We started the day on the top of Mt. Bental on Israel's Golan Heights (conveniently labeled 'B' on the map above). From there, we enjoyed a beautiful view of snow-capped Mt. Hermon (the tallest mountain in Israel), and a strategic perch to consider the military threat that Israel continues to have to manage from Lebanon and Syria.
The very first thing that you notice when you reach the top of Mt. Bental is the Observer outpost of the United Nations.
As Americans, we take for granted that we are on good terms with Mexico and Canada. There is peace on our borders, and so we automatically make the presumption that that is somehow the norm for every other country in the world.
It takes a visit like the one I had this morning for me to be reminded that Israel's situation couldn't be more different. She is still not recognized by Syria. Or Lebanon. Or any other country in the Arab world except Egypt and Jordan. And countries like Lebanon and Syria still have high hopes of hurting Israel (maybe even destroying her). Hezbollah still enjoys a comfortable perch in Lebanon. And Hezbollah has begun to use Syria as a base as well. (So has Isis.)
Later in the day, we studied with Professor Reuven Hazan, Chair of the Hebrew University Political Science Department. To boil a very long discussion down to one sentence: Hazan reminded us that Israelis overwhelmingly vote either as hawks or doves (when it comes to security and peace-making questions), regardless of the significant economic challenges (to name just one example) that the country is facing domestically. And it explains why Israelis continue to support Prime Minister Netanyahu even as he is investigated on ethics and corruption charges right now. Israelis continue to believe that Netanyahu and his coalition are better equipped right now to keep them safe.
Netanyahu's coalition of ultra-Orthodox religious parties certainly don't share my worldview...when it comes to inclusion questions (like the rights of non-Orthodox Jews and the rights of women - more on both of those issues tomorrow). But after spending the day reflecting on Israel's safety and security, I can understand why those issues aren't the first priorities of most voters here. If Canada and Mexico were actively seeking to commit acts of aggression and terror against the United States, I imagine that we'd be a little less concerned about domestic social issues too.