I intended to travel to Israel this coming week with my family and many congregants. It was a much-anticipated and planned-for trip, over a year in the making. However, as Operation Protective Edge unfolded, trip participants slowly began to cancel. No judgment -- everyone brings to something like this their own life experiences, understandings and comfort zone. One by one they dropped out, and eventually it was down to me, one friend, my two older children, my mother, my stepfather, my sister, her boyfriend, their children, and a few cousins. That was fine. We are all seasoned Zionists and were going no matter what.
I think I speak for us all when I say that over these past few weeks, particularly over these past few days, we've been bombarded with messages like:
"How can you go?"
"Why would you go?"
"That's no way to spend a vacation."
"How dare you go and risk your life and the lives of your children?" (That one was verbatim. I kid you not.)
And on and on it went.
Eventually the FAA made the decision for us. Then it was:
"Oh, I'm so happy you aren't going."
"So sorry for you, but so glad for us."
"You're better off."
"See, I told you so."
"You should have known better."
"Glad to see at least the FAA is using their brain!"
And on and on it goes.
Look, I know most, maybe all, of these comments were coming from a place of genuine concern. Who doesn't want to be cared for and have people in their lives who love them enough to express such sentiments? With that said, my friends, such sentiments don't sit well with Zionists.
Save chemical weapons, an all-out war, or clear and present danger of rockets actually hitting major tourist thoroughfares (which isn't happening), I would visit Israel and take my kids too, period. Why?
- Because Israel is not a war zone (stop getting your news from CNN), and we weren't going in dangerous places.
- Because even if it's not a comfortable or relaxing time to go, Israel is not merely another vacation destination. It's the Jewish homeland, dreamed of, sacrificed for and now ours, again, after 2,000 years of merely hoping to return.
- Because Israelis are my brothers and sisters.
- Because when your family is struggling, you go home to be with family and let them know you care.
- Because there are 32 young, dead IDF soldiers, soldiers not that much older than my kids, and if they can fight and die for this country, the least I can do is visit.
- Because if little Jewish kindergarteners in Sderot (right next door to Gaza) can endure rockets, albeit traumatized, hour after hour, then my kids and I can deal with sitting in our safe and secure four-star hotel, miles away, as we watch the Iron Dome shoot down the rockets on CNN.
Alas, the decision was made for us by the FAA caving to terrorist aims.
Now my kids are off to L.A. to be with their grandparents. My congregants are off to alternative vacation destinations. All of them, and all those who had to change their travel plans, are disappointed, if not heartbroken, to have had to leave Israel behind for now. My kids are actually in tears that they can't go (which makes me proud that they care enough about their homeland and recognize that it is a place worthy of their tears). So keep this in mind when sending the well wishes and grateful sentiments. I'm sure that they are well-intentioned, but you know what they say about good intentions.
And as for me, I'm sad that I won't be traveling with my friends and family. However, make no mistake about it: I'm still traveling.
Thank God for El Al. It's the airline that doesn't cower in the face of terror, and the one every Zionist should support. Because of them, I'm still going to Israel. I leave Monday to join with other Zionists from around the country on an emergency solidarity mission to remind our brethren that we are here, that we haven't forgotten, that the FAA doesn't have the final say, and that the terrorists will not win the day.
So wish me well. Bid me peace. Tell me to be safe. Say "l'hitarote," "au revoir," "arrivederci," and I promise that when I come back, safe, sound and inspired, I won't say, "I told you so."
What I will tell you, however, is that whether it be next week, next month, or next year; whether you are Jewish or Christian; whether you have been to Israel 100 times or have never been before, make the trip. Show up as soon as you are able. Israelis will always welcome you in unconditionally whenever you come. Israel will captivate your mind, heart and soul the moment you arrive. And you will feel nothing but safety and security from the moment you touch down till the moment you depart. And most of all, you will truly know why missiles will never deter a Zionist from going home.