH IN CULTURE, SCENERY AND FRIENDLY PEOPLE
Israel had always been in my travelling plans for many years, but perhaps the lack of information and the unstable situation of the Middle East had prevented me from getting there before. But it was the Israelis I had met at different conferences in the past, so cheerful and with a strong feeling of belonging as a nation, and who were also so open and friendly to me, the ones who definitely encouraged me to go and visit their country.
So at the beginning of February 2006 I spent a little more than three weeks in Israel. A crossroad of cultures and religions, I visited many holy places (Safed, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem) was immersed in their spirituality and was curious about the people’s different ways of expressing it, from the least to the most religious groups.
Through my visits to some key cultural sights such as The Diaspora museum in Tel Aviv and the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and also talking to different hosts I stayed with, I was able to get a better understanding of the history of Israel, the Jewish religion and culture and its interrelation with the Israelis’ behaviour and attitude to life.
A country that has struggled from its early origins but, who has nevertheless fought for its rights and place and has learned to recover. I found their drive and hard-work remarkable. A clear example is what Israelis have achieved from their land, by turning swamps into fruitful fields, where the most incredible variety of fruit and vegetables are grown and even digging for water in the desert has been like a miracle. A nation who really cares for nature and who finds pleasure in travelling around the countryside to admire many wild flowers (anemones, daisies, irises and poppies). Many proper names in Hebrew are somehow related to trees or plants. February is definitely a good time of the year if you are a flower-lover like me. It was a living lesson to stay with a host family in a kibbutz and to learn about life in these settlements. A country also advanced in high technology, used at its best. I was impressed, among other inventions, to see their computerised system for watering plants.
I found breathtaking and most beautiful landscape from the North to South, from the snowy Mt. Hermon and the mystical Kinneret (Lake of Galillee) to the fascinating coloured sands of the Negev desert, I walked in all of them and felt amazed at their beauty. But the highlight of my trip was the people I met in Israel. I stayed with 10 different hosts and visited 1 other host for the day. All of them of different ages and backgrounds, but everybody showing me how much they care for visitors and how delighted they were to host me. I even joined them for a Servas outing in the Golan Heights.
It was altogether an enriching and lovely experience that touched my heart: they spent time with me showing me the sights, had interesting conversations with me, helped me around, took me from house to house, even gave me presents and really made me feel so much at home. But also in the streets when I was on my own Israelis were very helpful. Language was not a barrier, most people understand and speak English, specially the young ones. I just wish I had known a few more words in Hebrew to have had the chance to engage in conversation with them.
The trip has left me many nice and fond memories of a country and a group of people in Servas who are well organised and who are always happy to welcome visitors. I hope others will go and see with their own eyes what I have just shared with you.
TODA RABA to Servas Israel and all my nice hosts from the bottom of my heart!
Marisa E. Contini