Things have quieted down since the erection of the security fence. The number of successful attacks has been reduced by 90 percent -- though the world (from the International Court of Justice to so-called human rights groups) has clucked its disapproval. Israelis are no longer living with the kind of gnawing daily anxiety they suffered between 2000 (when Arafat rejected 95 percent of the West Bank and launched the second intifada) and 2004. Not that life is normal. The first gift Israeli parents give their children continues to be a cell phone.
Last summer's war with Hezbollah has left fresh scars, both physical and psychological. It was the first war Israel failed to win decisively. The corruption in high places (not unrelated to the unsuccessful war) has contributed to low morale. Perhaps the best one can say is that life is more livable than in the very recent past -- as well as more compatible with tourism.
And there is so very much to see. The Roman city at Caesarea can hardly be called a ruin. The baths are in such excellent condition that you can admire the mosaic floors and the smooth marble decorations. The amphitheater remains in use. Go for a hike in the nature reserve called Tel Dan and come upon the remains of the ancient city of Laish, mentioned in the Bible and dating back to 2700 BC. The Nimrod Crusader fortress in the Golan sits perched near Mount Hermon against the sheer cliffs. How could they have built it in such a place? And how has it withstood the intervening centuries in such amazing condition?
Israel is a spectacular little jewel suffering from too much news.
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