Naomi Ragen: About going to Israel
I've received an outpouring of mailings after I sent you "The Other Boycott" concerning the absence of Jewish tourism to Israel, and the letter from the Plotkins describing their trip. Out of the dozens of letters, two said that they weren't coming and I should stop trying to put them on a guilt trip. Fair enough. I pointed out that their illusion that they were keeping themselves safe by staying home, just as President Bush plans his attacks on Iraq and Al Queda, in a country that has no concept of what it means to check a pocketbook before letting someone into a movie theatre, was just that, an illusion. But everyone has the right to stick to their own illusions of safety if it makes them feel better. Just don't make it into a philosophy. The following e-mails are from people who were in Israel and who wanted to share their experiences.
Shana Tova -- See you in Jerusalem, hopefully this year.
Dear Naomi- I just wanted to tell you that I agree with the Plotkins almost 100%. I spent most of my 3 weeks in Israel (trip#21) in Netanya and there the restaurants were crowded-with Israelis having parties; the beaches were crowded with Russians swimming; the parks crowded with Orthodox families climbing on the jungle gyms; the streets at night crowded with Israeli teens out with their friends. I came home feeling far better about the whole "situation" after hearing many say that they will not allow terror to stop them from living their lives as they always have!! May the Plotkin letter encourage many others to visit you also. I had gone to Israel in a state of personal pain and sorrow and returned, defying all reason, with hope. Israelis are strong and resiliant people. They have always had to be- Jews have always had to be. May the New Year bring some solution to this horrible problem and some shalom to you and all of our people. Thank you for your inciteful letters. L'Shana Tova. Regards, Blanche =====================================
I know what I'll tell my kids about this period of history: I'll tell them that I personally organized a trip to Israel and brought with me 13 other people, none of whom would have gone, and 8 of whom had not been to Israel in over 20 years.
David David Simon Bendory [firstname.lastname@example.org] -----------------------------------------
My daughter just returned from a 5 1/2 week trip to Israel sponsored by USY...Thank G-d they didn't cancel their trip. She had an AMAZING trip...spiritual, intense, and covered all of Israel. No public transportation and certain restrictions but still was able to spend Shabbat with family in Jerusalem, visited the Kotel 3 times (once for Tisha B'Av), toured the Galil, Tzvat, Tiberias, Eilat, Massada...to say the least, the group was provided with a quality tour of Israel. Ben Yehuda Mall was brought to them.
The 36 teens ages 16-18 became family and felt like they were home as every Jewish soul does feel the second they step off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport. They all had a safe and phenomenal trip and all want to return.
Others should just get on planes and visit. Israel needs our support so much. Again, we are grateful that our daughter's trip wasn't cancelled as so many others were. After a week in Poland, they were all rejuvinated in our homeland. Thank G-d. We all pray for better times.
Thank you Naomi for all your writings. Terri Auerbach - Denver LYCO18@aol.com
IN response to the letter from Silver Springs Maryland I just returned from volunteering for 3 weeks in the Sar El program. This program had a 20 year birthday while I was there and with others I joined the celebration with those from the base where I was stationed. It was amazing how grateful people were for our work. People from all over many languages and mostly professional people in our group doing those jobs in order to free soldiers to do the jobs of their training.Our ages ranged from 14 to 74 how is that for crossing the generation barriers. On week ends we were welcomed everywhere and one taxi driver just simply said 'bless you'. I am proud to have been able to give in this way--no pay in NIS rather from the heart from those we served. If someone has not heard of Sar El, started by Gen Davidi email me and I can give you the information on this. Maybe this too could be the vacation of youir dreams. Shalom Elizabeth Monson POBox 935 Idyllwild, CA 92549Elizabeth [email@example.com]
I'm back from a vacation trip to Herzliah & Tel Aviv and confirm what Cathy just said. Although i did not travel around the country, I felt I was where I had to be and that there was no other place on earth I could enjoy better. I felt home, I felt relax and safe. I felt also that the security issue has been exploited by the media to slow down the Israeli economy. But they will not succeed: we went, we will go back and we will spend maximum time and money there, for this is the country of our body, mind and soul.
