I’ve spoken and written a lot about Israel recently. Maybe it’s because I don’t hear many people doing it who aren’t completely critical of every single thing Israel does...
Every week brings another story of a country or a city “taking a stand” against Israel. Oh, they all begin with a statement that they support Israel’s right to exist, but then comes the “BUT.” And the “but” says that it has become necessary to boycott Israel, to boycott Israeli products, even to boycott Israeli scholars “in the name of justice for the oppressed.” Of course, “justice” stops at Israel’s borders: I haven’t heard any European call for a boycott of China…
It’s just plain frustrating. Frustrating to watch as Israel is held to a standard that no other country in the world, or in history, has been asked to meet. And we want to do something, but… what?
If we want to help, here is what we can do: we can go there.
In the past, going to Israel was about spending tourist dollars to shore up their economy. While that’s still a nice thing to do, Israel today is a high-tech center; its money comes from advancements in electronics,
computers, medicine and yes, weapons. Israelis don’t need our money nearly as much as they need to see us. Because if you think it feels lonely to be on Israel’s side here in the United States, it is way, way lonelier to be an Israeli these days, as they watch the world turn its back to them.
In last month’s Newsletter, Fran and Tom Szczesny wrote about their experience in Israel this fall. They described how they were welcomed by the people they met on the street, and how empty the streets were. They also talked about how safe it was to be there, and I know from my experiences that they were correct. Tourists are safer in Israel than on the streets of New York City.
No question, a trip to Israel is expensive. It’s a quarter of the way around the world, and you can’t go by bus. So it may not be in everyone’s budget to go right away, but please don’t let that stop you from starting to save up. Back in my grandparents’ day every Jewish home had a blue and white pushke, a “charity box,” to help the Jewish National Fund buy land and plant trees. Today, it is time for all of us – every one of us – to set up a special savings account that will, one day, make it possible for us to go to Israel ourselves.
If you can go now, Shira and I invite you to join us. This summer, from July 5-15th, we are leading a trip under the sponsorship of the Jewish Federation. Ask anyone who went with us in the summer of 2013 – they will tell you what an amazing experience it was. Or ask us about what we will be doing, what we will be seeing and, most important of all, how we are going to show our Israeli brothers and sisters that they are not alone and not forgotten.
Whether you go this year or next year, or start saving to go in 10 years, this is how you can truly help Israel. We need to answer the self-righteous bigots who cloak their discomfort with a successful Jewish nation behind a concern for only one group of people – the group that threatens Israel’s existence. We need to say Hineni – Here I Am – to our Israeli family. We need to show up – to go there, to see for ourselves and to let ourselves be seen.
Please let me know if you would like information on this summer’s trip, and please let me know if you can’t go this summer, but are going to set up a savings account for a trip in the future.
It’s how we can help Israel.