Prior to a week in Israel, you could count the number of truly kosher meals I’ve had on one hand and maybe a nose.
Not that many.
The food we shared in Israel was amazing and the amount was legion. In most cases, meals were served family style and in courses. Early in the trip, it was easy to be completely satisfied early in the meal, not realizing that past the salads and the hummus and the bread and the fish, meat was on its way.
We ate perhaps the best meal of the trip at Decks in Tiberius. It’s a strange Asian, Middle Eastern, steakhouse fusion restaurant with long tables and an eccentric, lovely, singing host.
Early in the meal, to welcome us and other groups eating there that night, she flung open the large windows so we could all see a small boat approach on the Sea of Galilee. As she wove through her welcome, fireworks started to go off from the bow.
Then, she broke out in song, as she welcome various groups. As she got to us, she belted out “God Bless America,” unsure what to do but obliged, we stood up and joined in, if reluctantly.
At the end of each song, the groups received wild applause from the crowd.
After the singing ended and the music stopped, the table next to us stood and sang loudly without accompaniment.
It took a few moments – and a number of whispers up and down the table – to confirm, but the song was the “March of the Volunteers,” the Chinese national anthem.
Whether they had felt slighted or only a sense of national pride, the group of men filled the room with only the sound of their voices. They earned the loud and lasting applause.
Trip to Israel: Water means life
It’s impossible to understand Israel unless you understand water.
Before becoming a country, the British limited immigration to land under its control based on its estimates of water available.
When Israel declared independence in 1948 (an event the Palestinians refer to as “The Catastrophe”), the new country’s leaders made water a top priority and invested significant resources in a federalized water system.
Today, Israel has a sophisticated water network that draws from – and protects – two major aquifers, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, which despite its historical importance, today is quite small.
In addition, Israel reclaims more than 85 percent of its wastewater for agricultural uses. For context, Spain, which comes in second place for water reclamation, reuses about 19 percent of its wastewater.
Israel desalinates – removes the salt – from sea water at major industrial facilities around the country. They have also developed innovative irrigation techniques and have a country-wide ethos on water conservation.
When most of the country lives in the desert, every drop counts.
I traveled to Israel from Feb. 12-18 with the American Israel Education Foundation, the nonprofit arm of AIPAC. The foundation funds educational seminars to Israel for members of Congress and other political influentials. These AIEF-sponsored trips help educate political leaders about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship through firsthand experiences in Israel, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli political elite. Traveling with me was a group of 12 other people from New England.