I just returned from a week in Israel, and have the following observations and notes:
(1) Israel is thriving. Security at restaurants, shopping malls, et al., has been tremendously relaxed since I first starting traveling there regularly in 2003, new building projects are going up everywhere in the Tel Aviv area (where Israel's population is concentrated), unemployment is down, and vacant storefronts, common in 2003, are rare.
(2) The "Russians" (the million-plus immigrants from the former Soviet Union) seem to be integrating well. I saw many fewer Russian signs, and heard much less Russian spoken in the streets, than in 2003.
(3) I went to Tiberias on a day trip, and saw a large group of local Muslim Arab women, assumedly from a local Galilee village, walking around a hotel spa. About 1/3 of these women had features that were clearly African in origin. One can't raise the issue of the origins of the region's Arabs without raising political hackles, but completely aside from politics, I was fascinated by the question of how individuals of Black African descent wound up living in an Arab village in the Galilee, if indeed they were.
(4) A large percentage of middle-age Israeli women, especially of Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) origin, dye their hair an appalling and unnatural shade of red. I first encountered this hair-abuse on a trip to Greece in 2002, where many Athenian women used the same hair coloring, and really still can't understand why anyone finds it attractive.
(5) Perhaps my favorite diet soft drink is an Israeli beverage called Tapuzina, which, though I believe it is also Hebrew for a type of tree, literally means "Orangina." Like Orangina, Tapuzina is an orange (it also comes in grapefruit and grape flavors, the diet grapefruit is excellent) drink with pulp. You can find it in kosher supermarkets in the U.S. All of which, being a law professor, makes me wonder whether Orangina has some sort of intellectual property claim against Tapuzina.
(6) We bought my daughter a bunch of Hebrew kids' DVDs. Apparently, new DVD players can play both international formats, and we don't have any trouble playing the non-NTSC dvds at home. Anyway, there is something a bit surreal about seeing Count von Count of Sesame Street singing in Hebrew, not to mention seeing Po and the rest of the Teletubbies demanding "Chibuki" ("Big Hug").