Bucket List: The Middle East, Or: Israel Loves Iran Loves Israel

I like to dream big. Therefore, I already started researching the location I thought would launch this new bucket list section: Antarctica. BIG!

Then I ran into this project: Israel Loves Iran. At the backdrop of Iranian threats of nuclear bombs and Israeli threats of attacking before Iran gets the chance, an Israeli couple named Michal and Ronny was fed up. “I don’t hate you”, Ronny wrote to the Iranian people on the above-mentioned website. “I don’t even know you. No Iranian ever did me no harm. I never even met an Iranian… Just one in Paris in a museum. Nice dude.” They published this banner on the site and on the Facebook page of their art institute, Pushpin:

 

Israel Loves Iran Loves Israel

 

If you are new here, I live in Israel and have lived in Israel all my life. I know that no private citizen in Israel can promise an attack won’t happen, yet many of us share the sentiments Ronny shared on the about page of the project: “I’m not an official representative of my country. I’m a father and a teacher. I know the streets of my town, I talk with my neighbors, my family, my students, my friends and in the name of all these people… we love you. We mean you no harm. On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports”.

Many Israeli people joined Michal and Ronny in their quest and added their image to the mix. A photo gallery is available on the project’s Facebook page.

The project soon spread, making headlines in Israel, United States and the Arab world, among others. It reached the Iranian people, who spoke up as well on a Facebook page they created for this protest – Iran Loves Israel:

 

Iran Loves Israel Loves Iran

 

Maj from Iran started the Iranian page, and reiterated Ronny’s words there: “For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate. I’m not afraid of you, I don’t hate you… I don t even know you. No Israeli ever did me harm”.

“I’m not an official representative of my country”, he continued. “I’m a father, a researcher and a designer. I know and talk with my colleagues and the majority of my fellow countrymen, I talk with my neighbors, my family, my clients, my friends and in the name of all these people… we love you. We mean you never bomb our country, even someday you will come Iran with no bomb, you will come to visit tomb of Esther and Mordechai (a Jewish holy place, National Heritage of Iranian). On the contrary, we want to meet, have some coffee and talk about sports.”

Unfortunately, no citizen in either country can guarantee their governors’ actions, or there would be no war. However, this year, citizens from both countries speak up.

Everyone gets hurt by terrorism and intimidation.

Everyone gets hurt by war. People lose their lives, their loved ones, their body parts, their homes. People – especially women – get raped, a known war technique around the world to debilitate the “other side”.

Even if you are not physically or sexually hurt, you are emotionally hurt. Scarred. Affected for life. No one is safe when facing war.

 

Iran Loves Israel Loves Iranian Girl

 

 

 

Israel Loves Iran Loves Israel

Masks worn by Israelis in previous wars, to provide chemical and biological protection

 

 

 

There are no winners in war.

War is never the answer.

As I researched this post, I found myself surprised and not surprised at once. Approaching the topic from the point of view of a travel blog, I found countless similarities along the fascinating differences between the countries: The heat of the desert, the food, the diving opportunities and the snow are just some of the examples. People travel all over the Middle East, and my dream for this region is that anyone who wants to travel through it – no matter their nationality, religion or gender – can travel through it.

 

Iran Loves Israel Loves Iran

 

 

The World Wide Web uncovered a wealth of beauty, of cultures, of complexities. Here are some posts I enjoyed about a few of the Middle Eastern countries:

IRAN:

1. An extensive travel journey of an American woman who traveled with her 9 and 6 year old daughters through Iran - Part 1 and 2 - by The Little Travelers. Since this is a blog, be sure to start reading at the bottom of the page of each part.

2. Iran Travel Guide and Iranian Women and the Others I Met in Iran by The Longest Way Home.

 

IRAQ:

1. What’s it Like to Travel in Northern Iraq by Fox Nomad.

2. 48 Hours in Northern Iraq by The Art of Non-Conformity.

 

ISRAEL:

1. Red Sea City of Eilat and A Night in Tel-Aviv by TravelerFolio.

2. Easter, Passover, Palm Sunday and Good Friday in Jerusalem – a Photo Essay by Everything Everywhere.

3. Trekking in Israel - a website created by Israeli travelers to provide as much information as possible on treks available in this country.

