Here’s another excerpt from my book — sort of. There’s a section in Chapter 10 called “Okies in the Promised Land,” and this is an early draft of that section. But it’s too long and “travel-writery” to include in the book. I had to pare it down and extract the elements that best fit the flow and purpose of the book.

So here’s the whole story of my parents’ crazy visit to Palestine and Israel in the summer of 2005. It should answer a question I get all the time:

“What do your parents think about all this?”

Now you’ll know. 🙂


Okies in the Promised Land

My parents had always been nervous about me living in the Middle East, and my letters home weren’t doing much to assuage their fears. But I wanted them to see it for themselves so that for the rest of our lives they would never have to wonder whether I had exaggerated either the beauty or the horror.

My mom and my step-dad Bill had been talking about visiting for months, and I knew they would put it off indefinitely unless drastic measures were taken. So in the end I resorted to blackmail.

I said to Mom, “If you love me, you’ll come see what my life is like over here.”

They arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in the early afternoon on Friday, June 3.

The hotel I had arranged for us was on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem. It had a friendly Palestinian staff, a noisy playground nearby, and an unparalleled view of the Jerusalem Old City and the Dome of the Rock.

After freshening up and having a bite to eat, we headed down to the Old City and walked along the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus walked while carrying the cross, and through the Arab quarter with its bustling mix of shops catering to tourists and residents alike. Mom quietly soaked everything in. It was her first trip abroad. As we were leaving the Old City, she told us it still didn’t seem quite real.

“It all looks like an old Cecil B. DeMille movie set.”

For dinner we walked out of the Damascus Gate and up Nablus Road past the Garden Tomb to the Jerusalem Hotel, where I’d made reservations at the Kan Zeman Restaurant to give my parents their first taste of Arabic food, music, and ambience.

The Damascus Gate of the Jerusalem Old City

We ordered mezze, traditional appetizers served on small plates. They brought fresh bread along with fourteen plates of everything from smoky baba ghannouj and fresh tabouleh to Arabic-spiced chicken wings and fried cauliflower. They loved it so much that for the rest of the trip, we rarely ordered anything else.

An oud (lute) player and drummer were playing and singing, and scented nargila smoke hung sweetly on the air. One diner spontaneously stood up and started dancing, and the rest of the patrons encouraged her by clapping and dancing and singing in their seats. Mom and Bill smiled and clapped along, and I beamed as if to say, “See? I told you this place was awesome!”

We couldn’t have had a better first evening.


We caught a bus to the Qalandia checkpoint the next morning on our way to Ramallah. Somehow I had forgotten to prepare my parents for the psychological impact of seeing a checkpoint for the first time. We had to walk through a dirty, fenced-in path that ran parallel to the outgoing checkpoint where men, women, old ladies, and children were being corralled like sheep and treated like criminals on their own land in the shadow of a sniper tower.

By the time we had passed all these horrible sights, tears were streaming down my mother’s face. Part of me wanted to comfort her, but another, hardened part thought, Welcome to the real world, Mom.

The worst part was that by now, going through a checkpoint did seem as ordinary to me as standing in line at a grocery store. It was just something you did every day, a chance you got used to taking. You felt angry when you got turned back, of course, but it had simply become part of the landscape of life, like the DMV. People, like frogs in slowly-boiling water, could apparently get used to anything—a fact as amazing as it was terrifying.

“Good Lord,” Mom said as we walked toward a dusty parking lot to catch a bus to Ramallah. “How can this be happening over here and no one in America know or care about it?”

I repeated something Yusif had said to me a long time ago: “That’s a very good question, Mom.”

When we got to Ramallah, I showed them my office and the Al Karameh Café across the street where I got a five-shekel cappuccino after lunch every day. (I went as much for the young barista’s shy smile as for the best coffee in town.) We walked to a gleaming pharmacy down the street that had all the latest prescription medications, shampoos, and deodorants. I didn’t tell them that the first time I went in, the pharmacist, an impeccably clean-cut man in his early thirties, was explaining the different types of condoms to a European man as if he was talking about laundry detergents. From then on I got all my embarrassing personal items there.

