Contrary to popular opinion, I’ve always known Israel to be a cohesive melting pot for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. That being said, I haven’t been back for a few years so my visit last week truly surprised me; I was in shock at exactly HOW cohesive it was. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, I saw Israelis from all three religions just “being”.

One of my favorite places in Israel has to be the “Shuk”, Jerusalem’s outdoor market. Comprised of 400 shops, Jews and Muslims sell their goods to eager shoppers. Everything from medicinal homeopathic goods to candies to traditional produce is available and customers quickly snatch everything up, not caring who sells what.

A young Israeli Arab man flashing me a peace sign with an inflatable Santa Claus waving in the background.

Speaking of food, Israel is slowly transitioning into a global player amongst foodies. I was fortunate during my trip to visit and dine with Moshe Basson, owner of TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice 2017 Winner, Eucalyptus. Moshe and his team serve up mouthwatering dishes such as succulent chicken stuffed with figs and wild mushroom with cherry red tomato risotto. But Basson is not only a culinary genius; he is one of the masterminds behind the Chefs4Peace movement, a global program involving more than 20 chefs around the world that bring people from different races and religions together in the kitchen.

The most heartwarming part of my trip didn’t have to do with food though, but rather seeing with my own eyes how Israelis are saving the lives of fleeing Syrian refugees. During my trip, I visited the Ziv Medical Center and had the honor of meeting one of the head surgeons spearheading this initiative, Dr. Ran Katz. Along with Ziv’s head social worker, an Israel Arab man named Issa, these two men (and the rest of the Ziv staff) are superheroes to the over 1000 Syrian men, women and children that have received life saving operations and treatment. It should be noted for security reasons, I was unable to photograph the Syrian men I personally met that were receiving care under Dr. Katz.

It gives me great comfort to know that this tiny little country, under daily scrutiny and without global support, has not only prospered in milk and honey, but has done so as the prime example for multiculturalism.

{Disclosure: although the Israeli Ministry of Tourism graciously sponsored this trip, the views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own}.