I work for Greenpeace as a peace and disarmament analyst and for a Swiss news analysis group as their senior Middle East correspondent. The first time I came to Israel was in 1996 when I lived in the Midrahov in Jerusalem.
While this stay only lasted a few months it piqued my interest in Israel and after completing a couple of degrees in New Zealand I returned to the country in 1999 for my doctoral research in political anthropology. My wife and I met during my fieldwork and we have been together ever since, both here and for a couple of years in New Zealand.
The reason I live in Israel is family and to be honest it doesn't matter too much to me where we live so long as our right to do so together is recognized; in Israel via my citizenship or permanent residence.
The family unit in Israel is a lot closer than in New Zealand, where a lot of young people choose the path I did and end up living in different countries. The closeness of family, where parents and offspring are in daily contact after the latter leave home, is something that remains fairly alien to me, but all in all it is a blessing and provides the sort of support that is often completely missing in New Zealand.
Other things I like about the country are the directness of speech, the old ladies in supermarkets who utilize my height as a mobile ladder (one day I know one will thank me) the weather, which is a welcome change from New Zealand's wind and rain, and the general energy here in society.
I believe in making a commitment to the society in which I live and am doing that, in a small way, both through my work with Greenpeace and as a volunteer English teacher in Jisr al-Zarqa. My mission to create the first village in Israel that speaks English with a New Zealand accent is now well advanced.
That said, there are storm clouds on the horizon. I have been here for much of the last decade and fear for the direction in which Israel is heading: Towards a society marred by virulent racism, intolerance and a social system that privileges wealth and power over social justice.
This was not the vision Herzl or the other founding fathers of cultural and political Zionism imagined. My hope is that those who deign to speak in their name recommit in the 63rd year of the Israeli state to the reconstitution of the progressive elements of that vision and to the expunging of those that promote social division and intolerance.
A state that promotes the same would be one in which I would be happy to live.