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As we pulled within inches of the side of the Land Rover, we heckled the other team as we brazenly passed them by negotiating the steep embankment of the Judean Desert trail, which, depending on your tolerance level for danger, was a fun adrenaline rush or a foolish near-rollover.
After some exciting 4×4’ing we all got out, explored some caves, and stood at the location where Patriot Missiles were used to shoot down incoming Iraqi scuds during Desert Storm. As we looked into the valley below we saw the city of Jericho and we were reminded that we were in the heart of the West Bank. However, not to worry; the only folks out this way were Bedouins who were not a threat, unless you were scared of some friendly goats and donkeys.
It was getting dark, and our IDF-trained security detail recommended we head back to civilization. An hour later all our phones signaled we had regained cell service as multiple beeps and chirps intruded our thoughts. We each looked to our phones and simultaneously loudly cursed. While we were having the time of our lives, just a couple of miles from our location, Israelis and Americans had lost theirs to the hands of Palestinian terrorists.
Two attacks: one in Tel Aviv and one in East Jerusalem (West Bank). The attack in Jerusalem was being blasted worldwide by the media and our loved ones at home were waking up to learn a tour bus filled with Westerners was stopped by Palestinian assassins and sprayed with bullets. Ultimately, a total of five people were killed that day by Palestinians wielding machine guns or knives.
We immediately called home to comfort our loved ones that it was not we who were attacked, and let them know we were very safe. Israel was very safe. Sure there are random attacks by Palestinians on Jews, but in a country with 11 million people, we had more chance of being hit by lightning.
In fact, over the past week we quickly learned that Western media reporting the relatively small number of attacks was bordering on propaganda and had become a detriment to Israeli tourism. Depending on who you spoke with (taxi drivers, restaurants, etc.) tourism is down 25 to 50 percent as people are cancelling their trips to the Holy Land due to security concerns. While a couple of Israelis are tragically stabbed by Palestinians, there were 60 to 80 Chicago inner-city kids shooting each other. Moral equivalence much?
After returning from Israel with my two younger brothers, I am just coming up for air. Unlike most other tours of Israel, we were heavily immersed in the geopolitical realities that Israel currently faces and I look forward to sharing some experiences that bordered on surreal.
Good to be back home.