Smiles, laughter, young children sitting on their fathers’ shoulders, music everywhere, groups of friends and relatives grilling – all of Tel Aviv is celebrating. Israel’s sixty-sixth year was a difficult one in many ways, as fears of a nuclear Iran loomed, as cost of living for the average Israeli went up, and as tensions increased with the international community. Deep tensions and divisions run through society but as Israel marks its sixty-seventh birthday on this Yom ha-Atzma’ut there is so much here that is amazing – energy, idealism, warmth, creativity,kindness, and strength that it is impossible to believe Israel will not only rise to meet all the challenges it faces, but will thrive.
We walked down the beach from Tel Aviv to Yaffo (Jaffa) which was a port in ancient times (it’s where Jonah sailed from to try to escape God’s charge) and is now a chic artsy adjunct to its much larger counterpart in the Tel Aviv-Yaffo municipality. We took our bus back to the beach front were treated to a military flyover and aerial maneuvers over the Mediterranean. It was a little windy for swimming (gusts at 45 mph) but the beach was still filled with Israelis hanging out, soaking in the atmosphere, and engaging in the national Israeli pastime of mongol – roasting skewers of meat over charcoal grills. We then split up to enjoy the different options for the holiday and our last afternoon in Israel – visiting one of the many museums that are free to visitors today, going to the beach, or enjoying lunch in an outdoor cafe.
Now we’re sitting at Maganda, a Yemeni restaurant for our farewell dinner before heading to Ben Gurion airport and our flight back to Newark. It’s hard to believe how quickly these nine days have flown by and how much we’ve packed in, as well as how much we have all grown from the experience. It’s hard to believe we’ll be on an airplane soon, so full of the sights, sounds, and feeling of Israel and its people, buoyed by the national observances we shared with them. As we piled back on to the bus we were already talking about planning our next trip, and the next and the next…
The last update will be posted from America.