As I turned on the television to discover news of the latest violent Israeli-Palestinian clashes over a religious site in Jerusalem, my heart sank - not only for the people losing their lives or sustaining injuries in this latest wave of tension, but upon thinking about how this will reflect on the region now, when people around the globe turn on their TV sets and are met with the scenes of blood, violence and tears.
Having just returned from the Middle East, looking at these images of Al Aqsa mosque where I had stood obnoxiously taking selfies just a week before, now a battlefield shrouded in the smog of tear gas instead of the peaceful, serene garden I had witnessed, I felt deeply saddened.
Saddened because I had spent time in both Israel, and Palestine’s West Bank, and these images that I saw dancing across the television set simply did not reflect the Israel and Palestine that I got to know and fell in love with. Saddened because these places as I know them never get the opportunity to show their faces in the media and their true identities remain concealed behind this ill fitting mask of danger. As an experienced solo traveler, little fazes me but I accept that for many people , this instance alone is enough to put them off travelling to Israel in favor of “safer” destinations.
The Israel that I know almost doesn’t exist in the eyes of the Western media. It’s almost like a Narnia if you will - non-existent to many, its true colors and reality revealed only to a select few. The sensationalized view of Israel that the media provides fails to acknowledge all that is beautiful about Israel.
The incredibly welcoming, kind Israeli people, and the jaw dropping scenery which extends from the rugged Golan heights in the North, all the way down to the beautiful beach resorts in the South were among my highlights during my time in Israel, but you never see this beauty in the media or splashed across the front of tabloids.
Why is that? Because shocking tales of violence, war, conflict, sex, or anything generally outlandish is what sells in the media, stories of friendly locals, flavorful foods, and scenic hiking trails don't. It's as simple as that. People want to read sensational news, and Journalists want to sell stories. It's a twisted supply and demand of which one unfortunate byproduct is a narrow, skewered version of reality causing us to not consider travelling to these regions, and damaging their reputations. Unfortunately, for all of the work that Tourism boards and those working in the travel industry can do to remedy this, their reach and scope is often not as far and wide as tabloid newspapers, making it difficult to put out these fires.
In Israel itself, it's business as usual. In Jeruaslem's Mahane Yehuda market, the fragrant aroma of spices lingers high in the air, a cloud of saffron, cumin, and caraway seeds. The savvy local shopper haggles with the Jewish trader, determined to ensure that he is not out-witted in his negotiations, adamant that he will secure a competitive price for the ingredients of his Shabbat dinner.
Passing through the narrow walkways observing this scene, a Mother straightens up the crumpled dress of her fidgeting daughter on their way to meet family. These regular, not especially interesting scenes depict the reality of life here 99.9% of the time - the media may have one assuming that Israel is something of a war-torn state, but in actuality, it's a country filled with people, just like you and I, simply living and going about their daily lives. As with many countries around the globe, particularly during these turbulent times we find ourselves in, incidents do happen in Israel from time to time, but they are certainly not the daily norm. I hope that you can take the opportunity to visit Israel, if it should arise for you, and see that the situation on the ground is far different to that on the TV screens.
Melissa Douglas is a Travel Writer that believes in pushing the boundaries of solo female travel, and exploring those destinations which are “uncommon” for a woman to venture alone. You can follow her adventures at www.highheelsandabackpack.com