All the best Sabine Abbou [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Hello Naomi Ragen, I have been following your columns and broadcast emails for some time and value them very much. Your recent email regarding visiting Israel is especially important. During the past eighteen months each of my two teenaged daughters went to Israel, one for a three month stay. I recently returned from a very inspiring trip to Israel too. I thought you might enjoy this article I wrote for our synagogue bulletin to encourage others to make the trip. Thanks again for your wonderful perspective.
Stephen Marmer Los Angeles
Go to Israel and Join the Dance
I just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Israel. What started out as a visit to two high schools we were thinking of twinning with in Tel Aviv was transformed into a mission of twenty people led by Metuka Benjamin, to see Israel's strength.
All of us were in some way connected with Milken Community High School or the Stephen S. Wise Schools. What we experienced in Israel made us proud as Jews and as Zionists. Yes, the country is hurting economically. Yes, the terrorist attacks continue. Yet what we saw was a determined citizenry and an alert military that every day displays its courage and its optimism. Here are some of the highlights.
We met with an Air Force General who was one of the pilots nineteen years ago on the raid that destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor. He told us of the care taken by the Israeli Air Force to bomb the plant in such a way as to minimize civilian casualties from any potential radioactive spread. We visited Tel Nof Air Force Base and were impressed as much by the sensitivity and dedication of the base commanders as we were by the F-15's. We rode in an armored bus into the West Bank to see a Special Forces unit - the Duvdevan - that works undercover to identify and capture terrorists. They were beside themselves with gratitude that we were visiting them and thanked us profusely. When we left I turned to a friend who had donated a gymnasium to the unit and said, "They are thanking us? It should be the other way around." And as I got back on the bus I felt that these brave young men and women were protecting me not only in Israel but right here in Los Angeles as well.
We visited the Navy base at Haifa, seeing a missile frigate and a submarine. We saw the chaos and the strength of the Knesset and met with Israeli leaders. Then we were joined by a large delegation from Sinai Temple at a memorial service at Shevach Moffet School. This is the magnet school in Tel Aviv that serves the Russian immigrant population. They sustained the largest casualties last year when the Dolphinarium Disco was bombed. Seven of their students were murdered, including two sisters. Their Principal and Vice-Principal have done an outstanding job turning the entire school into a large family. We met with the parents of the murdered children in the beautiful library donated last year by Lowell Milken. Their poise and courage was inspiring. Looking at the students it was easy to picture our own high school students at the same time. At the conclusion of the memorial service a student read a poem. The theme was that the terrorists, in bombing a disco, were trying to get the young people to stop dancing, but that they would honor their fallen classmates by never stopping the dance. In fact, last Purim they had a marathon dance just for that purpose.
The night before we had had another kind of dance at the Café Europa, a social club for survivors of the holocaust. These individuals have the opportunity to spend a few nights a week of what remains of their lives in eating, talking, and dancing. It was an amazing sight to see these survivors smiling and laughing and delighted to see American Jews caring about them.
At Assaf Harofeh Medical Center we learned of the preparations Israel is making for possible chemical attack. A more caring and devoted medical staff could not be found anywhere. After meeting some of the survivors of recent terrorist attacks we went to the newborn nursery. The head of their obstetrics department showed us something he said that no one outside of Israel has. We expected a new medication or diagnostic test. Instead we saw a plastic, backpack sized container with a built-in gas mask and special sealed compartment for a bottle. Every Israeli newborn is given one of these special gas masks in case of chemical war.
Finally, the personal highlight for me was a walk back to the hotel from a Tel Aviv restaurant. On the way we saw My Coffee Shop, a place that had been bombed a number of weeks earlier. When we noticed it we immediately said, "We've got to have a cup of coffee there right now." In the seven or eight weeks since the bombing they had rebuilt about ninety percent of the establishment. The owner joined us at coffee and told us his whole story, from the glass still imbedded in the brain of his head waitress to the phone call to his brother five minutes after the explosion and their commitment to rebuild. He was determined and optimistic about his restaurant and about Israel. That was his way to keep dancing, and as we left we too felt we had joined their dance.
So please go to Israel. We need them and they need us. They need to see our faces and feel our support and unity. Go to Israel. The dancing is great.
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