We followed Main Street toward Al Manara, the main traffic circle of Ramallah, where I showed them the four stone lions, each representing one of the founding families of Ramallah. Ramallah, I told them, meant ‘God’s Hill’ in Arabic due to its scenic beauty and fresh sea breezes. It had been a mostly Christian town until it was inundated with refugees in 1948. It had also been a popular summer retreat for families from as far away as Saudi Arabia until Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Since then, tourism had shrunk almost to nothing, and many wealthy Christians had fled to America or Europe to wait out the conflicts.

A close-up of one of Al Manara’s lions in 2005

Al Manara today

We stopped in at the Silwadi juice stand with its baskets of fruit on the counter, and we each picked a handful (I went with a carrot, pear, and ginger cocktail), which he threw into the juicing machine for us. We took our juices and walked north a little ways and ducked into an alley behind the Arab Bank that opened into a sprawling open-air vegetable market, where the sellers were always yelling, “Arba bi ashera, arba bi ashera!” (Four kilos for ten shekels!) Colorful umbrellas shaded extravagant piles of fruits and vegetables on wooden carts—tomatoes and cucumbers, grapes and mangoes, pears and peaches, plums and guava, fresh mint and parsley, oranges and lemons, onions and garlic, eggplant and hot peppers—as much produce as you could eat in a week for a handful of shekels.

According to This Week in Palestine, in the old days you could find “guava from Qalqilia, oranges from Gaza, grapes from Hebron, bananas from Jericho, raspberries from Bethlehem, and apricots from Beit Sahour and Beit Jala.” It was still true to an extent, but because of the closures imposed on Palestinians and the relative ease of Israeli produce getting into the West Bank, you were more likely to see Israeli than Palestinian produce in this market.

We walked back toward Al Manara, past the streets where service taxis congregated, their drivers shouting, “Ariha, riha, riha!” for Jericho or “Nabliss, Nabliss?” for Nablus. I led them to Pronto, where I ordered us all cappuccinos on the veranda overlooking City Hall Park. When I introduced my parents to the waiter, his face lit up.

“Ah, welcome!” he said.

As we were leaving, he refused to charge us for the coffee.

I looked at my parents and laughed. “You see what I have to deal with here?”

We caught a cab to the Muqataa next, past a vista point where we could just make out the Mediterranean Sea through the haze. The gate to the Muqataa was guarded by two handsome Palestinian policemen who gave us directions to Arafat’s tomb, a monument with glass walls surrounding an engraved polished stone covered with flowers and wreaths from world leaders and well-wishers. Three Palestinian soldiers stood guard inside the tomb, and I greeted them with one of my favorite Arabic expressions, “Yatikum al afiyeh.” (May God give you strength in your work.) They smiled and returned the greeting.

We caught another cab to the City Hall Park of Al Bireh, the city that adjoined Ramallah on the north and east. Tables and chairs were set up invitingly around gardens and fountains, where people could order food, drinks, and nargila. I showed my mother a colorful flowing mosaic sculpture that had been inlaid into a garden wall. It showed clay jars pouring out an ocean of blue water in front of a resplendent golden sun. My mother did mosaic art, so I knew she would appreciate it.

Finally I showed off my clean, spacious apartment and the supermarket next door, where I could get anything from Nutella and peanut butter to deli sliced smoked turkey and hummus.

For dinner, we drove into the countryside to a small restaurant called Al Fellaha (The Farmer Woman). It specialized in homemade musakhan, a Palestinian national dish made of tender roast chicken, onions, sumac, allspice, and saffron baked on top of crisp, chewy wheat bread and sprinkled with toasted almonds and pine nuts. Along the way, I pointed out the picturesque ruins of several primitive stone shelters in the hills that had been used for centuries by farmers camping out at harvest time.

Dinner at Al Fellaha was one of our favorite memories of the trip. It was so tranquil in the countryside, the food was homemade and perfect, and the restaurant owners were a charming family. I told every funny story I could remember from the past year, and we laughed and had a wonderful time. They asked me more about the settlements. As I was trying to explain who they were and what they did, Bill interrupted and said, “So basically they’re like NRA Baptists.”

I laughed. “Well, NRA Baptists if the government let them kick non-Christians out of their homes, beat and harass them, and destroy their property. That pretty much sums it up.”

