I have recently had the pleasure of visiting Israel. After reading the news in South Africa what I found was nothing short of earth shattering. Far from being a restricted, religious society which discriminates along religious lines, which the local South African media tends to portray, I found a country in which its citizens regardless of religion or race live in absolute freedom. Let me describe the typical day I had in Israel.
My day usually started with a cup of coffee at the nearby coffee shop. My waitress, my Israeli friend told me, was a Israeli Arab. We struck up a conversation and she told me about her studies at Tel Aviv University and how she one day hopes to be a lawyer. Here is an Arab Israeli student, working as many Jewish Israeli students do in the same country and with equal opportunity. This doesn't sound like an apartheid system to me.
After coffee I went to visit one of the local Tel Aviv hospitals. A friend's child had fallen ill and we went to give some support. In the waiting room at the Children's Emergency Room I saw many Arab parents and Jewish parents waiting together to see the doctor. There were no separate lines, no separate rooms. They were seen as the same patients and were waiting to see the same doctor. To further add to the surprise, the doctor happened to be an Israeli Arab Paediatrician. This system didn't look like Apartheid to me.
After visiting my friend's child, who is fine now and had a mild pneumonia, I went to the Tel Aviv port to do some shopping. For those who havent been there, its a beautiful commercial development overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. I walked into one of the local shops, and needless to say another Israeli Arab helped me try on some clothes. When i paid, A Jewish Israeli attended to me at the counter. Young Jews and Arabs working together in a shop? Is this not how the Middle East should be??
By this time I was starving, what to eat in the Middle East except for some good Hummus. So my Israeli friend and I travelled about 30 mins to an Arab Town called Abu Gosh, famous for its Hummus. I was impressed to see the beautiful houses in the area, far from the poverty so often described in the media. The people were friendly and the food, needless to say was excellent.
By now it was getting late in the day, and what better way to experience sunset than a walk on the beachfront, the Tayelet. On the walk I saw old Jewish Israelis enjoying the view, I saw young Arab children having a braai on the gardens, Arab women in their traditional Hijab enjoying the mediterranean water washing up on their feet. To top it all off, at a particular point on the Tel Aviv beach is a mosque, right next to the David Intercontinental Hotel, and from their I could hear the Muslim call to pray. This really doesnt look like the Apartheid state described in South African Media!
While there are problems in Israel, as there are in every country in the world, few countries have managed in the face of almost continuous conflict to produce an open, free and equal society as Israel has. One must remember when reading the news that only part of the story is being told, the part which sells. My stories, are boring for most, they are of everyday life in Israel, so they wont make news. My stories, however, are the reality in Israel.
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