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Friday, April 25, 2008

What CNN Forgot To Tell Me About Israel

Darnell Clayton is a non-Jewish American was surprised to see how modern Israel was after a brief visit of the country when he was a teenager.

He currently resides in the US, and highlights some of the innovative (and interesting) technologies pouring out of the Jewish state over at

A long, long time ago, in a place not so far away, I was a 16 year old naive punk who pretty much believed that he knew everything he needed to know about life (and then some).

Back then your view of the world came mainly from three sources--family, friends and television.

It was during that time I had the opportunity to partake on a journey to visit Israel, which was according to friends and family a place full of angry people, war, and a few holy sites (after all, two major faiths were founded there).

Since none of my friends and family had ever visited Israel, I had to turn towards CNN (and other media outlets) for advice on what Israel was all about.

While they had no war news to broadcast about Israel at the time (as it was during the Clinton "peace talks"), the media outlets did highlight the many "angry faces" there, not to mention a few ancient holy sites.

As there was no current war going on, I decided to at least visit the holy land while it was "still safe."

After arriving in Israel (with a group of other teenagers and adults), the first thing I noticed was how normal everything looked. Except for the fact that half of the signs were in Hebrew, you probably would not have realized that you were half way around the world in another country.

Whether you were walking the streets of Tel Aviv, or running along the never ending beaches (which were surprisingly clean of litter by the way), Israel pretty much mirrored what one would expect from a country guided by what some would call "western values."

Heck, Israel even had a McDonald's (which was perplexing as I knew most successful restaurants do not set up shop inside war zones).

Most Israeli's that I encountered (if not practically all) were very helpful, friendly, and "slightly geeky" as it seemed that everyone man, woman and child had a cell phone (this was in the era when beepers were all the rage in the US).

Throughout my 30 day stay in the holy land, the only problems that I encountered was when I found out I had to pay a shekel to use the public bathrooms (all I had was paper cash on me) and that my love of Falafels was bigger than my wallet.

Oh, and there was that Dead Sea mud dilemma, as one of the girls who went with our group found out that the mud has a habit of turning blond hair green (I kid you not!!).

While many of my friends and family in the US were disappointed about the lack of adventure from visiting a "dangerous country," I came away with a broader perspective about Israel, the media (or rather what they filter), and a huge craving for some juicy Falafels (which thanks to Google I can now enjoy in America).

The 60 Bloggers project is co-production of and the Let My People Sing Festival. It is published daily for 60 days to celebrate Israel's 60 birthday.

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