By Editor Morten B. Reitoft

Arriving three and a half hours before departure in an airport is not normal, and despite a delayed departure, Ziga Kovac and I were minutes away from missing the flight. Security is on high alert, and while you are in Terminal F at Munich Airport, police and soldiers are heavily armed—taking zero chances. “Why are you going to Israel?” “Don’t you know we are a country at war?” “Don’t we have filmers ourselves?” - a few examples of the questions a security officer asks me - he is not friendly, actually more hostile than I would expect - even for the cause of safety. It takes hours to get through security, and the reward is a tiny terminal with a shop and a “bar” selling chips and beer. The fellow passengers are quiet, and though some smile friendly to you, most avoid eye contact and mind their own business. Ziga Kovac is held back for an extra security check, which results in not getting our equipment on board the plane and further delay as all equipment is carefully scanned for explosives and hidden electronics - and even a headset is disassembled. We only notice this as Ziga Kovac can see residual glue on the headset after being reassembled.

Waiting in Terminal F - starting to think, OK - maybe traveling to Israel right now isn’t the best of all ideas.

I had an online meeting with Galit Beck from Highcon a few weeks ago. We spoke about how we could work together at the upcoming drupa 2024. Should we do virtual? Or what options do we have? My answer was (as always) - what is the ideal way of doing it - after discussing traveling to Israel as an option, the next question was - is it doable, possible, safe enough, and what do our families say?

Besides the discussions with family, the obvious answer is meeting in person and seeing the technology to learn and understand is better. Our insurance didn’t ping out negative, so we booked the tickets, and the three-day adventure started.

All passengers were picked up in busses from the terminal and taken to an old El Al Boing 737-800. My fellow passengers were as mixed as with any other flights, except for the fact that most, of course, were Jews. Mostly older people, but there was also a group of young Israeli - all with dyed hair and clearly with an appetite for life. My seat was 44A - a window seat at the back of the plane. Ziga Kovac was 10 rows in front of me, and after ensuring he was onboard - I did my normal preparations for my flight - getting ready to sleep.

However, seat 44B was occupied by one of the young travelers—let’s call him Ethan—a young Jew from one of the larger Kibbutzes in Israel. He and his five friends had been on their last holiday before enrolling in the Israeli Military. Ethan and I talked for almost the entire flight. He asked about Denmark, and I learned about Israel through the eyes of a 19-year-old young man. His view on his responsibility for his country was striking. All men and women are enrolled in the military. Women two years, men three to five years. Ethan signed up for five years. Imagine five years - or one-fourth of his young life. But his responsibility for his fellow Israeli stretched even further. Israel, of course, has the same challenges as any other developed country, with orphans, drug-addicted young people, and young people who have not got the chances most of us have been fortunate to get!

Eight young men and women voluntarily take care of five to eight kids and become their mentors, live with them, guide them in life, and help them get into better and normal lives—and they succeed. I learned how Israelis take responsibility for each other in a way entirely different from my part of the world—not only because they care but also because it’s needed.

We learn how mothers prepare food for the soldiers in Gaza on weekends - and we see close relations between people in general - an enormous pride in the country and what the young nation has achieved. Israel was established in 1948 after British rulership. Jews from all over the world moved to Israel - and despite being surrounded by enemies Israel, Israel strived and became the only democracy in the region, with a growing economy and a country that soon became known as a start-up nation.

Israel was founded on May 15th, 1948. The West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem were not a part of the newly founded country and were governed from 1948 to 1967 by Jordan and Egypt. These territories were occupied by Israel in 1967 after they won the Six-Day War - a war that, according to several sources, was initiated by Palestinian guerrillas and also influenced by Russian (then USSR) military interest in the area - supporting Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and others with weapons - and a playing field for the cold war.

As Jews from around the world settled in Israel, the young nation also attracted super-smart people who established companies—many of which are today global players. We all know names like Indigo, Landa, Scitex, Scodix, Kornit, Highcon, EFI, Wix, Wazes, SodaStream, and many more. Israel supports innovation, and the startup mentality comes from many different places. With a strong IDF and young people being educated there, there is a common basis much bigger and with a wider variety than in most other countries.

When you visit Tel Aviv, you experience open-minded LGBTQ+ societies, veganism, and alternative cultures side by side with orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Christians. You see nightlife and a wealth of restaurants, and though in war, an attitude of normality, which is strange to me. But how do you learn to live with the constant fear?

