The Independent in Ireland ran an interesting column by a writer who spent time on a kibbutz, when he was 19, as a volunteer during the early 80s. He looks back on the nearly 30 years of increasing tension and violence between Israelis and Palestinians, while recognizing the complex society—or rather network of societies—that constitute modern Israel. He also contrasts the pastoral life of the kibbutz with the tension of current events.

His point of view is essentially the same as mine: a non-Jewish outsider who fell under the thrall of Israel—its landscapes, its cultures, its peoples, its history—as an idealistic young international volunteer, and who is now struggling to hold onto that idealism despite the grim tit for tat violence in the region and the decreasing hopes for peace.

As he writes, looking back on life on a kibbutz in the Galilee:

As someone who has visited Israel frequently and who spent a formative six months on a kibbutz at the age of 19, all of this saddens me. For despite the conflict, there is something magical about this tiny state, created by the Jewish immigrants of over 120 countries and built on the beautiful desert of their biblical homeland.

It is a country of paradoxes: an ancient land, steeped in the animosities of some the world’s largest religions, and yet a dynamic sun-drenched country, with a booming agriculture and IT economy, a thriving gay scene and a celebrated dance culture.