While I love my opportunities to travel here to Israel, I don't travel anywhere particularly well. The biggest casualty is sleep. I always wake up around 3:30 or 4:00 AM. If I don't have to be somewhere early, it's not a big deal because I can go back to sleep eventually. However, if I have to be "on corporate time," I'm usually wiped by the middle of the trip. Count today as a wipe day. Tomorrow, I'm sleeping in. Of course, tomorrow I also leave the hotel and won't stop until I catch my red-eye flight to New York.
I can tell you truly that Israel is a fascinating place. I overheard a group tonight who I believe were US foreign service employees. (Note to US foreign service employees: remember that some of us are English speakers and can understand what you are saying.) One thing I heard that I can confirm is that most US citizens who come to Israel would think, "Hey, I could live here!" And truly you could, as long as you recognized the additional stress of being a target of your neighbors. Living in Israel is a compromise between having a very communal social life and accepting the dangers of living in this context.
One of my colleagues (the one who invited me for Shabbat) is going to be attending a Bris ceremony tomorrow and a Bar Mitzvah tomorrow evening. Last Shabbat evening (5 days ago), it would have been traditional for people to gather and say prayers for the one who is tommorow being circumcised. There is an expectation of community among Jews that isn't present in American Catholics--that we share these basic milestones of life. For Catholics, baptism should be the first, with first communion and confirmation to follows. It may once have been that we kept similar communal celebrations (as seems to be indicated by some more traditional adherences in some parishes), but we have nothing equivalent to what the Jews have in that regard. This is a point where we have dropped a very important social component of our faith.
I could mention a few others, but my point is that while Israel has many political and cultural contentions with which to struggle, the average Israeli probably has a closer connection to his or her community than the average American. I can only point to the next closest Catholic on my block by sheer dumb luck. How pathetic is that?