Unlike many of the people posting to this blog, I had no reason to go to Israel. I was poor, out of college, and, most importantly, followed a girl to Israel for several months. I didn’t have any Jewish roots of which to speak, nor did I have a particularly strong connection to the monuments. Israel, for me, was a country of political and religious discord, a country of news stories. So you seek, so shall you find. I saw a Jerusalem as a city of contradictions, from Me’a Shearim to Ein Kerem, orthodox to liberal, a city in which people existed in a threadbare peace. Strife existed not only between religions, but within them as well.
I found many things wrong with Israel. I was shortsighted.
After living there for 5 months, I traveled to even cheaper pastures. I took the bus to Cairo to live two squalid months right after the revolution. I thought I had seen strife, or mistakes, or hypocrisy, but I had not understood the miracle of Israeli development.
Many people who have not travelled the Middle East do not understand this simple fact: Israelis redeemed the land. I am not speaking in a spiritual sense, but in a physical one. They delivered the land from the autocracy and poverty and corruption and desert. I look at the other lands that broke from Ottoman rule and I am amazed. The land of Israel is not a miracle. It is a story of work, of redemption, and of struggle, as the name means. God struggles. Israel struggles. The people struggle. There is no other way to redemption.
Matt Drisco lived for five months in Israel, including an ill-fated bike ride around the country. He also lived in Cairo for two months. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he studies business.