I wasn't originally planning on going to Israel with the kids this year. The NFO was taking them for our nephew's Bar Mitzvah, but a few factors-most notably that I didn't want to miss being there with them—led me to make a last minute decision to attend.
I'm glad I did.
This was my 10th or 11th visit to Israel and every time I go, I learn something new about the country.
While taking the kids to places like the Western Wall, Yad v'Shem (the Holocaust Memorial Museum), Mt. Herzl (the military cemetery), the Mahane Yehuda market, or just walking down Ben Yehuda (the main drag in Jerusalem) is always exciting and meaningful, the point of these trips is to instill a sense of connectiveness-to build the connective tissue, if you will, between my kids and the Land of Israel.
Our goal is to have them understand that this place is not just another place. It's a special place for them and a part of their identity. As parents, you always wonder if you are making the impact you hope to make.
We do our best and I suppose time will tell.
But what strikes me in Israel in 2015 is much of what strikes me every time. The "bizarro world" that is sometimes the country and the Middle East.
This week is an election which could have huge ramifications for the future of the country and the region.
- How big is the Iranian threat?
- Will a united Arab list and a potentially larger than average Arab turnout be a determining factor in the election? (I find this particularly ironic given the charges of "apartheid state" that are leveled at the country.
- The never-ending discussion about how to be both a Jewish country and a democracy.
- How to maintain the ongoing economic miracle/"start-up" nation/technology hub that has resulted in a country where GDP per capita is going to soon exceed that of France. Yes, France.
- And a whole lot more.
It's not a perfect country. Never will be, but it's a country based on an ideal and a belief…that the Jews have a right to their own country and that, when all is said and done, Jews need a country where the primary raison d'etre is the defense of people's right to live as Jews.
I hope my kids walked away with that.
And I just wish all of the haters could take a step back and walk through the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or wherever and see how the country functions. How people are just trying to live their lives and do better for their families.
They would be blown away to see that…and they'd be really blown away to see Arabs walking amongst the Jews in these same places with no fear at all, no reason to be afraid, accepted for who they are.
Then they might ask themselves, "would a Jew be able to walk around as a Jew in many Arab countries with no fear whatsoever?" They can't do it in Sweden or Paris, after all…which proves the very point.
Israel, despite being nearly 68 years old is not guaranteed. It's a daily struggle and every moment is infused with a sense of urgency, a sense of life-or-death consequences that few others places or people in the world have. There's an unspoken tension that just exists. There are shelters, there were (and will be, unfortunately) air raid sirens. There are soldiers carrying guns, security checkpoints at malls, metal detectors, and profiling.
Those aren't disappearing anytime soon, I'm sad to say. Maybe never.
There's the irony that being outnumbered nearly 150 to 1 is the root cause of the country's competitive advantage.
But it's all this, the living in a pressure cooker that creates not just innovation, but also a heighted joie de vivre that can't be understood by an outsider. Nor can it be understood fully by someone who is unfamiliar with Jewish history.
Hopefully these trips will help our kids see this and understand their place in it.