 

EGYPT:

1. Dahab is a Wonder, a post by Real World Stories for Positive World Travel.

2. Seven Wonders of Egypt by Everything Everywhere.

3. Cairo by The Lovely Getaway.

 

JORDAN:

1. Scenes from a Jordanian Road Trip and Camping with Bedouins in Wadi Rum by Adventurous Kate.

2. A Middle Eastern Woman’s Dream and Petra: Night and Music by GloboTreks.

 

WOMEN TRAVELING ALONE THROUGH THE REGION

The first blog posts I found were written by men. While I have no problem traveling alone around Israel, which is a Western country, I wondered how it might be to travel alone through the Muslim Middle East as a woman. The following posts provide tips just for that:

1. A Girls Guide to the Middle East, a post by On My Way RTW for World Nomads.

2. Solo Female Travel in the Middle East by Traveling the Middle East.

3. Women’s Travel in the Middle East by HostelBookers.

4. Girl Solo in Arabia – a blog I just found and haven’t had the chance to fully read through it yet. It is no longer being updated, yet from the little I saw thus far, it sounds fascinating.

 

Israel Loves Iran Loves Israel

 

All the photos on this blog are original except those in this post. I uploaded these photos since they were added to the Israeli and Iranian Facebook pages who asked to spread the word. All photos are, of course, the copyright of their owners and will be removed upon request. Here is my part to this project:

 

Israel Loves Iran Loves Israel

 

 

This post may not be about Antarctica, yet this dream feels even bigger. May there be peace between Israel and Iran. Between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. May there never be another war again around the world. If you feel the same, please help spread the word.

 

9 Comments

  1. I am so happy I found your post as well as the Israel Loves Iran and Iran Loves Israel projects. I have never heard of these projects, although I have traveled through the Middle East for years and am currently living in Israel. They are beautiful! I run the website Traveling the Middle East, which you linked to in this post as well as a blog called Solo Female Traveler, in which I write about my journeys through and experiences in the Middle East. One of the many reasons I am curious about this region is because the people are reputed to fear and hate each other and I wanted to learn firsthand from them how they really think and feel. While it’s easy to learn the true feelings and thoughts of Israelis and Arabs, I think it’s difficult to get the rest of the world to believe their true colors are not what is depicted in the media. I hope that the work that all of us are doing will open people’s eyes.
    Sabina recently posted..My Pre-Blog Travels – Enchanting, Exotic Salalah, Oman, Part IMy Profile

    • I was really happy to find your post as well, and I look forward to exploring Solo Female Traveler. The Israel Loves Iran and Iran Loves Israel projects are precious. They’re also relatively new, so it makes sense you missed them. I learned about them not long ago. I was so thrilled to see this initiative. I agree that what is voiced in the media is not the only version that needs to be heard. My hope is that you are right and we are contributing to this change through our blogs. The love projects are, in my opinion, a big step in awareness and helping people see that it is not a mass of people “on the other side”, but rather individuals like us, who simply want peace, safety, happiness.

  2. This sounds like a wonderful project! This quote in particular stood out to me: “For there to be a war between us, first we must be afraid of each other, we must hate.” Unfortunately so many people in power incite fear in others in order to further their purposes. I’m seeing that a lot in the States (where I’m from), but it also seems relevant in the Middle East. Fear turns into hate, and hate – especially on that scale – has dire consequences. It’s great to see projects like this trying to deconstruct the fear and the hatred. :)
    Christy @ Technosyncratic recently posted..Long-Tail Boat at SunsetMy Profile

    • I absolutely agree. When personal safety is threatened, people are suppose to forget about issues like social rights, that some people in power don’t want to deal with. In times of war, the country is supposed to stick together against the “other” and keep some people in power in their positions. I think people in this region (and I guess not only this region) hear too much how the “others” are dangerous and too little about how they are human with human needs. In between them, the projects currently have approximately 70,000 Facebook likes, so I think that even if politicians decide to keep ignoring for now, at least they’re making a difference with individual citizens, and I think that’s the first step.

  3. I haven’t heard of these projects, but it nice to see some hope, locals promoting peace not war. I think most of us, no matter where we are from, would hope our governments would listen to us rather than themselves when it comes to war.
    Suzy recently posted..The Airport Wishes You Were HereMy Profile

  4. Its such as you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the e book in it or something. I think that you simply can do with a few percent to drive the message home a little bit, however other than that, this is fantastic blog. A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

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