Tel Aviv (Jerusalem Beach)A statue of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, doing a handstand is a main feature of Frishman Beach.Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

From the Mediterranean shores of Tel Aviv, Israel’s fraught geopolitical position is almost non-existent.

Tourists and locals alike sip Goldstar, Israel’s ubiquitous dark lager, as the waves roll in and out. Children laugh and splash in the water. A group of teens play volleyball as the sun sets.

It feels like a much nicer version of the Jersey Shore: The sand is softer, the water is clearer, and the beer tastes better.

After a 2.5-hour drive east, on the edge of Jerusalem, Israel looks starkly different. In one part of the city: ancient ruins, a stunning golden dome, and a labyrinthine market dating back to the turn of the last millennium. In another part of the city: poverty and a massive, horrific wall.

Here’s a common view from the road in one part of Jerusalem, next to the West Bank:

Israel/West Bank wall (July 2018)A ramshackle village exists between the highway and the massive wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank.Ben Gilbert/Business Insider

The infamous wall between much of Israel’s eastern border and the Palestinian-controlled West Bank is a stark, constant reminder of the duality of life in this New Jersey-sized region of the Middle East: On one side, prosperity; on the other, a distinctly less comfortable reality. 

On a recent visit to Jerusalem, I got my first look at this wall in person. And it gave me a valuable perspective that I brought back home with me to the US.