For years, all I focused on was the filth: the dirt, the dust, the garbage alongside some of the roads, the stench of chickens cooped up or of burning rubber. Israel has a lot of it. Every trip we made I saw it or smelled it—the potential threat of jukim (Hebrew for cockroaches) creeping along the tile floor of my house, the lice epidemic among young children, the limited choice of roads in a tiny country surrounded by water on one side and enemies on the others.
“I don’t even see the beauty,” I sometimes whined to Philippe while discussing our move. “Really there are only two to three roads that go north and south, and I get so sick of them. All I see out the window is dirt! There’s always traffic and no such thing as the Taconic or 684!”
On day three, our first Saturday night in the country, we went for a walk on the beach with the girls. Herziliya is the closest strip, an easy 10-minute drive without traffic, and evenings are the best time to stroll in the summer when the sun has set but the air is still warm. We parked and headed directly to the water’s shore, where we removed our shoes and sunk the soles of our feet into the sand. Soft and clean and white, the sand molded to our feet. Unlike the Pacific Ocean where I grew up, the Mediterranean is like a bathtub for part of spring, all of summer and most of fall.
We walked about a mile south toward the Herziliya mall, passing cafes and bars and night clubs, with music booming and candles burning and people of all ages sitting and drinking, talking, laughing, enjoying the moment.
If there is one thing I have noticed in all of my visits and time here it is this: the Israelis’ zest for life can be contagious. People party whether in times of peace or stress, during stalled peace talks, random terrorism, even war. They celebrate when a friend or spouse turns 49 or 53, someone moves into a new house, or a child leaves for the army. They call or email last minute to invite you for a barbeque Thursday night, dessert after dinner on Friday, or tea and cake on Saturday afternoon.
On that particular Saturday night, throngs of Israelis sat and sipped a beer or perhaps an iced coffee at 11pm as they watched and listened to the waves roll in on the beach. The moon was a small sliver in the sky and innocent clouds floated by. There was no rain on the horizon and wouldn’t be for weeks. The water looked black, but in daylight it is the color of lapis lazuli blue, like a jewel shimmering in the sun. I have never seen such beauty and cannot believe that it’s only 10 minutes away.