Steve Lunetta: More slides from the Holy Land


Editor’s note: Second in a series.

OK, everyone. Have a seat. Time to load up the old Kodak carousel for some more slides from our recent trip to Israel. Can someone nudge Uncle Earl? He’s drifted off to sleep again.

Go grab some hummus and shawarma from the hospitality table. This is some of my favorite food in the world. Flaming Skewers over in Granary Square off McBean has some of the best Middle Eastern food in the SCV, by the way.

What about some history? The area occupied by current day Israel is so steeped in history that I don’t know where to begin. Here in SoCal, we think things are old if they come from the 1940s. In Israel, things are not old unless they are dated at least 3,000 years old.

The Crusaders wandering through back in the 1100s seem like last week. The Romans from 2000 years ago was last Labor Day. David’s sin with Bathsheba was the Fourth of July.

Ancient definitely has a different meaning there.

Israel, or Palestine, or Canaan, has been conquered by so many people, groups and empires that it is very difficult to keep track. Assyrians, Persians, Babylonians, Israelites, Greeks, Byzantines, Romans, Mamluks, Ottoman Turks, Britons, and Jordanians have all left their boot prints.

But I have a definite feeling that the Israelis who control this land today have no intention of leaving, ever. Like the martyrs of Masada, Israelis will die before ever submitting to a foreign power or slavery ever again.

It is amazing that such a thin spit of land has seen and endured so much history and significance. Almost like Someone ordained it to be that way. …

Someone nudge Earl again, please. Clearly history bores some people.

Jerusalem is the central city in Israel and, some would say, the world. Three of the world’s largest religions count Jerusalem as a holy place and continue to fight with one-another even to this day.

Jerusalem is divided into quarters; Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian. People who live in specific quarters don’t generally have contact with people in other quarters.

It’s sort of like people in Valencia avoiding or interacting with folks in Canyon Country. Or Newhall people disliking people in Stevenson Ranch. OK. I can see that one.

The bottom line is that there is a level of separateness that reflects us in a way. Hispanics in Pico Rivera. Blacks in Hawthorne. Whites in the OC. Koreans in Koreatown. It’s unfortunate that we pull ourselves apart like that.

I observed an odd thing and I am unsure how to say this. In the “Arab” parts of Jerusalem (and all Israel for that matter), there is a clear lack of caring for the environment. Bluntly, the Arab areas are filled with trash.

We saw loaded trash trucks dumping full loads in vacant neighborhood lots, down hills, right into other Arab neighborhoods. We saw dead animals, used appliances, yard waste, and many other forms of refuse just discarded anywhere.

This was generally not the case in Jewish and Christian neighborhoods.

I remember as a kid that we had a trash problem in the United States in the early 1970s. Litter was everywhere and no one seemed to care. Then, Iron Eyes Cody made that amazing commercial (remember the Indian crying?) and our attitudes began to change.

While we are far from perfect, we now have a better sense of our environment. I think the Arab communities of Israel still have a ways to go on that score.

Earl is snoring again. Give me his pita bread?

There is a mountain range to the east of the Sea of Galilee called the Golan Heights. Towering more than 8,000 feet above the Jordan River valley, this made it an ideal place to set up some artillery pieces and drop explosives onto Israeli farmers back in the 1950s and ’60s.

Which is exactly what the Syrians did.

Imagine working in your backyard in Saugus only to have some idiot on a neighboring hill drop a shell onto your begonias – all because you were a Jew. Yep, the Israelis did not like it one bit.

In fact, during the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis took the Golan Heights and ended that threat forever. Israel also took a great deal of land from Jordan and created greater security for its people. Good for them.

Dang, did the projector bulb just burn out? I suppose Earl needs to go to bed anyway. For the last set of slides, we will look at the spiritual significance of Israel. Slides from the Holy Land.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and still has a bunch of shekels on his desk. Anyone want to buy a shekel? He can be reached at [email protected]

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