We rounded out the lovely day with drinks at Darna, the restaurant that had recently been shot up by militants. Muzna and some other friends joined us. It was back in order again, and not a trace of the recent violence could be seen except for a few bullet holes chipped into the stone ceiling. I did not point them out to my parents.


We headed to Jericho the next day and toured the city briefly before catching a cab to the Dead Sea. Just as the dark blue sea was coming into view through the desert haze, we were stopped at a flying checkpoint. An Israeli soldier with an assault rifle slung over his shoulder squinted at our documents, handed them back, and said, “Sorry, the road is closed.”

I leaned out the window. “What do you mean, closed?”

“I mean go back, the road is closed.”


“No Palestinian cars allowed.”

Most of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea rift was off-limits to Palestinian traffic, but I had assumed our driver would know roads toward the Dead Sea that a Palestinian car could take.

“When did this go into effect?” I asked.

The soldier smiled. “Today.”

I stared at him in disbelief. Seeing a soldier arbitrarily deny my mother a glimpse of one of the wonders of the world on her once-in-a-lifetime vacation awakened a primal rage I didn’t realize I was capable of. I started yelling at the soldier. He just laughed, which infuriated me further.

Finally Mom pulled me back into my seat, and the driver backed up and turned around. With no other outlet, my fury turned on the driver. I accusing him of lying to us and taking our money knowing we’d be turned back. I wasn’t thinking clearly, and Mom was obviously mortified by my behavior. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted if the soldier had been denying her life-saving medical treatment, or beating or humiliating her.

“There are many things to see in Jericho,” the driver said, weathering my outburst with admirable restraint. “I can take you to Hisham’s Palace. I promise you will enjoy it.”

The palace had been built north of Jericho in the year 743 for an Umayyad caliph, modeled on a Roman design and covered with exquisite mosaics. We found a guide to walk us through a dusty desert field full of ancient carved stone columns and a few intact buildings. The most famous element was a gorgeous mosaic in the bath house depicting a lion attacking a gazelle under a luscious pomegranate tree. Other mosaics were on the floor, amazingly preserved and buried under six inches of sand that could be swept away to view the designs.

After the tour, we followed the guide toward a modern mosaic studio, where a young Palestinian artist told us Laura Bush had recently visited and pledged to fund his project to reconstruct ruined mosaics. He proudly showed off a picture on his cell phone of himself standing next to the First Lady.

We caught a service taxi to Bethlehem next. The taxi held seven passengers, and we spent ten sweaty minutes waiting for a seventh passenger to show up before Mom realized what we were waiting for and said, “I’ll pay for the seventh seat myself!”

I tried to explain this in Arabic to the Palestinian woman in a headscarf sitting next to the empty seat. She looked confused and said in English, “Pardon me?” We all laughed. I explained in English, and she translated it to the guy next to her. The guy wearing a turban in the front seat turned around and said, “Eh?” The guy next to the woman translated it to him. Then the guy in the turban stuck his head out the window and yelled in perfect English, “Bertram, come on!” The whole routine cracked my parents up to no end.

Our route went through Wadi Nar (Valley of Fire), a remote desert canyon, rather than through Jerusalem, which would have been faster but included stretches of road that were off-limits to Palestinian cars. The road was long, hilly, and circuitous, and right in the middle of the canyon our taxi blew out a tire. We were worried we might be stuck in the hot sun for hours, but the Palestinian passengers jumped out like an Indy pit crew and changed the flat in a matter of minutes.

In Bethlehem, I showed my parents Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity, and the Milk Grotto where Mary spilled milk while nursing Jesus, but Mom was more fascinated by the Palestinian shopkeepers who sold us souvenirs and insisted we stay for drinks. They explained that our purchases supported six families and asked if we needed anything else. We said we needed a taxi, and they called a brother-in-law to pick us up and take us to three different idyllic tracts of land that all claimed to be the Shepherd’s Fields.

In the afternoon, we went back to Manger Square for coffee before heading back to Jerusalem. Soon the call to prayer sounded from the Mosque of Omar on the opposite end of Manger Square from the Church of the Nativity. The mosque was built on the site where an early Muslim caliph had prayed after issuing a law that guaranteed respect and protection for Christian shrines and clergy in the city.

Mom leaned toward me and asked, “What is he saying?”

It was just the ordinary call to prayer, but I pretended to listen intently, as if attempting a difficult translation. “He’s saying… ‘Kill the infidels, kill the infidels.’”

