I WAS very sad to read of Audrey Gray’s experience in the County Times of July 21, as I have recently returned from Israel and have a very different story to tell.
I travelled with a small group of Christians and stayed in hotels in Tiberius (by the Sea of Galilee) and in Jerusalem. From the moment we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport we were welcomed and treated with kindness and respect: from the person who met us at the airport, our guide and coach driver, to the hotel staff and all those we met at the places we visited.
Our Arab Christian guide was determined to show us all aspects of life in Israel and the Palestinian Territory, even taking us to the border with Lebanon (to emphasise the co-operation which goes on between the residents of southern Lebanon and northern Israel) and up onto the Golan Heights, where we met local people who asked us to tell our friends what a peace loving place it is and to encourage them to visit. Travelling into and out of the West Bank presented no problems at all for us.
Our guide was born in Jericho before 1967 (when it was in Jordan) and he now has Israeli citizenship, but he has chosen to live in Jerusalem because of the regulations concerning the separation wall.
He is so passionate about his country that he has sacrificed living in his own home in the West Bank in order to continue doing the job he loves.
Many people in Israel and the Palestinian Territory depend on visitors to provide an income: those selling hand crafted goods from the many shops selling souvenirs and the market traders in the Old City of Jerusalem; the drivers of the minibuses taking pilgrims up Mount Tabor; those providing boat trips on the Sea of Galilee, as well as the guides (some of whom also face difficult times) to name a few.
This country we call ‘the Holy Land’ is beautiful and has great historical and religious significance. The current situation in other parts of the Middle East has no impact on Israel and I felt very safe there.
I have no hesitation in recommending other people to go there with accredited organised groups in order to experience it for themselves.
Beaver Close, Horsham