Zachary Fouladian, Staff Writer
There are a number of differences between Israel and the United States; ranging from the number of wild cats to the types of food stores. However, the biggest differences are that Israel has a huge religious component to its politics and is surrounded on all sides by enemies. Every difference, big or small, contributes to the culture and life of Israel.
The first day in Israel should be used to recover from a long flight, but from there, the country is a wonder to explore. Tel Aviv, located on the northwestern coast of Israel, is a bustling city that houses citizens and tourists in abundance. On Shabbat, the beachside is swarming with strolling visitors, but as most of the country takes this day off, a fair number of actual Israelis can be seen as well. A willing walker can make his way to Jaffa in just under an hour without a a cab to tour the colorful buildings and discover the ancient history of the area, a history that includes Roman, Turkish and British occupations.
Many cities are like this, with signs of past occupation still visible today. In Acco, or Acre, the height of past arches, built over but still visible on most buildings, shows remnants of occupiers from the past. Support arches from constructions done hundreds of years ago are now built into the walls of these buildings to tell the history of the city.
The most well known area in Israel is the city of Jerusalem. The best-known section of Jerusalem is the Old City which houses King David’s tomb, the ruins of the Second Temple, and the Western Wall. The Old City section is divided into religious quarters, but anyone may visit the excavation tunnels by the Western Wall. That area is also nearly silent, and often people write requests on papers that are then wedged into crevices in the wall. Since the area is supposed to be as close to a physical manifestation of God as Earth can hold, the area is absolutely sacred.
There are an abundance of Roman ruins throughout the country. Caesarea was the capital of Rome-controlled Judea in 32 BCE, and the ruler Herod dominated from there. A tsunami nearly a year ago unveiled much more of the sight, and now there are amphitheaters and mosaics strewn across the seaside. Scythopolis, or Beit She’an, is a full Roman city whose broken pillars, bathhouses, and governor’s palace give life to a huge Roman community that lived and breathed centuries ago. Masada, though, is often considered a Jewish ruin. Herod ordered its construction, but 30 years after Jews took its garrison,, the Romans tried to reclaim it. After building a rampart up to the desert fortress, legend holds that the Romans found that the inhabitants had committed a mass suicide rather then submit to Roman authority. Caesarea and Beth She’an are both in the north, near the Syrian border and capital of Damascus, while Masada is in the southwest part of the country, by the border with Jordan.
The Dead Sea and Golan heights are two natural marvels of Israel. The Dead Sea, just east of the country’s center, is called so because it houses too much salt for life to thrive in its water. Floating is as easy as lying back and letting the salt-enriched water hold you, but the water will burn eyes, ears and nose if a head goes under. Golan Heights in Israel’s northeastern corner near Syria consists of much land taken from enemy nations during their many wars, and land mines are still scattered throughout the area. Despite this, kibbutzim, which are small communities that keep free work or nearly free work policies in place, exist, along with a flourishing wildlife in the area.
Israel is special because of its diminutive size and the rich history contained by a country that still finds the world struggling to decide who should own the religious landmarks and historical treasures.