SERVAS ISRAEL

Thanks from a Polish traveler

  27/05/2008
To all my Israeli hosts and their families.
My Servas travel to Israel ( March 21 – April 19,2008 ) is a never-to-be-forgotten experience which has changed, in many ways ,my thinking about your country and about Israeli people. As I mentioned on various occasions, I have always wanted to come to your country, mainly for sentimental and historical reasons, and finally it turned out that I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport as a Pole and left it as a Jew !
Anyway, speaking quite seriously, thanks to all of you I could have an easier access to different facets of Israeli everyday life, culture and tradition. I could also experience the Jewish life style and feel into your mentality as well. Of course, conversations and family stories were crucial but the taste of your cooking was not to be disregarded either !  In some instances I was even invited to fancy restaurants and had a very nice feeling of being spoiled by my hosts'' hospitality and their readiness to Servas i.e. serve ,which is the leading idea of our organisation. I also appreciated Israeli team spirit - picking up from bus or tram stations and giving lifts to places not that easily accessible for a traveller like me, with heavy backpacks in temperatures, sometimes ,up to 30 degrees!
During my stay in Israel I stopped in Tel Aviv, Hertzelia, Caesarea, Haifa, Karmiel, Beit Shearim, Beit She'an, Jerusalem, Arad, Faran, Zopar and Ashkelon, where I was hosted by 15 families who generally put me up for two nights and sporadically for one .These places made good starting points for short visits to other sites of interests such as Nazareth , Tiberias, Bethlehem or Eilat ,to mention just a few of them !
The time of my visit to Israel incidentally coincided with the state visits of our top leaders : I was very moved to listen to your President's speeches in Warsaw Ghetto and the Polish Parliament, I also knew about Poland's Premier praying at the Wailing Wall in the spirit of mutual understanding, friendship and peace. I believe that might have contributed to the good spirit that prevailed wherever I went.
However, there were a few cases that I was not offered a meal or a drink, probably because my host was sure that I had taken something by myself as the whole fridge was open at my complete disposal – the practice that may be a bit embarrassing for bashful travellers. The addresses indicated in Servas Host List were sometimes, either difficult to find ( the street name of the host was rarely accompanied by the name of the nearest main street the traveller is advised to get off) or their spelling was confusing. I also found the Israeli cleaning ladies too eager to sort things out, so that in 2 or 3 cases I discovered my personal belongings displaced and put in order all over the flat !
Those were, of course, minor and unimportant shortcomings, which in no way diminished the pleasure of staying with you.
With Poland being still here and there anti-Semitic, after my Israeli experience, I have become now your dedicated friend and an advocate of your cause, though I was not always able to share some of your points of view on certain political issues.
With my best wishes of shalom,
Andrzej Kowalunas
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