Murray Silby is a freelance journalist and blogger. He took an intrepid trip to Israel in the summer of 2014, despite it being embroiled in turmoil. He claims not to be an ‘Indiana Jones’ traveller of conflict zones, but admits, “Fortunately most of the chances I’ve taken have turned out really well. Such occasions could easily go the other way, but taking chances often brings great experiences too.”

Despite being warned not to go to Israel at that time, after further research and a long search to find a travel insurance company that would cover any incident arising from the conflict, Murray decided to take his chances and ‘holiday in a war zone’.

When he decided to visit Israel at a time of conflict…

My trip to Israel was a chance to see the country and the occupied West Bank in a period of duress and to try to understand it better. I’ve grown up watching the Middle East conflict on the news many nights of my life and now, as a journalist, this holiday gave me the opportunity, under relatively safe circumstances, to experience it.

I’m mindful that I was able to leave, but many people that are caught up in it cannot escape. That’s the tricky part. Going to a place to understand it, learn from it and engage with its people, but without treating it like a zoo… ensuring that it’s not something to wonder at and then move on leaving the exhibition behind.

Every traveller must decide what they do with the knowledge, insights and experiences they’ve gained, knowing at the same time the people who have hosted them stay behind and could face a tough and uncertain reality.

When there were people being killed less than 60km away…

Everyday life seemed to be progressing as normal, despite people being killed in their hundreds little more than 60km away from Jerusalem where I spent most of my time.

It struck me as a little bit weird that life in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv seemed to be ticking along, seemingly normally. This could be interpreted, I guess, as stoic people determined not to have their lives disrupted by the conflict; people so used to these circumstances that they are capable of living life relatively unchanged, but still affected by it; or people who were mostly unaffected by the killing of hundreds of people nearby, whether they believed that it was justified or not. Most likely it’s a little bit of everything.

More signs of a response from the people came later in my stay as an increasing number of Israeli soldiers were killed. Then people were more vocal about the support for the defence forces. The Palestinian shopkeepers in East Jerusalem would happily tell you of their anguish at the events in Gaza if you stopped to have a conversation with them.

When there were nearby explosions… 

I was delayed for two days in Tel Aviv after rockets started landing near the airport and flights were cancelled. Also, while I was stranded in Tel Aviv, the streets emptied when an air siren sounded. A few seconds later there were a couple of explosions in the sky above. I’m told that was the Iron Dome “taking care” of a rocket.

When he spoke to tour operators about how the conflict affected them…

Apart from one tour I took where it was their policy to discuss the history of conflict in the Middle East and Israel in particular, there seemed almost a determination not to speak about it unless asked about the conflict. Some reacted cautiously, unsure of your stance, while others openly gave their opinion. Those were the people who were usually strongly in favour of the Israeli operation.

You can read Murray’s blog at where he shares his entertaining journey and everyday trials of adjusting from life as an independent journalist living in Melbourne to being a house-husband and father in Cyprus.