Up at 4 a.m. and jogging along the boardwalk this morning, I still wonder — am I in the 51st state, as some refer to Israel? It feels a little like Miami, a little like L.A., but something different and Middle Eastern too. You feel the proximity of larger forces you don’t feel at home — history and the instant possibility of something apocalyptic. Although this is supposedly a new country, everything seems much older. A sense of Mediterranean decay is everywhere, despite constant modernization.
Yet the television in my hotel room plays CNN and Fox, just like home. The New York Times is at my door (published in conjunction with the equally liberal Isreali newspaper Haaretz — they are almost identical twins).
At one of those (justifiably) legendary Israeli breakfasts, I open up the Haaretz part of the paper and notice an astonishing article on the front page — Israeli scientists develop bionic eye for those born blind.
The blind can see? In the Holy Land? Watch out for the Jerusalem Syndrome, Simon, I remind myself as my eyes tear with admiration for the people who are doing this magnificent thing and wonder what those repellent academics who seek to boycott Israel could possibly thinking (other than the most reprehensible racist thoughts). But the world is backwards everywhere, isn’t it?
More to come. (No, I am not John the Baptist, or Ezekiel, he says, as they take him away. I’m Hosea!)
(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)
UPDATE: For those who took offense at my calling Israel the 51st state, I apologize, although of course I was being ironical. My style. Perhaps as penance – although it was long planned – my first Friday morning visit was to the Palmach Museum, an unforgettable and highly emotional interactive museum about the Palmach, the tiny underground Jewish striking force that first fought the Nazis and shortly thereafter Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and, to a lesser exert, Libya and Iraq in the struggle for ISraeli independence. It’s an extremely moving presentation I would recommend to anyone to begin a trip to Israel. Warning: grown men cry. If you love human freedom, bring a handkerchief.