My step-dad nodded thoughtfully, as if this were an interesting cultural note. Mom froze in terror, her coffee halfway to her lips.

I couldn’t keep a straight face for long. “I’m kidding. Don’t worry. He’s just saying it’s time to pray.”

Our final stop was Rachel’s Tomb, also known as the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque and containing Bethlehem’s only Muslim cemetery. The Ottoman-era structure had been claimed by settlers who believed it was where Jacob’s favorite wife had died while giving birth to Benjamin en route to Jerusalem. Palestinians were now barred from entering the mosque, the grave, and the cemetery. It had been transformed into a fortified military post in the 1990s and enclosed in concrete walls guarded by soldiers and sniper towers in a northern Bethlehem neighborhood.

The Wall swerved deeply into Bethlehem to surround the complex. The neighborhood in this area had been reduced to a near-ghost town due to the Wall cutting residents off from their land, other neighborhoods, and Jerusalem. A few apartment buildings were draped in camouflage netting. These apartments had been taken over by Israeli soldiers to use as army outposts.

We showed our passports to an Israeli guard as we entered the complex and waded through a group of teenage Jewish boys lying on the floor in a corridor. The tomb shrine was in a chamber at the end of the corridor. Several women dressed in long skirts with scarves covering their hair were standing next to the shrine and moving their bodies as they prayed. Armed settlers and soldiers wandered the corridors.

Like Joseph’s Tomb and the Ibrahimi Mosque, there was no sense of serenity or holiness here. We felt anxious and queasy, and we turned around to leave as soon as we saw the tomb. But when we got back to the huge metal exit door, it was locked tight. Mom got a look of panic on her face, and I asked one of the Jewish teenagers how we could get out.

“We’re waiting for a bus with an armed escort to take us back to Jerusalem,” he said.

My parents looked at him like he was insane. An armed escort? In Bethlehem?

When the soldiers finally arrived to let us out, we didn’t take the armored bus. We walked into northern Bethlehem and toward the checkpoint in the Wall that led back to Jerusalem.

The view of the Wall here was one of the single most shocking sights in the entire West Bank. For millennia, Jerusalem and Bethlehem had been sister holy cities, less than ten miles apart. Now it was almost as difficult for Jerusalem’s Christians and Muslims to get to their holy sites in Bethlehem as it was for Bethlehem’s Christians and Muslims to visit Jerusalem. The traditional Palm Sunday procession from Bethlehem to Jerusalem that spring had, for the first time, been stopped short by the Wall that now separated the two holy cities. The aborted procession was a powerful symbol of the depravity and disgrace of a Wall carving up the Holy Land with no regard for its native inhabitants. Severing Bethlehem’s ancient cultural, spiritual, and commercial ties with Jerusalem was a crime of historic proportions.

We walked toward the new terminal built into the Wall, a checkpoint that looked more like an international border crossing. I passed through the metal detector first. They didn’t even check my passport or search my bags. When my parents followed, I heard a female Israeli guard say to Mom, “Are you a tourist?”

“Yes,” my mother said.

“We love tourists,” the Israeli guard said.

My mom nodded miserably as she watched Palestinians just a few yards from us getting harassed by other soldiers. Walking away from the terminal to try to find a taxi into Jerusalem, with the giant concrete Wall hiding from sight the friendly, strangled, ghettoized birthplace of Jesus Christ, my mother cried for the second time.

Jerusalem Day

The next day, hoping for a more relaxed and touristy atmosphere, we headed to the Jerusalem Old City to visit the Haram al Sharif [aka Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount] and see the unforgettable sight of the Dome of the Rock shining against the azure sky.

The Old City was more crowded than usual, and when we reached the Western Wall prayer plaza and tried to make our way to the Haram, we were stopped by an Israeli soldier.

“It is closed,” he informed us.

“Why?” I was too exhausted to be angry.

“It’s Jerusalem Day.”

It took us a while to understand what this meant. It was Yom Yerushalayim, a Jewish celebration of the ‘liberation and reunification’ of the city in 1967. Thousands of American Jews had descended on the city and were parading around as if they owned the place while Palestinians were kept out of sight and under control by hundreds of Israeli police and soldiers, checkpoints, and closures. As we were walking back through the Muslim Quarter, a young shopkeeper asked us what we were looking for.