But you also see concerns in the eyes of the young parents sitting at the beach, listening to music and drinking fabulous Israeli white wine. It feels like most are on alert.

Talking to some of our friends also gives you a diverse view of Israel. Netanyahu is disliked by many in Europe and the US, and many Israelis question his leadership. As much as Netanyahu fights against Hamas, he also fights to stay in government to avoid prosecution and potential jail time

In Israel, there are also challenges with the orthodox Jews, as they don’t pay taxes, they don’t send their sons and daughters to war - and then the growing skepticism about whether there will ever be peace.

The October 7th terror attack was the biggest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, and the hate towards Hamas is one thing, but it also grows conflicts between the many Muslims and Arabs living in Israel. Despite the terror and the expressed threats from Hamas, many Israelis also feel the pain for the Palestinians who are innocent, but also say that Hamas needs to be eliminated.

You are constantly reminded of the hostages taken by Hamas. Billboards with photos of each and every captured kid, man, woman, old, and young are on the posters with a “Bring Them Home” message. Many wear a yellow ribbon to support the hostages, and even in the offices, you see a yellow chair and a roll-up saying that there is always a chair for the returned hostages.

Being at war influences the entire country. Everybody has friends and relatives who directly or indirectly know people from the event. If they don’t know anybody from the event, their sons and daughters are now sent to war. The event itself is almost forgotten, but it was called SUPERNOVA and was a two-day event on October 6th and 7th - celebrating the Israeli holiday Sukkot. The website is still up, leaving you with an empty feeling, as it was supposed to be a music festival celebrating peace, free love, and spirit. You can see the website here - or download a PDF version.

The terror attack immediately gave almost endless support to the Israelis, but the following war is again making it difficult for some Israelis. Antisemitism is growing. Also, Pro-Palestinian demonstrations take place every day in the West. Many of my Israeli friends have used LinkedIn and other Social Media to share the true face of the terror Hamas uses. Also, warnings about Arab sleeping warriors in the West are being shared. The discussion is always whether a state like Israel has the right to protect itself and what means it can use. As Dane, I am embarrassed that the water pipes we delivered to Gaza as humanitarian aid have been used to build rockets fired against Israelis. I am embarrassed that the world community disbelieves the Israeli IDF when they say they have discovered tunnels under hospitals in Gaza used by Hamas - and when confirmed by media like CNN and others - these stories are less important. I am embarrassed that fighting Hamas is being used as propaganda against Palestinians - and I am directly upset that the Palestinians don’t take responsibility and turn against Hamas themselves. Hamas, PLO, and all the other organizations have kept Palestinians poor, uneducated, and in a country that could have been as rich as Israel - but they don’t. They suppress their populations, make them victims, and they have ZERO interest in developing democracies - and why - because no sane people can support Hamas and what they do to their own people and neighbors like Israel. And remember, none of the Arab countries want Palestinians - it’s a sad world.

Driving in Israel is interesting. When you drive on a highway with Israelis on the one side and Arabs on the other side, you can be certain that on the side with modern houses and modern farming is Israel - and if you see tiny villages in deserts - this is for sure Arab/Palestinians. It’s an amazing contrast without any comparison!

During our two days in Israel, we filmed with Highcon and Landa. We have published the films, so you may have already seen them. These companies have been able to strive despite the political mess and the challenges of living in a country almost entirely surrounded by enemies. They have developed technology that helps you make money, secure labor, and help customers in a country where peace is dominant.

At Landa, we meet Jews and Arabs working side by side. In the streets, you see a diverse population. Though I can’t point out which religion you have, you can easily identify that people of various skin colors and various positions in society can work side by side.

It’s time to go home. The hotel recommends we be at the airport 4 hours before departure. The taxi driver taking us from the hotel to the airport is Arab. I didn’t pay attention to it when we got into his taxi. Still, at the airport, we were taken to the side, and the security spent maybe 30 minutes checking the taxi, checking our driver's ID, checking our ID, and then suddenly, we were allowed to continue to the terminal. I asked our driver if this is common, and he told me that because of his name and his ID, he is checked all the time, everywhere. He also says that he lives in Jerusalem, and his family has always lived there - yet he is constantly being checked.

Do I understand why? Of course! Fair? Well!

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