Picture a journey by motorcar, from Israel’s verdant Lebanese border up north to the vast Negev Desert down south. Sounds exotic, doesn’t it? Certainly more exotic than driving your old clunker from Calistoga to Gilroy.
Yet as the crow flies, the two journeys are roughly the same distance.
It’s one thing to hear repeatedly how tiny the State of Israel is, yet it’s quite another to make that notion tangible. That’s why we wanted to bring to your attention this map, titled “Israel and Adjacent Regions, Viewed as the San Francisco Bay Area,” created by Reddit user u/trampolinebears. (Click on the map below to view it larger.)
At first glance, the map offers a fun exercise: San Francisco down to Silicon Valley corresponds to Israel’s coastal plain, with both places boasting the identical good life, good weather and tech innovations. The hot, dry San Joaquin Valley overlaps with Syria and Jordan, while the gas-stop destination Kettleman City shares map space with Eilat, Israel’s version of Waikiki.
We posted the map on Facebook, and readers started pointing out where they “live.” (J.’s office in San Francisco, by the way, corresponds to Netanya).
But it’s not all fun and games. By overlaying on the familiar local map the cities and sections of Israel’s famously tough and compact neighborhood, one gets a real sense of Israel’s vulnerability. The comparisons are sobering. If one imagines Tel Aviv is San Mateo, it’s just a quick hop to Jerusalem (San Jose) and then on to the West Bank (the entire East Bay). With Gaza in Monterey, and the Syrian border just north of Vacaville, Bay Area residents can feel in their gut how uncomfortably close Israel lies to hostile forces.
That may not forgive some of Israel’s security excesses over the decades, but it does make more understandable the fear and sense of existential fragility behind those measures.
On the other hand, it’s worth a moment to view the map through rose-colored lenses. When one considers that the entire nation of Israel, including its hallowed history, as well as its technological, medical, military and agricultural achievements, all occurred in a space that parallels the distance between Mendocino and San Luis Obispo, one cannot but feel a sense of awe.
When it comes to square footage, Israel’s relatively massive neighbors may indeed dwarf the Jewish state. But when it comes to miraculous nation building, Israel has indeed put itself on the map.