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of living in the Middle East.

Shalom, my friends.

Today, I want to write about something serious. I need to say something.

Sometimes, I forget where it is I live.

Everything in Israel seems incredibly Western: the giant malls, the McDonald's signs, the hipsters, and the booming Hi-Tech start ups that run the Central area. Most people speak English, gastro-pubs are a big deal, and we are ruled by a democracy.

But then, I remember.

When I get on a bus and see a gaggle of 18 year olds dressed in their IDF (Israel Defense Forces) uniforms sit down next to me. When my heart clenches at the sound of the missile drill that we do at school sometimes. When I am frightened to walk through Bnei Barak, an ultra-religious part of the country, at night alone. When Ultra-Orthodox women walk past me in wigs, their children's heads shaved except for their sideburns.

Every Friday to Saturday night (without fail), public transport is suspended except for taxi services. Because Shabbat is one of Israel's best-kept traditions, because it is a day of complete rest. And even those that don't observe are meant to respect. This is a law.

Gay rights are also law: same-sex marriages are recognized and openly gay citizens serve in the IDF. Tel Aviv is often referred to as a "gay capital" (hosting the largest Pride parade in the world) and rainbow flags are proudly displayed in homes all over the country.

I live in the Middle East, where tradition and modernity have come to blows, especially in recent times. The clash between races, religions, languages, and morals. I live in a country that protects religious rights and progressive ideals, alike.

But the problem is bigger than the rift between tradition and advancement.

Today, a Palestinian man drove a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem.

A few weeks ago, the North was set on fire, a fire that burned for multiple days. There have been stabbings, bombings, shootings, and rocks thrown. There is an undercurrent of hatred that haunts this country.

But I have hope.

I have hope because the Middle East I live in is not the Middle East of the past. There is a push for peace, a push for prosperity and happiness.

A few months ago, I spoke to a man about his son joining the army. And he told me this:

"If you put a soccer ball between two children, they will begin to play. They will not ask, 'What religion are you? What race?' They will simply play. They will get angry if they lose, they will be happy if they win. Then, they will shake hands and go home. They will tell their parents about their new friend.

It is simple. We are all one. We all want the same things. We all love soccer."

I have been thinking about those words ever since.

I live in the Middle East. I am fortunate to experience amazing weather, listen to a diverse array of languages every day, and go to bars in my flip flops. Here, we drink arak and argue about which stand has the best falafel. The markets are loud, the rugalach is sweet, the trains are packed, and everyone has an opinion (or two).

Today's attack has rocked me to my core, my heart aches for the families of those who lost their lives. I fear for my friends in the IDF, and salute all who are even now protecting our country.

But I still believe in good. I still believe in people, in love, in peace, in hope.

I still believe in the Middle East.

"Shalom" means "hello" and "good-bye."

It also means "peace."

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