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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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. 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.