A Brush With Israeli Military

We have visited many countries that divide popular opinion, be it for criminal activity, historical reasons or politics; it’s not something I like to get involved in debating. I just like to travel and along with my travelling partners, experience everything possible the chosen location.

One such country is that of Israel, of which I was extremely lucky to visit on an educational trip in my early teens (this was before digital photography so I hope my words are enough here). Yes I know an ‘educational trip’ – it sounds a bit ‘private schoolesque’ doesn’t it. But believe me it was worth its weight in gold for the Wandering Memory.

The country itself is not well advertised, but is  a mecca of religious history, fantastic food and eclectic people. No doubt its political situation will always draw attention off its more incredible assets, but if we everyone adhered to all travel office warnings, at least a third of the world would remain unexplored

As the son of a self-proclaimed historian, and with an interest in religion, I really appreciated the mythology and dogma that coated the birthplace of Jesus Christ. We visited the said birth location (no longer a stable) and a few of the churches, which littered the cobblestones of Bethlehem. The inner workings and busy streets of Jerusalem fascinated me. The feeling around the Wailing wall was one of, not only grief, but sheer belief in the religion that forms such a pivotal aspect of many locals life’s in this country. It is fascinating to see, just as it is fascinating to see the call to prayer in Arabia or the local tribes of Africa, there is something about belief and the human psyche that just fascinates me. I could go on… but I am getting off base…

Anyhow while we were heading to the dead sea to coat ourselves in mud and prove that you could indeed sink in the ‘unsinkable’ sea, we hit a roadblock. Military presence in this part of the world is part of everyday life, and we had already seen the sub machine guns and handguns on the majority of police and military (something not usually seen in the UK). This experience was a little different however, as an Israeli guard entered our bus and made his way to the centre of the bus. Immediately we saw not only the knife on his belt, submachine gun around his chest, no, no, no, this guard just happened to have a rocket launcher on his back… you know like the ones in the films. We had been boarded by a military officer with more firepower than the British police force!

Slightly taken a back the majority of us held our breath as the officer said

‘You like Israel?’ We all nodded with fear…

‘I hear you have been to Egypt?’ Silence, we had no clue what to say here, aware of tensions between the 2 countries at the time.

‘You like Israel better right?’ ‘ the whole bus nodded and grunted in appreciation as the officer laughed and exited the bus…

To this day I don’t know if he was just playing a joke on us? If he was, it was a good joke and I bet him and his rocket launcher had a great laugh scaring the crap out of a bunch of schoolkids..

I still remember it to this day… One of my many Wandering Memories

Being in the continuous conflict that Israel is, it will unfortunately not be viewed as a world tourist hotspot (at least not currently). This is a real shame, as the history surrounding it and its friendly welcoming locals, could easily inspire millions more to visit. Although just a school kid at the time, It made a huge, lasting impression on me – and I would love to return someday with my own family.

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