It is hard to believe that a week from today, we will be on a plane on our way home. We have been showing the apartment to future renters, planning for our stuff to be shipped home, scheduling final inspections, and doing things and seeing people "for the last time." It has been a great experience being here, and I am also just about ready to come home, get back to my family and friends, and get ready to return to my job teaching next year.
Israel is an amazing country, and there is so much more than we see on the news! Yes, just this weekend there were rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and a retaliation by Israel, and a Jewish Israeli citizen was fatally shot at the Western Wall in Jerusalem by a security guard who thought the man was a Palestinian terrorist. The scary part is - we were in Jerusalem on that same day and would have been near the Western Wall if we'd had more time! But - there are so many more positive things going on here that we never see on the news! Some things you might not know about Israel:
- It has the highest percentage of immigrants per population in the world, from many countries.
- Military service is mandatory for young adults, and Israel is the only country in the world with a military service requirement for women.
- Hebrew is one of the official languages in Israel. It was a dead language, not spoken for centuries, and is the only language to be revived into a national language in world history.
- It has more orchestras per capita than any other country in the world.
- It has the largest number of start-up companies per capita in the world.
- Israeli's, per capita, are the world's largest consumers of fruits and vegetables. And nearly everything is grown fresh here, so the fruits and veggies are amazing.
- The Mount of Olives in Jerusalem is the oldest cemetery in continual use in the world.
-60% of the land mass of Israel is the Negev Desert.
- Life expectancy is among the highest in the world, at 81.6 years.
- Its the only democratic country in the Middle East, and one of the few to allow freedom of worship for all faiths.
- The health care system is amazing. Israel is a leader in research and developing new treatments. All citizens have access to health care, and the national health plan has been in effect for more than 50 years. All Israeli's are required to purchase health care, but costs are reasonable (a family told us $30 - 50 per month), and everyone has a choice of plans. Plans are required to provide a core set of benefits, and can't exclude people for pre-existing conditions. Everyone we have spoken to here is happy with the quality and availability of services, and also satisfied with the cost.
Here's a quote from the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu -
"And by the way, a piece of news, Israel is the one country in which everyone is pro-American, opposition and coalition alike. And I represent the entire people of Israel who say, 'Thank you, America.' And we're friends of America, and we're the only reliable allies of America in the Middle East." -- Benjamin Netanyahu
We have found this to be true, everyone here seems to like America. Many people have told us that their dream is to visit the United States, and most Israeli's keep up on what is going on in the news in the US. A couple of people have mentioned that Israel "wants to be the 51st state."
Israel is so much more than I realized when I arrived here, and more than the violence we see on the news. Are you surprised at any of these things?