My earliest memory of Israel is back from school in India, when I read about David and Goliath. Don’t recall what year that was; maybe when I was in Class 4 or 5. I then did a few pages on the political tension in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of my final year contemporary history project in Class 10. And then I got a firsthand insight into Judaism at university in Canada, when I saw my friend, Rebecca, observing Sabbath every weekend, and later covering her head, like any married religious Jewish woman does.
I then went backpacking in Europe during my Easter break in my exchange term in England, back in 2002, literally exactly 10 years ago. A girl I met in my hostel dorm in Paris was visiting from Jerusalem, shopping for her wedding dress, which she said is not so great to shop for in Jerusalem. When she learned where I was from, I very distinctly remember, she remarked about how lucky she thought I was. “In Jerusalem, life is so unsafe; you can never be sure when the person standing next to you will just explode”. (I hope my mother only reads this after I return). The impact of that statement stuck on over the years, and Israel never made it to my ‘countries I’m dying to go to’ list. And then I saw pictures from one of my closest friend, Rahul's, holiday in Israel few years ago, and I knew I would go one day. And then I met Israeli classmates and (super cute) professors at Kellogg, and it was only a matter of time when.
The final push (and it didn’t take much to push at all!) was when I saw the Israeli-British chef Ottolenghi’s documentary ‘Jerusalem on a Plate’ on BBC in late 2011. Literally 7 minutes into the documentary I knew that Israel was going to be one of my next few holidays. For anyone who hasn't seen it and has even the slightest interest in food or history or culture, this is a must watch!
So here I am, in Heathrow Terminal 5, waiting to board my flight to Tel Aviv, and be transported to a different world. After seeing Jerusalem on a Plate four times, and picking on my Israeli friends' brains for some time, I will be experiencing it, and everything that the country has to offer, firsthand over the next 12 days :)