It's been really hard to talk about Israel. People ask me all the time, "What was the best part?" How can I begin? I'm trying to just lay out one thing at a time. So, I guess the beginning is as good a place as any.
I was completely in another zone. Was this real? I mean was this really happening?? Just a few weeks earlier I had found this glass bottle my Jewish friends had brought me back from Israel. It had a map on it in Hebrew "Jordan's Source", the location where the water was drawn that filled this bottle. They asked me when they went, "What can we bring you back from Israel?" I said, "water from the river Jordan!" On the bottle is labeled, "May 1, 1995".
As I sat on the plane, I was in awe that I had that bottle for 20 years. At times, I gave up, I thought there was no way I would ever go. It was so surreal. Everything from the overhead speakers making announcements in Turkish to exiting a plane onto a runway. I felt completely out of my body. When we exited the plane, we got on a little shuttle bus that took us to the airport. In Istanbul, it was really interesting because the people in the airport looked just like my hometown, Fremont, CA. I thought to myself, "the Middle East is my home."
As we went through the airport, I couldn't help but sing the "Constantinople" song in my head! It was exciting, scary, so many emotions all at the same time. It went by so fast.
People told me when you go to Israel you just feel it when you land. A friend told me when I get there to touch the ground and kiss it. It's funny, I didn't do that, but I remember looking for the "ground", and it wouldn't be until the next day I actually saw soil! We arrived at night, and I looked down and it was concrete, then the floor of a bus, then the floor of the airport, then concrete, then in a car, then in the streets of Bet Yam, then in an apartment, you get the picture. Finally, driving the next day south, toward the countryside, I saw soil.
At first, the landscape didn't look or feel a whole lot different, I wasn't "feeling" what everyone talked about. Most areas looked like the 90's version of the States, and similar to parts of states I've driven through. Then you see the signs in Hebrew and it hits you. Wow. I'm in Israel.
It didn't really 'hit' me until we had our first interaction with the friends we met in Beersheva. There was this little neighborhood, similar to a Kibbutz, with a gated entry and barbed wire fence that surrounded it. We were looking at the house from the back yard and I asked why they had metal roll up doors over the doors and windows. She looked at me puzzled and said, "for the bombs." Like duh Gina! That's about when I felt the heartbeat of Israel, and the people.