Israel – through the eyes of Servas

Recently, we had a Servas visitor from Israel.   Servas, established in 1948, is the oldest host and traveler organization in the world. Its mission is to foster peace, goodwill, and mutual respect among a world-wide network of travelers and hosts.

Servas Master Logo-2 color stacked-white oval

Servas International  & Servas USA

More than 15,000 Servas hosts in more than 100 countries open their homes to travelers – like you. For two nights/three days, you can share and experience the lives of Servas hosts. For Barry and me, our very best travel experiences have often involved being with Servas hosts. For more information, go to <> or for international travel <>.

On Maui, Barry and I are Servas hosts and feel the world comes to us.  Last week, our Servas guest was Sharon, a most interesting man and wonderful visitor.  His visit enabled my friends and family to have direct interaction with an Israeli; he  works in a bomb deactivation unit.

Sharon realizes that many U.S. citizens don’t know the whole story and so judge Israel harshly without knowing the complex situation.

He suggests my friends to see the following links:

  • The first video is done by Danny Ayalon, Founder of the “Truth About Israel,” Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the United States:

Danny Ayalon – image from: ttps://

“The Truth about Jerusalem” <>

  • The second is by David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which was created in 2015 to combat the disturbing spread of anti-Semitism on America’s college campuses.

“Why Isn’t There a Palestinian State?”  <>


These videos are only about five minutes each.  Please watch them.

The on-going Israeli and Palestinian situation is very difficult and multifaceted.


In December 2014 – January 2015, Barry and I spent five weeks in Israel, traveling all over including being on the 10-day Servas tour of the country, living a week at Kibbutz Lotan on the Jordanian border near Egypt, visiting our friends Ruthi & Danny, whom we met through teaching in China, spending Hanukah with Clair’s Israeli relatives (she was our son John’s girlfriend at the time), being there for Christmas, and for me (not Barry because he is Jewish), going into the Palestinian Authority area to see Bethlehem; this all gave me an understanding of Israel and the very complex situation there.

I hope you can travel to Israel. The Servas hosts there, including Sharon and his family and those Barry and I met in 2014 are wonderful – and the country interesting, diverse,  and complex.


View from Jerusalem to the wall and the Palestinian Authority Territory.  The wall does cause hardships but helps keep neighborhoods safe against the few who are trying to kill all Israelis. Photo:  RR

Go see for yourself.  If you go as a Servas traveler (a few hosts are Palestinian), you will glean insights and have experiences not readily available to most visitors – and you’ll certainly have more knowledge than you can glean from the newspapers or T.V.  And talk to people, like Sharon, who actually live there.


Christian/Arab/Scottish bagpiper in the 2014 Christmas parade in Nazareth.  Who knew that was a possibility?  photo: RR

Sharon’s visit here to Maui allowed for discussion and mutual respect.  One of my friends who considered herself pro-Palestinian concluded, “Sharon is a good man.”

May Israeli and Palestinians (and all of us) walk forward in the light.

Aloha, Shalom, & As-salaamu 3aleikum (peace be with you), Renée


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

3 responses to “Israel – through the eyes of Servas”

  1. Rosita says :

    after a while of absence, I’m back. and I agree with your post, I’ll abstain myself of talking about Israeli-Palestine problem, ‘cause I have Palestine descendance and support BOTH sides. I mean, no one should suffer with wars, right?, also, no one should kills not mistreat its brothers or sisters just ‘cause they’re of different religions or culture: in fact, we all should COEXIST. also, BTW, I love kibutz aspect, so, I guess Israelis should welcome palestines with frank dialogue and so on. Palestine should be either a free, peaceful country, and share informations with Israel, while BOTH Israeli and Palestine heads of state should be open, and get to a consense of what to do with themselves, just not to inflict more suffering for innocent ones on both sides. so, I’m not pro Israel nor Palestine, but BOTH sides, ‘cause we’re all humans and were made by one same God, right? what change is how we call Him and practice our rituals. still, Judaism, Christianism and Islam DON’T preach war not violence, but only tolerance and compassion. #unityindiversity also, my dear Renée, please make an InstaGram or TeleGram account (TeleGram is only for iPhone/iPad), I’m more on those apps than I’m on here. Username is same on both, sooi_dog.

    With much love,

    • reneeriley says :

      Hi Rosita: We are all intertwined, I agree. Harm to one is really harm to all. We must move away from violence and might and toward compassion and inclusion. The world is a mess and at the same time wonderful. We hope for (and must work for) peace and love everywhere. Some places are easier than others, but we must keep moving in that direction. As a Palestinian/Israeli/Brazilian, you are a good model of unity among peoples. Aloha, Renée P.S. I’ll consider InstaGram. Does it take over your life? xoxox

      • Rosita says :

        lol! I’m NOT part Israeli, I just have Palestine and Lebanese ancestry, but since u’re considering Palestine as part of Israel, I get yuh point, friend 👍🏼 also, InstaGram don’t take over my life, I mainly use it to post my art when I get time & chat friends there..if u install it, we could chat more 😁 but still, it don’t take over real life for meh. it’s pretty worthy installing, tho. I may install art-focused apps soon.
        Hope y’all are fine,

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