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He told me there would be other family members there, and to please come.
I never could have guessed I had so much family in Israel, people who remembered my father and his parents, people who my brother and sister and I had no idea even existed.
In the end, my curiosity outweighed my uncertainties and I traveled to Israel with a heart and mind full of both.
Because I work in a government-affiliated setting in Los Angeles, I traveled with a diplomatic passport.
My second surprise came when my taxi drove through Ramat Gan, where I initially stayed.
I looked out the window and saw the striking resemblance the streets there had to Hadath, the Lebanese town where I was raised. I let people know that I was from Lebanon and was met with smiles. I was invited into a variety of people’s homes for Shabbat dinners. My colleagues seemed delighted to be working with me, not only as fellow researchers but also as people with a genuine interest in knowing more about Lebanese culture and life in Lebanon.
I can only assume this helped me when I landed at Ben Gurion airport and was permitted entry following a brief and I must say, pleasant, interview consisting of a few short questions and ending with a wish for a good stay.
The ease of this process was the first surprise of my trip.
Earlier today, following this viral blog post, MTV decided to take part of the crusade against the seriously bad show on LBCI called Take Me Out.I could have been in Lebanon as far as I could tell from the view. Very modern and powerful I supposed, but that a suburb of Tel Aviv resembled Lebanon so closely was not what I had expected. When I responded with (I don’t understand Hebrew), I was met with surprise. I let people know that my father was born in Haifa in 1948 and that same year his family took him to Lebanon where he lived most of his life. One of the most moving interactions came from an Israeli man who had served in the Army in Lebanon.For most of my first week or two, I kept to myself. Anxiety that told me “if I interacted with people, they would realize I was Lebanese and I might be discriminated against or possibly worse.” I interacted for directions and practical advice but little else. Some Israelis told me, laughing, that I looked more Israeli than they did. Without talking about politics, without talking about right or wrong, he apologized to me personally for the damage that the incursions caused to the Lebanese people.It is hard to describe what such a discovery is like.I met people from Nablus, from Nazareth, and from Haifa who shared stories with me of my father when he was a young man and had come to visit just before the 1967 war.