Back home, that's how it felt being back in Israel, as I arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on to the Eden Guest House on Yishkon (absolutely brilliant by the way, I could not have asked for more helpful staff) in Tel Aviv, I was filled with excitement, anticipation and even nervousness, would Israel still be the country I fell in love with.
As I wandered down the beach front of Tel Aviv, the streets lined with the Rainbow gay Pride flags in anticipation of Tel Aviv Pride, seeing head scarf wearing Muslim women eating ice cream near Opera Tower and erratic scooter driving, I quickly realised this was still my Israel, I really feel I was back where I belong.
The conversations I had with ordinary Israelis, Jewish and Arab ranged from the Queens Jubilee, football(aka soccer) or politics, I didn't ever mention what I did in terms of my support for Israel, but was open about being a Muslim and not once was I insulted or ostracised. In Europe we confront the Israeli apartheid apology daily, and it's just ridiculous and looking at just my first night, it's a slap in the face of those that suffered under real apartheid in South Africa.
As I sit here by the sea, hearing people play the guitar and see life passing me by, I guess you forget about the human aspect of people just getting on with their lives, Tel Aviv is another city with real people and in the last few hours I've met and spoken to some interesting ones. This is Israel, it's an amazing vibrant country with a diverse population, but we forget that because for so long in conversation, it's always been Israel and the Palestinians.
I've always encountered this strange sell out accusation, that because I support Israel and speak out for the facts I'm anti-Palestinian, for me to say there was never a Palestinian state is not demeaning to Palestinians it is simply a fact. I'm not chanting "from the river to the sea Palestine you'll never be", I want a Middle East where all can live in freedom and dignity, I want a free Gaza, free from Hamas, free from the manipulation of children, free for all its inhabitants and free from being Hamas' human shield.
Sadly in the last week with the protest against the Habima theatre group in London, I've realised those who claim to support the Palestinians, are more obsessed with vilifying Israel and to them it is a zero sum game, with a winner and a loser, they chant "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" I'm guessing in this scenario Israel will be in the sea.
I support Israel, because no other state is vilified that way it is, no other state has the lies passed as fact about it as Israel does, I've experienced the real israel and more importantly once we say no the hatred and try and find a balance, that's when we can talk and that's how peace begins. I've never asked anyone to support Israel like I do, I've reached this point through my own journey and I'm immensely glad I did, but all I want is for people to give Israel a chance, learn the truth and don't be blinded by the rhetoric, because that helps no one.
Maybe it's the sea air or just this feeling of contentment just being here, but I have hope, that in Europe we will start winning this struggle against the lies, that people will realise bigotry and hatred are poisonous, that it's time for honesty when we look at the middle east.
And finally, I have special thank you to all those who have over the last few months, expressed hatred/anger for me in some way, thank you, because when I look at the calibre of people who hate me for my views, right wing and left wing extremists, Islamists and racists, I truly realise I'm doing something right and that's very reassuring. As I have no idea who most of those that dislike me are or lack any desire to know, the fact they are very angry at me and wasting brain power on that fact, well I feel I do pity them.
It's 2am and I should get back to the hotel. To all those who have shown me so much support and love and continue to, thank you so much, I sincerely appreciate every message of support, you guys rock!
For now my friends, Layla Tov from Tel Aviv