This is the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in my life.
You’ve probably noticed I’m now in New York.
Jaron from the future will soon be announcing his next step.
But first, Jaron from the present feels the need to properly bid farewell to Jaron of the past, and to thank him for getting me to the place I’m at right now.
At the tender age of 31, I feel so fortunate to have had such an abundance of experience, and to still be alive to tell my tales. Over the past decade, I’ve travelled to more than 60 countries and every world continent. I have witnessed four Middle East wars, one Intifadah, three revolutions, five elections, two unilateral withdrawals, countless skirmishes, protests, violent incidents, and one Arab Spring. I have snuck across two borders, been detained by secret police and regular police, survived close brushes with gun fire, Qassam rockets, Katyusha rockets, bombs, tear gas, smoke grenades, rocks, stones, bricks, and angry mobs. I survived one kidnapping attempt, a bad case of Delhi belly, and a sinking boat in Lesotho.
I kissed the ground three times.
First, the grimy black and white checkerboard tile in a Beijing KFC after a semi-legal reporting trip to North Korea.
Then, a jagged asphalt road outside Kirkuk after a horrific car accident in Kurdistan.
Finally, I smooched the soft sands on a Jaffa beach after a close encounter with a Katyusha rocket in Northern Israel.
People often ask me why I go to such places, and I can honestly say that I don't really know. But if I had to guess, I'd say that I'm on a constant search for the standard deviation from the norm. I am inspired by people who think differently, break cycles, and act with kindness towards strange Western journalists who show up in their war zones.
I will never forget the old Kurdish man who bought me a piping hot chicken spinach stew when I was hungry, wounded and broke. Or the young Egyptian teenager who screamed and defended me until he was hoarse when the police tried to detain me. Or the gentle, sweet natured Nepali lady who had never seen a Westerner before, but still let me sleep on her porch when I knocked in the middle of a starry Himalayan night.
None of these people owed me a thing, or stood to benefit, yet they extended a hand.
This happened over and over again in Israel and Palestine, which was my home for much of the past decade. The amazing thing for a nomad like me, is that it actually felt like home. It was a difficult choice to leave, but I felt that I had unturned all the stones that I needed to uncover there. The conflict continues, unfortunately, but I hope my stories there helped people see the conflict with greater depth and understanding.
I will really miss wiping warm, freshly baked pita into a bowl of hummus, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, all sprinkled with zaatar.
I will also miss the pioneering spirit, the complete lack of social space, and the phenomenal array of colorful curse words.
But it is the wonderful people I met that I will miss the most.
Yes, there is no shortage of bigots and extremists in that tiny area of the world. But there are also some of the most amazing, intelligent, and cool people I've ever met. I always thought to myself what a shame it was that my Israeli and Palestinian friends would probably never get a chance to meet each other. Besides the loss of life, it is the loss of human potential for synergy that is the greatest tragedy of the conflict.
Despite it all, I have not lost hope that one day Israelis and Palestinians will rise up and change the course of their tumultuous histories.
To my friends and loved ones in the Middle East and all over the world, I will miss you all !
Please give me a shout when you’re in the Big Apple !
As for my new chapter, I promise to fill you in real soon.
What I can tell you is that I will be reconnecting to my original mission when I got into this business:
To find and tell previously untold stories that will provoke change.