May 2022 - Rita Bollen - Being a Servas Traveler in Post Covid 19 Israel


Travelling in Israel: maybe not on everyone’s list but it should be!


The journey started with a bang. Quite literally as only 500 meters away from my first Servas stay in Tel Aviv, a terrorist attack took place. Luckily, when we heard the news I was invited to go to a wedding in Raanana , a town outside Tel Aviv. My Servas host assured me there was nothing to worry about and the the perpetrator would be caught very soon.

In the meantime, I was wondering whether I could still visit Yafa (Tel Aviv), close to where the attack happened, the next day with another day host from Servas.

This is what I really loved about travelling with Servas. When I started planning my trip, I contacted a lot of people. Some people let me know that they couldnt host me during my stay but would love to guide me through their city.

And indeed, I could still visit Yafa because a few hours after the attack the man responsible was captured.

Neither in the streets of Tel Aviv nor in the streets of Yafa (Tel Aviv), you could have told that the evening before a terrorist attack, that took 3 lives, had taken place. Apart from the sea of flowers, candles and Israeli flags, life went on as usual, eyes focused on the future instead of fearing new attacks, terrorist or otherwise.

A big difference with Belgium, where 6 years ago massive terrorist attacks took place in Brussels, taking 32 lives. The country came practically to a standstill for several weeks.

I would come across this positive pioneer mentality of never giving up, of looking forward not backward, during the whole of my journey through Israel.

   my hosts in Jerusalem


                  A market in Jerusalem       

When my different hosts told me the stories about their heritage, I listened with astonishment and sentiment. Many of them came from Europe, from Rumania, Poland, Latvia, Ukraine. After the second world war, their parents tried to emigrate to the English Mandate for Palestine, as the territory used to be called back then. They were not received with great joy. On the contrary, they were taken prisoner by the British and locked up in detention camps. After the independence of Israel at the 14th of May 1948 they could come back, only to be landed in another war. Others emigrated from Latin America to build a life from scratch. It is difficult to imagine such a life but because of the openness and hospitality of each and every one of my Servas host, I got a better idea.

 my hosts in Ti'von  

Visiting the Kibbutz and their impressive constructions that were built on barren land, like Geshur in the Golan heights, and staying in green Galilei close to the beautiful Kibbutz Alonim, or, again, visiting Kibbutz Parod on Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for victims of war and terrorism, learned me that travelling with Servas is nothing like an commonly organized tourist holiday. It is so much more.

Of course, there are many tourist hotspots that you should visit. The modern sparkling city of Tel Aviv with the Bauhaushouses which are protected by UNESCO, the beautiful city of Jerusalem with the must visit Holocaust museum and the old city, the harbour cities Haifa and Akko, or the many archeological sites like Caeserea, the Elah valley with the biblical story of David and Goliath, the contradiction between the green Galilei and the yellow Negev desert, and last but not least the beautiful coast of Netanya. But the highlights of my 5-week trip were not the tourist spots, it were the friendly people, the delicious food that was always plenty, the long conversations and the hospitality of all the hosts. This experience wouldnt have been so memorable without Servas, the hosts and their honesty and openness. Thanks to everybody who showed me around your country.

 me on the Natania coast

Rita Bollen

Belgian Servas Traveller

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