As we enjoy the final leg of a long visit to Israel – for our son’s wedding with a couple of other family smachot thrown in for good measure – it gives me pause to reflect on the beauty and dynamism of this amazing country, and in particular to give tribute to a group of her unsung heroes.
We were based mostly in Jerusalem, spent a couple of days in Hadera for the wedding, and are currently wrapping things up with some quality leisure time in beautiful Herzliya. The sheer energy of people and activity, and especially tourists at this time of years, fills me with pride. I loved seeing people pour into the streets at night as the weather cooled in Jerusalem, particularly as the Old City was crowded wall to wall for the light festival. And of course spending time with friends and family, and playing Jewish geography with random people we met is always a treat.
But what especially struck me this trip as we drove around, was the development of local infrastructure.
- The towns – one by one perched atop the hills of Jerusalem – look magnificent. Their houses are so uniform and orderly in a way only someone who is a little OCD can appreciate, and stand in such contrast to the Arab towns that are a mess of structures of all different shapes and sizes.
- The highways, particularly leading in and out of Jerusalem, impress me. I have fond memories of the narrow Route 1, winding its way up and down the mountain, and many times being stuck behind a huge truck reminiscent of The Little Engine That Could. For a time, a lot of traffic diverted to the new Route 443, which made a huge difference to carrying the vehicle load in and out of the city. Now I am amazed watching the works that are transforming the road into a world-class three-lane highway.
- Tunnels, bridges & walls. The roads in this country used to yield to the external environment – rocky mountains, hostile neighbours. Not any more. A huge bridge leads the way out of Jerusalem, huge tunnels are bored right through mountains rather than having to go the long way around, and sophisticated walls protect drivers heading in and out of the Gush and such areas.
We often celebrate the achievements of the Israeli military in protecting us, and the technologists for leading the world with innovation. However, I want to pay tribute to Israel’s unsung heroes: the engineers. I don’t know if most of them originated in Russia; it actually doesn’t matter. While I’m not an engineer (perhaps something of a software engineer), I have an appreciation for what it takes to widen a highway by building huge retaining walls over the side of a mountain, and excavating through on the other side.
I’m sure the locals will whine about how all these projects are taking too long, costing too much, and disrupting everything around then. But next time you nonchalantly drive through a mountain, cross an amazing bridge that seems suspended in the middle of nowhere, or glance around at angled walls that shield you from those who seek you harm, spare a thought for our amazing engineers and their contribution to Israel.