Reporter Seeks to Show 'Peaceful, Wonderful' Israel

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TEL AVIV, Israel - Living in Israel for 30 years, NBC's Martin Fletcher has covered wars, disasters, and other events throughout the Middle East.

But perhaps his most memorable assignment was walking the entire coast of Israel along the Mediterranean Sea, from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip.

Fletcher gives his step-by-step account in the book, Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation.

"I had a very clean goal in mind when I wrote the book. I wanted to show it's a great place that has, makes tremendous contributions to the world," he explained.

"That has tremendous problems that need to be solved very urgently, but we don't need to focus only on the problems, we should focus also on the good things about Israel," he said.

Like many Israeli residents, Fletcher hears the same questions.

"So many people used to call me up and say, 'Hey, is it safe to visit Israel?' And I'd say, 'Of course it is,'" he said. "Then they'd call me back a week later after they arrived and say, 'Wow, it's a great place. I had no idea.'"

Fletcher wanted to reveal a side of Israel most people don't usually see in the media.

"We present a country that's always in conflict and therefore the story of Israel is the war, the brutality, the occupation, the Jewish settlers, the fighting, the bombs, the killings. That's the Israel the world knows," Fletcher explained about the media coverage.

"Anybody who had spent time here realizes mostly it's a very peaceful, wonderful country and that peaceful, wonderful country rarely gets shown," he continued. "That's what I wanted to do with the book, is to show that peaceful, wonderful place."

Fletcher believes Israel has gotten a raw deal in the world.

"I think Israel is the only country in the world... whose very existence is in question. Its right to exist is in question," Fletcher said.

"I mean nobody says about Zimbabwe or North Korea, 'Hey, should that country exist?' Israel is the only country in the world that people say [that]," he said.

"Israel has a right to exist and I love the country personally," he added. "The process of delegitimization of Israel that is taking hold in some parts of the world, in some parts of Europe, especially, I think is wrong."

For Christians, the book also shows another side of the Holy Land.

"I think for Christians who come here mostly to look at the Holy Land and to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and all... the wonderful history and reality of the place they follow. I think to understand the context of that story, too, in modern terms, to know Israel as it is today, I think helps you to understand the past," he said.

--Originally aired July 13, 2011.

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