My first time in Israel was in September 1973. That was before Tamika Mallory ( the Women’s March leader)was born. I mention that because she was just here and she’s going to tell people that she knows Israel. I was on a year program back then that we called The Machon, which translates to The Institute, and now that I think about it, we were all crazy enough to be institutionalized.
The full name was The Institute for Youth Leaders From Abroad, so you can see why no one called it that. It was located in Kiryat Moriah, which by the way is not far from the brand spanking new American Embassy in Jerusalem. Imagine two floors of dorm rooms filled with barely supervised high school graduates that could buy booze because there was no drinking age at the time. Our New Years Eve party was memorable.
I was told before I came, not to see Israel through rose colored glasses. Unlike Tamika Mallory who was told how to view Israel before she came. She did her job of seeing everything exactly as she she was told. In all honesty, I didn’t listen too much to the rose colored glasses advice. Mine were actually gold framed aviators with very clear lenses, but I was hooked before I ever got here .
I was definitely in brain overload the first time I entered the Old City. There are many old cities in Israel but only one gets the capital letters. It’s like when a New Yorker says “the city” they’re really talking about Manhattan. I held on to my friend Bob’s arm for dear life as we walked through the shuk which was literally wall to wall filled with people. He could speak Hebrew so somehow that made me feel less lost in the enchanted forest that are the streets of the shuk. I wanted to see everybody ansd everything. And suddenly after turning left and right a few times, we were at the Kotel.
There were no security checkpoints at the Kotel back then. People actually walked in and out of all kinds of places like it was normal. It was a beautiful time to experience Israel. People were happy. There was only one TV station. You could get two if you could pick up the Jordanian channel. Not everyone had a telephone! Did I mention that people were happy?
I was here for the Yom Kippur War. How’s that for a tourist attraction. None of us left to go home. Not from right wing or left wing zionist movements. The left wing was stronger back then. Since there was no internet back then I don’t have any clear memory of the worldview of this war while I was in the thick of it. A totally blacked out Jerusalem at night is an experience. Since that time I’ve experienced three more wars. As I write this, Iranian rockets have hit the Golan Heights from Syria. Iran is firmly imbedded in Syria as you can see.
My first trip to Israel came at the perfect time. I was able to explore. Tamika Mallory tweeted how uninterested she was in “the other side”. There was no exploring on her short trip. It’s why I chose to juxtapose a bit of her experience with mine. She is the voice for Israel haters. I say that with no hesitation because she claims the Muslim Ban and anti Mexican wall that Trump proposes is connected to Netanyahu. She supports Louis Farrakhan. I came to Israel from a place of love and it remains unchanged today, even when my people make it hard to love them.