“We wanted to see the Dome of the Rock,” I said glumly, “but it’s closed for Jerusalem Day.”

“Go up on the roof of the Armenian Hospice,” he said. “It has the second-best view of the Dome of the Rock in the city.” He gave us directions, and we were welcomed into the hospice and onto the roof, where the view was indeed almost as resplendent as that from the Haram itself, looking over the entire Old City.

A portrait of Jerusalem of old

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was the last must-see site in the Old City. Mom insisted on hiring a guide to take us through the labyrinthine structure built on Golgotha, the Hill of Calvary where Jesus was crucified and buried. Several Christian sects competed for administration and maintenance of the church and its grounds, and their infighting had prompted Salah al Din (Saladin) in 1178 to appoint a Muslim family, the Nusseibehs, to be custodians of the keys to the church and to mediate disputes.

Mom found a kindly man who offered us a tour, and he turned out to be Wajeeh Nusseibeh, the keeper of the keys himself. Off we went into the crazy amalgam of churches, with a different sect controlling different corners and levels, chambers and chapels. Every room was more intriguing than the last. One entire hallway of rock walls was covered with crosses carved by Crusaders during the European occupation of the city.

Mr. Nusseibeh told us that when Jimmy Carter had visited, he wanted to examine every stone. George W. Bush, on the other hand, had looked at the church for only ten minutes and talked the whole time. At the end, he opened an old wooden safe and showed us a picture of himself in the official book of the church and other pictures with various global VIPs — popes, presidents, and movie stars. We took our own picture with him. The whole tour cost only $20. Mom still says it was the best $20 she ever spent.

After rounding the day out with lunch at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and an afternoon at the Israel Museum, we caught a cab back to our hotel. Our driver was Jewish and didn’t know what or where the Mount of Olives was. He called a friend and got directions to it.

Things were going fine until we hit the first ‘Jerusalem Day’ roadblock. Israeli soldiers were manning it with machine guns. The driver turned around and tried to find another route only to be blocked again. When we hit the third roadblock guarded by tense, sweaty soldiers, the driver started cursing and careening around every back alley in Jerusalem trying to find a way, demanding more money, and nearly hitting cars and cats and people as he sped along. Mom was clutching her shirt and quietly singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ under her breath.

As we neared our hotel, the driver said in alarm, “This is an Arab neighborhood!”

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the Mount of Olives in Arab East Jerusalem.”

“You’re not scared?” He seemed genuinely flabbergasted.

Mom muttered, “Not half as scared as we are of your driving.”

The Galilee

The rest of our trip would be in Israeli cities, hopefully with no more guns, checkpoints, or insane Jerusalem cabdrivers. The Sea of Galilee (called Lake Kinneret in Israel) was our next destination.

As luck would have it, our bus to Tiberias was crammed with Israeli soldiers on their way north, each carrying an M-16. One of them accidentally scraped a piece of skin off my mother’s arm with the muzzle of his gun as he passed by. She was too terrified to make a sound. To try to make her feel better, I whispered, “I think this qualifies you for a Purple Star of David.”

She laughed nervously. From then on she acted proud of her Israeli war wound.

We settled into our hotel after we arrived in Tiberias, a city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The next morning we rented a car to see the nearby Biblical sites—the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, Tabgha with its Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, and Capernaum, where the apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John lived and where Jesus began his public ministry after leaving Nazareth. All the sites were within minutes of each other, and Mom’s favorite was the ruin of St. Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. A guide told us she had been rich and lived on the shore, and Jesus and the boys used to go there to hang out on weekends. Mom said she had a mental picture of Jesus and the twelve in her basement shooting pool.

“It’s so weird to be here,” she said. “It’s just like in the Bible, but so much closer together than anyone can imagine.”

I suggested we check out the Golan Heights next, the strategic slice of Syrian land overlooking the Sea of Galilee that had been occupied by Israel since 1967. Bill agreed and Mom kept silent, clearly not pleased. As we made our way through the grassy hills, we saw the ruins of several Syrian villages with mosques that had apparently been left standing so they could be used for target practice. They were riddled with bullet and shell holes.

