Photo: Robert Sklar and his daughter Elyse (today Dr. Elyse Thakur, a clinical psychologist) at the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem, 2004.

JN Memories: Israel

Robert Sklar

Robert Sklar

Martin Luther King Day 2018 will mark my 20th year with the Detroit Jewish News, the first 13 as editor and the last seven as contributing editor.

In 2011, during my “bar mitzvah’’ year with the JN, I chose to whittle my hours, but not my involvement in Jewish Detroit. My family roots here go back to the late 19th century.

I’ve savored every moment of my association with the JN, the award-winning publication that Philip Slomovitz earnestly built and Arthur Horwitz scrupulously nurtured. Both approached the task page by page, instinct by instinct.

At a time when many independent Jewish publications have either been shuttered outright or been absorbed by their Jewish communal leadership, the JN remains an example of how to independently succeed in chronicling the story of diaspora Jewish life while providing insight into Israel, the ancestral Jewish homeland.

I’ve visited Israel many times on behalf of the JN, but one journey that was truly special occurred in April 2004 during Yasser Arafat’s second Palestinian terrorist uprising. I was traveling with my daughter, Elyse, then 19. She was the youngest traveler on that Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit-hosted Miracle Mission IV.

We left Detroit en route to Ben-Gurion International Airport a day after Israel took out a Hamas leader in an air strike. That targeted takeout sent a shiver through our 600 mission-goers, yet everyone stayed the course, knowing the Jewish state needed our embrace amid the drumbeat of terror.

Important as it is, standing with Israel from the comfort of the West cannot replace the unique benefit of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis in deference to the land binding all Jews and giving unifying soul to who we are as people.

Reciting the Shehechyanu from the Haas Promenade overlooking the Old City before entering Jerusalem brings you oh-so-closer to Torah, no matter your level of religious observance. There’s no more exhilarating way to ascend to Israel’s holiest, most awe-inspiring city than with a child or a grandchild. Generation to generation — so goes Jewish continuity.

Covering the mission for the JN, I struggled to balance my work with time for Elyse. A Northeastern University freshman, she was aware of the potential for danger. Staying with me at the hotel one morning so I could finish a mission story for the JN, Elyse sensed my concern when an Israeli cab driver, trying to shave a few minutes so we could meet up with our Federation bus, drove too close to the border of the West Bank, a disputed territory for Jews and Arabs and beyond the perceived safe zone.

I’ve made it my mission to stay true to the Zionist ideals of Philip Slomovitz and Arthur Horwitz. I’ve helped keep the JN focused on telling readers why Israel matters for Jews wherever they live — and why Jewish diaspora support is crucial to Israel in its roiling battle against Islamist terror. Enduring treaties with Egypt and Jordan give slight hope for wider peace on Israel’s edgy borders.  

 

Listen to Robert Sklar’s memories on the 75th Anniversary of The Detroit Jewish News

Go to The Detroit Jewish News Foundation for more on the 75th Anniversary

 

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