Thursday, August 02, 2007

Israel in the Eyes of a Newcomer


Finally, after more than a year, I am featuring my first guest writer here in My Share of Sun in Israel. I am just in luck that Alvin Conchas, the newest consular staff member at the Philippine Embassy Tel Aviv, is more than willing to write about his experiences here in Israel so far. Read all what he has to say:

“Leaving the Philippines last month to spend the next six years of my life in Israel, the promise land, is a daunting task. No matter how daunting the task maybe, it is a bitter pill that I had to swallow inasmuch as I chose Foreign Service as my career.

The day that I arrived in Ben Gurion Airport, I felt that I was totally a stranger in a strange land although at the back of my mind, this is the fulfillment of my dreams, i.e., to set my feet on the Land of the Promise, enter the Gates of the Kingdom of Heaven and walk where Jesus Christ have walked, suffered and died.

I must admit that my life totally changed since the day I arrived in Israel, not just because I hear different languages which are new to my ears nor I see new faces of different colors, creed, and religious denominations, but because I will live my life all alone, leaving behind (and far from) those who spoiled me in all thirty-two years of my life.

At first, I was really doubtful about the beautiful and amazing stories I heard about Israel from my best friend Chester. I really thought that Tel Aviv (or even the whole of Israel) would just look like other Middle Eastern countries but much to my amazement, I feel that I am in Europe because their way of living, clothing style, attitudes, etc., are very much European.

But what made me gape in awe is the astonishing reality that Christians, Arabs and Jews, having three different and opposite religions and practices, could actually live together and mingle with each other in a community.

The language barrier was my other dilemma. How on earth can I possibly interact with the community that speaks Hebrew and even Arabic? The thought of which circled around my mind just months before I left for Israel. I can adjust with the style of living, attitudes, mores, customs, traditions, etc., but language seemed to be compromising on my part.

Can you imagine how could I ask for directions when I got lost in the City? How can I order the food I would want to eat if I can’t even say what I want in their language? But God is so good because I found out that majority of the people living in Israel can and actually speak in English. Whew! I will survive.

Speaking about food, I thought that my stomach would grumble at the taste of shawarma, salads, bread, sausages, spices, etc. Well, I was wrong again. I even gained weight. Dear Lord! I like the taste of shawarma… especially the dishes in Cow’s Bar, Brew House, and desserts like ice cream at Victory and at Dr. Lek’s. I am looking forward to taste the lamb chops which Chester mentioned to me that it melts in your mouth not in your hands. That I have to taste!

On my first few weeks, I had a chance to have a stroll in Tel Aviv. Chito, one of my colleagues in the Embassy, volunteered to be my tour guide. He seems to be a man who forgot to get tired of walking. I had the chance to see Jaffa, a very interesting and beautiful place where most of the Embassy officers and staff hold their residence.

We went to a higher ground to see the panoramic view of the Metropolis, i.e., Tel Aviv as we enjoy the gentle touch on our face of the afternoon breeze coming from the Mediterranean Sea. It was hot since it is summer but not humid as compared to my home country. I have not yet tried swimming but I have dipped my feet in the cool waters of the sea. It is relatively cooler than that of the seas of my home town. (And, there are lots of “heavenly bodies” in the beach.)

Well, one thing that I seem not to like about the place is the Sabbath day because life can be so boring. Business establishments are closed; even busses and train stations cease their usual operations. One literally walks seeing nothing but almost empty streets. Taxis and some private vehicles are the kings of the road. Thus, I don’t enjoy the weekends which is supposed to make you relax. It turns out to be the time for me to do chores which I never did while I was still living at my home town. Sigh!

In just a short span of time, a glimpse of my future was foretold before me. Philosophically, life can be a misery or happiness by your own choice. And my choice, well, read between the lines.”

2 comments:

Darnell Clayton said...

That's a great story!

I am kinda envious of the guy (as I had a great experience at Tel Aviv myself!) although I am glad he got over his former viewpoints to see the reality of the holy land.

Thanks for sharing!

~Darnell of IsraGood

Ernest-jr said...

You're welcome Darnell. Anyone new in Israel would definitely have a wonderful experience of the place.