As we were leaving one ghostly demolished town in the middle of nowhere, an Israeli soldier suddenly stepped out of the bushes on our right and held up his hand to stop our car. Mom asked me why he was stopping us. I told her I had no idea.

Just then three Israeli tanks trundled out of the bushes behind him and crossed the road in front of us, loaded down with men and ammo.

“That’s it,” Mom said after the tanks and the soldier had left. “No more near-death experiences today.”

So we left the Golan and drove toward Nazareth, the heart of the green Galilee, to see the Church of the Annunciation, which was built on the spot where the angel Gabriel told Mary she was pregnant with the Messiah. We couldn’t find the church at first, so we asked two young Arab boys on bicycles to lead us to it. They refused to take the shekels we offered in thanks.

The courtyard of the church was lined with beautiful mosaics from dozens of countries showing Mary and baby Jesus, each with its own twist. The Japanese Jesus looked Japanese and the Thai Madonna was wearing a traditional Thai headdress and sarong.

On the way out of town, we saw a sign for Nazareth Illit (Upper Nazareth). I pointed it out and said to Mom, “It means—”

“Even I know what that means,” she said.

It was an extension of Nazareth built for Jews on land expropriated from Arabs, intended by the Israeli government to help rectify the ‘unfavorable’ demographic balance of Arabs to Jews in the Galilee. According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, “Its 50,000 inhabitants live in a dynamic urban space that keeps expanding and developing. The 70,000 Palestinians of old Nazareth live in a city half the size that is not allowed to expand by a single square meter; indeed, one of its western hilltops was recently requisitioned for Upper Nazareth.”

Apparently Israel’s discriminatory land policies weren’t confined to the West Bank and Gaza.

For dinner we drove to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee to have a fish dinner at a kibbutz called Ein Gev and watch the sun set over the water. Our Israeli waitress was friendly and charming, and the St. Peter’s Fish was excellent.

Mom wrote in her journal: “After we ate, Billy walked out on the pier to get sunset shots, and we walked over to the rock seawall, and looked down and saw a little kid feeding catfish. We went back and got our leftover bread, and until dark we fed pieces to the fish and laughed like crazy people at the big stupid ugly catfish opening their mouths wide, knocking each other out of the way, jockeying for position, and generally acting like a bunch of hillbillies. Oh God, we laughed so hard. I was just so happy we were all still alive.”

Acre and Tel Aviv

In the seaside city of Acre, an Arab-Israeli city north of Haifa, we splurged on a beautiful hotel on a Mediterranean beach. Our picture windows opened up to the sea breeze and a fabulous view of Acre’s Old City in the distance. We headed there in the afternoon for a tour of the Knights Halls, the prisoner’s hall, the Citadel, the Great Hall, the Crusader’s tunnel, and the Turkish bath used by Zionist militants to spring their comrades out of British prison in 1947. In the late afternoon we walked to the pier to see if we could take a short boat ride and see Acre from the sea. A tour boat was just about to leave, and we asked if we could board. They looked at us strangely but took our shekels and let us on.

Soon Arabic music came on over the loudspeakers and dozens of kids got up and started dancing and singing and laughing. That’s when we realized why they had looked at us strangely. We had crashed some kid’s birthday party. We couldn’t pay attention to the views of Acre for watching the cute, funny kids. Two of them grabbed plastic swords out of a shopping bag and started brandishing them at each other. Their mom started yelling at them in Arabic while pointing to the swords and pointing to her eye.

Mom laughed. “You don’t need to translate that. She’s saying what I always say: ‘You’ll put someone’s eye out with that thing!’”

The next day, on the train to Tel Aviv, twenty beautiful Israeli girls boarded with us, all dressed as policemen with pistols stuck down the backs of their pants. Mom whispered in awe, “They looked like movie stars. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that many naturally beautiful women in one spot. They must not let ugly women apply for those jobs.”

We ended the trip over beers on a beach in Tel Aviv, relaxing and reliving the trip.

“So what did you think?” I asked. “I mean, overall impressions.”

“I’m so happy we came to check out your life over here,” Mom said. “We really had a great time. When I wasn’t being terrorized by soldiers or cabdrivers, I was absolutely happy to be here.” She smiled and looked out over the peaceful sea. “I’d come back in a heartbeat.”

To learn more about the book, visit