Neighbors are way stronger than politicians by Jonathan Perry – Israel

“Neighbors are way stronger than politicians”, is what I thought moments after we left. It was an extremely hot day in the beginning of July 2012. I was 21 years old, and I had decided to go on an adventure with two friends – to hike throughout Jordan. Doing so was (and probably still is) considered an adventure because we Israeli’s don’t always feel very welcome, to say the least, in our neighboring countries, and we are systematically and politically raised with fear of these countries and people. As an Israeli, going on a hitchhiking trip in an Arab Muslim country pretty much labels you as not very sane, at least where I grew up. We were on the third day of a hike in Wadi Al-Hasa – one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. In the middle of the dry desert was a long fresh-water river, with even fresher water trickling out of the mountains and green plants surrounding us, it felt like heaven. The thing with our trip in Wadi Al-Hasa was that almost three days had passed, and the whole time we hadn’t met one person – we were completely alone, which was cool on the one hand, but also a little weird on the other. Walking calmly in the water, thinking how nice the trip was, we started hearing gunshots, and then more gunshots. They became closer and closer, and being trapped in a gorge there was no way to avoid this frightening encounter. Suddenly we saw in front of us three men, each with a red Kuffieh, a military style jacket, AND ONE WITH A FREAKING SHOTGUN IN HIS HAND! They approached us, we were scared, but also stupid enough to believe we could fight them if we needed, so we grabbed rocks. In Arabic, one asked us, “Where you from?” And holding the rocks tighter than ever and ready to fight for our lives, we said, “Israel.” A look of surprise appeared on their faces, and their first few words I will never forget, “Min Israail? Nahnu jiran!” (From Israel? We are neighbors!). Only a few minutes passed and we were already sitting together, making tea on an open fire, and sharing our food. Our Arabic was not at all good, but we managed to understand each other for more than an hour, sharing stories about life. It turns out they were hunters, and that’s why we heard gunshots. We had an amazing and very surreal time, and it seemed as if both groups felt like they were lucky to be there. Eventually, we all had to continue on our way, so we all got up, exchanged presents and hugs, and then left as good friends. Then it hit me – neighbors are way stronger than politicians.

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