Monday, June 11, 2007

The journey begins

In less than two weeks, I'll be flying to Israel with Vivian and Eric. Thousands of families visit Israel every year. After two extraordinarily brief visits earlier in my life, this will be the first time I'll be able to immerse myself in the country.

My first visit -- in 1976, occurred at the tail end of my first real voyage overseas -- an eight month overland journey across Africa. I needed to get to Paris to use the second half of an open-ended cheap ticket to Canada, and El-Al had the least expensive fares from Nairobi. When the plane landed in Tel Aviv, my thoughts were: "It feels very strange to be among so many people who appear to be my relatives", but, equally, "I can't wait to get out of here -- and home." Virtually broke, and overwhelmed with the experience of being away from home for two-thirds of a year, my priority and focus was simply to get back to Vancouver, as fast as I could.

I returned to Israel about 2.5 years ago, this time with Eric and Vivian. This time, fate intervened again. Proudly announcing the planned trip to my mother, she said "You can't go." It turns out my nephew was getting married in Victoria, B.C., and they had changed the date to accommodate what they thought were our original vacation plans. After my sister phoned to make it clear I needed to be there, I did something that made some sense at the time, but now seems absurd. "I'll go -- I'll break my trip to Israel with a visit to Victoria."

So, 24 hours after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport with Eric and Vivian, I headed back to the airport and flew half way around the world to Victoria, spent two nights and one day, and returned to Israel. The side trip knocked off four days of our nine day vacation. It earned me plenty of frequent flier points. I will never do that again.

This time, we have cleared 3.5 weeks. The itinerary takes us first to Boston, MA, where we will catch a cheap Alitalia flight. This choice may prove to be a daunting experience -- it seems Alitalia's fares are cheap for a reason -- there are real service quality and morale problems; as well as reliability issues. But when we booked our tickets in December, Alitalia had the only available 'consolidator' inexpensive tickets to Israel -- and since three of us are flying, economy is important.

As we proceed, I'm planning to incorporate some video images, as well as photos, descriptions, and observations. I will also tackle the politically sensitive issues that define the Israeli reality. The story here is extremely complex -- propagandists on one side or another tout certain loaded 'party lines' and often are closed to other interpretations. My views are right now small "l" liberal -- I believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, but appreciate the Palestinians have just grievances. However, idealism is tempered with reality -- the fact remains (despite all the arguments by anti-Israelis) that the United Nations created the Israeli state in 1948, and the Arab nations refused to recognize it, forcing the first war of independence. Many Palestinian organizations such as Hamas (the legitimately elected government of the Palestinian territories) refuse to recognize the right of the Israelis to have any Jewish state, despite the U.N resolution establishing it. The refugee problem is real -- the argument of how the refugees came to be and their 'right of return' is also volatile and sensitive.
Throw in cultural differences, wealth and poverty, the expansionist 'settler' movement, and you have one wild and perhaps unresolvable chaos.

In discussing these matters, I find many people's views are fixed; and many base their opinions on myths, party line arguments, and careless intellectual perspectives. I'll do my best to steer carefully through these arguments. I'm not going to try to cite footnotes from academic literature but will invite a wider and more comprehensive perspective.

While I'm travelling, this "travelblog" will replace the Construction Marketing Ideas blog, except where I see something in Israel relevant to construction marketing in North America. I welcome your comments, opinions and contributions.

No comments: