April 6, 2018
I have just groggily awakened from a 5 hour ambien-induced sleep which was preceded by two glasses of wine, soup, salad, lamp chops and a chocolate sundae. I am on a jumbo jet, about 9 hours into this 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv.
I’m traveling with a group of around 50 people from my temple, Temple Israel. We have two rabbis and a cantor with us, a most stellar crew. I don’t know most of my fellow travelers, but that’s ok. I met a number of them during our 5 hour layover at JFK and everyone is very nice and excited. Most are first timers to Israel, which is always exciting. Love seeing Israel through their eyes.
I see myself as a veteran Israel traveler, especially since I just spent 2 weeks there less than a year ago. But my experience doesn’t immunize me from the deep emotion I’m about to feel. Something about that place has a kriptonite affect on me; I’m prone to inexplicable tears from just walking down the street, seeing a young Israeli child, or the flag, or a song or whatever (Hatikva instantly disables me).
I’ve become the sentimental guy about Israel that my grandfather used to be. He was often a blubbering mess when talking about it, and of course my cousins and I made fun of him when we were kids. But the 63 me now gets him better. I love Israel with all my heart. I’m consumed with it, what it means to me, to my people and to the world. It’s a real focal point in my life. Jerusalem in particular, as one writer says, is “the love of my life”.
Everyday I read Israel news and my AIPAC work allows me to put my affinity into action. I’m a solution-oriented guy. Ask me anything and I’ll try to solve it (Linda hates that). But Israel is the ultimate elusive and unsolvable Rubik’s Cube. Everyday I learn more and yet everyday I understand less.
This group here will now learn for themselves what modern day Israel is like. They’ll take pictures, we’ll eat, drink, swim, maybe dance. They’ll no doubt get blown away by the beauty and the staggering business success of this ‘start up nation’. They will all rightfully feel pride and love for their ancestral homeland, which is beautiful.
But I hope people really ‘get’ the larger picture here. I hope they see what’s lurking just beyond those idyllic street scenes. There’s an ominous cloud always hanging over this place, there’s no escaping it and no denying it.
Last week Hamas (who of course exists to destroy Israel) staged a large so-called “peaceful protest” on the Gaza border. They are calling now for a massive “protest”. They are spending millions shipping people to the border, arming them, creating massive fires to obfuscate the infiltration of the border fence (by Hamas’ members and children), and then paying the families of any “martyr” killed by the Israeli’s.
This is Israel’s worst nightmare. A terrorist organization is mounting a large-scale assault on its border. And Israel is of course getting blamed for defending itself. The anti-Israel global machine is working at full force, labeling this as another instance of cruel, Israeli aggression. It will only get worse.
So as we enter Israel airspace, I once again experience all the assortment of familiar emotions: joy, sadness, anxiety, confusion. Deja vu all over again.
I will once again attempt to figure this place out, and once again I will fail.
I will once again look to see if Israel fills my heart like no other place, and once again I will succeed.
We’ll be landing shortly, just a few hours before Shabbat.