Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where I Stand on the War in Gaza

I really didn't want to write this article. I prefer to blog about why people should visit Israel, and how beautiful and peaceful the country is. I prefer to write travel reports, book reviews and articles offering advice to my fellow aspiring writers. But today, things are a bit different and I feel the need to tell readers where I stand.

The simple fact is that my country is at war. We are fighting a deadly battle with terrorists - terrorists who seek to kill as many Israelis as they can and who don't hesitate to fire rockets and crawl through tunnels to prove that this is indeed their intention. As an Israeli, I believe my country is fighting a just war to protect and defend our homes, to ensure our very right to live.

Unfortunately, most of the world doesn't see things the same way. Israel is castigated by the media and violent riots have broken out all over Europe. Even the United States and the United Nations, while acknowledging Israel's right to self defense, declare that Israel must cease its fire because too many Palestinians have been killed.

It is in the context of this war, and the world's criticism of my country, that I feel obliged to state where I stand, to tell the truth about what is happening, and to let readers know what I believe. With these words, I speak only for myself, but I believe many other Israelis feel the same way.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Driving through Gaza City at Midnight

I remember that the streets were very narrow, very dark. The mosques were empty and the stores had their shutters down. It was quiet; there was no one about in the middle of the night. And, I remember feeling very safe, sitting in the back seat of an Israeli army jeep driving through Gaza City, even while wearing the green uniform that identified me as an IDF soldier.

This was long ago, in the late 1970s, when I was doing my three years of conscripted service in the army. Some ten years after Israel captured the Gaza Strip in the Six Day War, the area was mostly peaceful. Israeli soldiers had frequently fought Palestinian militants based in Gaza, but when I arrived, I really didn't have anything to fear.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yesterday Evening, Hamas Fired Rockets at My House

I was driving home from work yesterday with music playing on the radio when the announcer broke into the broadcast with urgent messages. "Red Alert in Jerusalem; Red Alert in Beit Shemesh; Red Alert in Maale Adumim." A 'Red Alert' notification indicates that a rocket has been launched from the Gaza Strip and is bound for part of Israel, warning citizens in that area to run for their bomb shelter or safe room. The announcer continued to list communities endangered by the incoming rockets. "Red Alert in Abu Gosh; Red Alert in Nataf; Red Alert in Neve Ilan."

Neve Ilan! That is the name of my small community in the Judean Hills, west of Jerusalem. While I couldn't hear it while driving on the highway, an air raid siren had sounded in Neve Ilan and other places nearby. My wife went to sit in our stairwell, as with the lack of any other shelter, it is supposedly the safest area of our house. And then she heard booms.

The rockets launched from Gaza were intercepted in the sky over our area by Israel's Iron Dome air defense system. The Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets at Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Jerusalem, and even at Haifa. But when the rockets exploded in the sky over my home, it was a bit frightening, to say the least.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How My Debut Huffington Post Article Went Viral

The first article I wrote and published on The Huffington Post has been "liked" as of this moment by 14,753 readers. It has been shared on Facebook 3,605 times and tweeted 225 times. In addition, the unauthorized (but very much appreciated) translation of the article into Bulgarian has been read in that language by 10,717 people.

I can't believe that my debut Huffington Post went viral!

My article was titled "10 Amazing Things You Didn't Know About Bulgaria" and the response was overwhelming. Fellow authors asked me how I managed to get published at the Huffington Post. Bulgarians praised my positive insights about their country. And others, including myself, were astounded at how viral this article became.

How did all this come about?

Friday, July 4, 2014

On the Trail of the Sarajevo Haggadah

How an illuminated manuscript inspired me to travel to the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

I first learned of the Sarajevo Haggadah when I read the novel, People of the Book, by Australian-born author Geraldine Brooks. The book, inspired by a true story, tells the harrowing journey through the ages of a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript. This colorful holy book was spared destruction during World War Two when it was saved by an Islamic scholar and hidden in a village mosque. Its history goes back even further, to 14th century Spain and Venice.

The novel fascinated me. It was also exciting to learn that one of the characters in the story, a member of the partisans fighting against the Nazis, was based on a true person, the mother of one of the members of the moshav where I live near Jerusalem.

I couldn't stop thinking about Sarajevo, a city famous for its cultural religious diversity.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking an Organized Tour in Europe

The bus stopped shortly after we crossed the border for a much needed coffee break. Actually, it was the second time we had crossed from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina after landing in Dubrovnik early that morning. We had traveled a short distance up the Croatian coast only to find ourselves with a twenty-kilometer stretch of Bosnian coastline before entering Croatia once again. As our destination for the day was Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, we needed to cross the border one more time.

It sounds a bit confusing - so many border crossings in such a short distance. Luckily, I didn't have to worry about a thing. My wife and I were on an organized tour. Our guide handled the passports and border police, and our driver followed the planned route toward Sarajevo.

This was the first time that we had ever taken an organized tour, and we weren't sure what to expect. I love to plan our travel adventures - researching hotels, routes, and places to explore. But this time, we were visiting three countries, with three different currencies, and many border crossings. I decided to forego driving for one week and enjoy the ride. I would soon discover that there are advantages and disadvantages to taking an organized tour in Europe.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why I'm Going to Bosnia

Bosnia and Herzegovina - a tiny country in southeastern Europe. What do you know about the country? Would you ever think of traveling there?

I have traveled a lot over the years. I have been to Las Vegas, London, and Hong Kong. I lived for two years in Bulgaria, using that country as a base for excursions into Serbia, Romania, Macedonia, and Turkey. I have explored Amsterdam, Prague, Madrid, and Budapest. I have walked the streets of Macau, taken the subway in New York.

So, why I am I so keen on traveling to Bosnia and Herzegovina?