Israel, July 25 - After almost three weeks in Israel this country has become a familiar face to me. I am not a stranger here. I know the features both physical and beyond that first glance. I can see through the eyes of the land and into its heart. I feel its expression, its joy and its fear. After a four-day hike from the Sea of Galilee to the Mediterranean, I came to the conclusion that everything in Israel has thorns. Almost every plant I would pass or run into had sharp thorns. As I would lie down to sleep on the cold, hard Israeli ground each night, it felt as if even the rocks had thorns. But thorns have a purpose. A thorn gives a tough exterior to something that may otherwise be weak. Perhaps this describes more than the physical land. Israel as a whole always has its defenses up. With one of the strongest military forces in the world as its thorn, Israel displays a dangerous vibe to protect and defend its innermost beauty. And Israel is a beautiful country. Everywhere I go I see such history. Three thousand-year old ruins line the street of Old Jerusalem. People stand at the Kotel, the Western Wall, crying out to God. Even now as I write, I am staring out of the window at the Negev desert, one of the wonders of this country. All too often this beauty is masked by the violence which now characterizes Israel. It's hard for me to accept that people are fighting over such a wonderful place. The land seems to radiate an aura of peace that isn't reflected by the actions taken over it. When I was learned about the most recent terrorist attack in Netanya, I was on the top of a peaceful mountain, just finishing a day of hiking. It was difficult to accept that somewhere else in this same country bombs had just exploded. While in Israel, I am experiencing everything with only the knowledge that it is under attack. Despite how the situation seems on U.S. news channels, Israel looks like a normal, peaceful country. The only hint of conflict is the blue and orange ribbons tied to cars and telephone poles, representing pro and anti disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The conflict that was once just between Palestinians and Israelis now seems to be dividing the Israeli people as well. This past week I had spoke with a group of Arab Israel teens, hearing first-hand their views of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and their awkward situation. They feel loyal to Israel, being Israel citizens and Israel being their home, but as Arabs they are also loyal to the Palestinians. Most of the kids I spoke to really only wanted peace, but didn't believe that peace was a possible outcome to the conflict. The complicated conflict hovers in the background of Israeli life, but the beauty and history of this ancient land continues to shine through. Although I know my experience here would probably be different if there were no hostilities, no war can conceal each and everything that I love about this country. Shalom.