I’m back from a summer visit to Israel and processing the amazing experience. The Eretz Yisrael Movement Tour, as always, proved to be the perfect vehicle for exploring a country that is so much more than a vacation destination.
Despite ongoing torrents of negative worldwide negative publicity, Israel continues as a stable and steady environment – and the homeland and birthright of every Jew. For those who fear Israel is unsafe, I suggest they open their eyes and take a good look around. Israel, more than any other country, is ready to deal with the challenges that exist in the world today.
Our tour guide, Margalit Frydman, was the perfect escort. Margalit is equally adept at taking out a Tanach and quoting a relevant passage, discussing history, current events, and archeology – or encouraging her charges to participate in song and dance. Her obvious love and devotion to the land make the journey very special. Her upbeat attitude is contagious.
My family and I were blessed to travel the length and breadth of the Jewish state. We were in Tzefat, Tiberius, and the Kineret. We were in Tel Aviv, the Shomron, and the Jordan Valley. We were in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Gush Etzion, and Hebron. We were in the Negev and Beersheba.
It is truly humbling, as a Jew, to be able to stand at holy sites that had been inaccessible to us for two thousand years. I remember coming to Israel as a kid in 1965. There was no Jewish access to eastern Jerusalem, Har Habayit, or the Kotel. There was no Jewish access to Hebron and Kever Machpelah (the burial cave of the Patriarchs). There was no Jewish access to Bethlehem and the tomb of Rachel.
Unfortunately, as we went about our tour, a 13-year-old Israeli girl was stabbed to death in her bed in Kiryat Arba by a Palestinian terrorist and a father of ten was murdered in his car in an attack near Hebron. His wife and three family members were injured in the unprovoked drive-by shooting.
Is Israel a uniquely unsafe place to be or visit? The savage acts of Islamic extremism are not restricted to Israel. Recent events in France, Belgium, and many other locations including America can attest to the fact that the epidemic is worldwide.
On June 13, Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American security guard, pledged allegiance to ISIS and then killed 49 innocent people and wounded 53 others in an attack in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Orlando had in the past been associated with Disney World. Now it will forever be tainted by this carnage.
I found it quite ironic that the day before our group journeyed to Hebron, an Israeli man in a store asked me where I came from. When I replied that I lived in Florida, he was aghast. “Florida, it’s such a dangerous place,” he said. “They shoot you up in nightclubs and then the alligators snatch you!” He shook his head. He could not imagine why I allowed myself to live in such a menacing environment.
Don’t worry. Be happy. Go to Israel. Send your children. It is, indeed, home.Shelley Benveniste