(Photo: Rami Shllush)

(Photo: Rami Shllush)

By Ofra Edelman - October 18, 2016

Originally appeared here in Haaretz

They wanted to see where Jesus lived and died, or to visit an exotic location not too far from home, or to reconnect with Israelis they had met previously. Some took brief vacations from work; others were on a world trip. One said he was called here by God to explore his Jewish roots, although he’s a Christian. Another was fulfilling a 35-year dream to walk from France to Jerusalem. But whether in Jerusalem, Nazareth or Tel Aviv, every backpacker had his own impression of Israel and Israelis.

When Pablo Cañete and Irene Esteban arrived from Spain to the Airbnb apartment they had rented in Jaffa, “We thought we’d come to Morocco, not Israel,” said Cañete, 26, a business administration student living in Germany. “It wasn’t the idea we had in mind. We thought there were only Jews in the city.”

“We thought there were no Arabs in Israel,” added Esteban, 25, who works as an academic in the field of food safety.

Carina Reiter, 28, of Germany was similarly surprised to discover that Jews, Muslims and Christians live side by side in Jerusalem’s Old City. “It’s amazing,” she said. “They don’t have to; they respect each other.” Read More