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Dear Israel Missions Participants,
I look forward to seeing you at our orientation tonight at Solomon Schechter Day School. (If you can’t make it, don’t worry…we’ll have another soon. And you can also call with any questions.) We look forward to answering all your questions – and showing why we believe we are going to have an amazing trip.
Even before we get together, I want to share with you some observations which came up in a recent conversation with my Mom. Much as it pains me to admit, she said some things about safety and travel to Israel that were pretty smart and on-target.
If you don’t know this already, my Mom will be joining us on this trip – her 4th to Israel. (That’s my mom and me in the picture a couple years ago in Israel.) The other 3 were on programs that I also put together, so she has both the perspective of having been a first-time visitor (also at a bit of a crazy time) and someone who understands what happens in practice on these trips.
Just so you have some perspective on my Mom…she’s a bit neurotic.
To be fair, she would say with a son like me, of course she’s neurotic. (And don’t worry, I am sure she will pay me back for this in spades on the trip. Yet another good reason to be there.) I recognize that the truth often has 3 sides, but I want you to know exactly what we are dealing with here. My Mom is someone who calls me every time there is a thunderstorm in our area, telling me to be careful…of lightning. To which I generally respond: Mom – what in the world can I do about lightning. Her response – stay indoors.
That’s why I can say in seriousness that if my mother didn’t believe this trip were safe, she wouldn’t let me (and by extension all of you) go…and she wouldn’t be going herself.
In her own words, the most dangerous thing to be worried about in Israel is…jaywalking. Israeli drivers are the worst hazard you will be facing, even with all that we are seeing in the news.
In her own words: “I have never felt afraid in Israel. I feel much less safe going into Manhattan than I do going to Israel. I’m more afraid of a bomb in the tunnel – let alone the everyday risk on the streets. What makes it worse is that people here are not aware of the danger, while in Israel everyone is aware and prepared.”
She also spoke about how our tour operator has very close communication with security authorities, and there are plenty of options as to where to go or how to reroute in the unlikely event something did come up. We have security guards and/or medics on the bus when appropriate. And our tour guides are very knowledgeable – all certified through a very extensive course. She has absolutely no fear of going now and hopes others will also continue with their travel plans.
“You feel like you belong in Israel – like you’ve come home, and not like a foreigner in a strange land. It’s a very moving place, and this is a kind of feeling that you can only get from being there. The sightseeing or talks on the trip are interesting, fun and extremely educational – you see a side to life you just don’t get here on the news. It’s a very unique and special experience, not like a normal tour.”
Clearly, I’m a little biased – but I couldn’t have said it better myself.
So…I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night and answering any questions you have, about updates to the program and any security concerns. And I want to reiterate – I know the Federation is out there trying to raise money by highlighting some of the challenges to Israel in the area around Gaza, but a) we are not going to those areas, and b) if we didn’t believe we could have a safe and fun experience, we would not be doing this.
Trust my mom.
I look forward to seeing you soon. And feel free to email me directly with any questions.
Executive Director, Jewish Federation of Monmouth County