Photo Credit: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90
A protest march for the Israeli hostages at Central Park in New York City, January 14, 2024.

In the months following the October 7 terrorist massacre in Israel, the polarizing void once felt across ideological Jewish lines has slowly dissolved, as Americans hailing from various religious and political streams unite in support of Israel.

Last year, as the Jewish State was consumed with a societal schism revolving around protests against the government’s proposed judicial reforms, the American media tried to showcase the divisions in US Jewish attitudes towards Israel. For instance, a 2021 poll of Jewish voters conducted by The Jewish Electoral Institute found that 38 percent of younger respondents under 40 agreed with the falsehood that Israel is an apartheid state. Sadly, the study confirmed the trend of an emergent generation of Jews harboring disturbing positions on Israel.

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While the tragic events unfolding last fall may do little to sway this cadre of anti-Zionist Jews, the October 7 massacre did ignite an untapped appreciation felt for Israel by Jewish Americans, many of whom seemed to have little interest in it before. Those whose Jewish identity was reawakened on that horrific October day can harness that spirit and emphasize this moment by visiting Israel. Indeed, engaging with the land of Israel and its citizens will preserve a fresh reverence for peoplehood, while also helping strengthen the morale and economies of Israel and its citizens.

In November, approximately 300,000 people converged in Washington, D.C., in what was described as “both the largest ever pro-Israel gathering and the largest Jewish gathering in US history.” Apart from setting an attendance record, the March for Israel broke down religious barriers, with multiple encounters depicting observant Jews putting tefillin on young secular attendees, and with different groups coalescing around an inspiring moment and shared mission.

A Chabad survey of rabbis in America taken in the aftermath of the October 7 attacks reveals a significant increase in Jewish pride across communities, with 88.2 percent of respondents reporting that community members are feeling “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.” As Israelis grapple with security threats and the war’s looming impact on the country’s economy, Jewish Americans must seize on this devotional revival, whose sustenance relies on prioritizing travel to Israel.

According to The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), foreign tourism in Israel peaked in 2019, with direct tourism employment accounting for roughly 149,000 jobs, representing almost four percent of total employment in Israel. Prior to the outbreak of the Hamas war, Israel welcomed nearly three million tourists in 2023, with tourism revenue pouring a hefty $4.85 billion into the country’s economy. Interestingly, while tourism from the US was on track to surpass 2019 numbers, only a quarter of foreigners visiting Israel were Jewish, mirroring numbers recorded in previous years. Last year, Christian travelers comprised around half of all tourists and represented the largest denomination visiting the Jewish country.

While Israel’s reliance on its tech sector has shielded its financial industry from the catastrophic consequences that plague other economies during wartime, obligations surrounding reserve duty have contributed to a labor shortage, with some businesses forced to shut down temporarily when faced with an absence of workers. Israel’s Finance Ministry has stated that its budget deficit will likely reach six percent of its GDP, and that the war effort will cost at least another 50 billion NIS ($13.5 billion) in 2024.

Aside from the economic ramifications, October’s terror exposed a vulnerability that was exacerbated by the realities underscoring Israel’s enemies’ indiscriminate targeting of Jewish civilians. Among those murdered, tortured, raped, and taken hostage that day were activists committed to coexistence, with some survivors recounting stories of betrayal by Palestinians whom they once considered partners for peace. This depth of hatred demands a Jewish approach that upholds backing Israel regardless of which government holds power. Since October, several celebrities, including actors Jerry Seinfeld, Debra Messing, and Michael Rapaport, have displayed their solidarity by traveling to Israel, and visiting the sites impacted by the war.

But many of these celebrities also engaged in ordinary pursuits, highlighting Israel’s resilience. Soon after arriving in Israel, Jerry Seinfeld was pictured in Tel Aviv eating falafel, while Jewish influencer Montana Tucker led a flash mob on a picturesque beach boardwalk. The famous Israeli comedy show Eretz Nehederet also featured Rapaport, who participated in a parody about campus antisemitism. Their presence illustrates the value of sharing in food, dance, and laughter, even amidst the grief and trauma.

Over time, the enormity of the October 7 terrorist slaughter will dissipate, with some US Jews reverting to past tendencies and disassociating from the Jewish particularism that was rekindled this past fall. The statistics showing that only a quarter of all tourists in Israel are Jewish is a troubling indication that a lack of exposure to the land of Israel may be one justification behind a decade of Jewish disinterest in advocating on its behalf. Visiting Israel and engaging with its citizens is integral to nurturing the affection and enhancing relations between the two cultures.

While tourists inevitably assist in Israel’s economic recovery, absorbing the principles and learning the history tied to Jewish peoplehood is a far more valuable metric to measure one’s travel plans, with its benefits outlasting the short-term pleasures garnered by other foreign experiences.

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Irit Tratt is an independent writer residing in New York. Follow her on X @Irit_Tratt