By Rene’ Paul de la Varre.
In 1986, my father asked me if I would like to visit Israel as a photographer for our slide presentation commissioned by the Israel Ministry of Tourism and Hadassah.
“No, thanks, religious countries bore me, not enough action.” My father’s jaw dropped. “That’s where you’re wrong. You’ll be amazed at what you see. Plus, the women are gorgeous.”
“Sure, why not.”
Two weeks later. Government officials met me on the tarmac of Ben Gurion Airport and gave me a warm “Welcome to Israel.” I had an urge to say, “It’s nice to be home.” My first time in Israel, yet I seemed to recall past-life experiences.
The representatives had arranged all my accommodations, contacts, and transportation for as long as I needed. Equipped with a map and compass, behind the wheel of my Ford Festiva, I set off.
The scene seemed familiar as I navigated, weaving across mountains and deserts, stopping at Masada, Tiberius, Eilat, Safed, and Jerusalem. At the end of my two weeks, I did not want to leave. I extended my stay another two weeks and made my way to the Sinai, with a stop in Dahab, a trek and overnight on Mt. Sinai, then to Sharm El Sheikh for scuba diving.
During my last two nights in Jerusalem, I had befriended many Israelis, which included Arabs, Bedouin, Druze, Asians, and the beautiful people in a city with all the energy of NYC. I was enchanted with this once barren desert transformed into a thriving oasis. This trip changed my life. I had met my future wife, Claire, on Masada. She was from Scotland and working on a kibbutz. In 1988, we married, and returned to Israel for a six-month working honeymoon at Moshav Pa’Zael, in the Jordan Valley.
Since my return to New York and subsequent move to Chapel Hill, NC, in 1994, I have been advocating for Israel. Many of my letters have been published in USA Today, Citizen Register, Croton Gazette, the Chapel Hill News, Raleigh News and Observer, and the Durham Herald Sun.
The pro-Israel lobby has gotten so much more robust, and it feels great to have such strong allies like North Carolina Coalition for Israel. Please contact me through the NCCI website if you would like a copy of my Israel slides and photographs.
Featured Photos: Rene (second from right) and friends in the Jordan Valley, 1988