My Words To “The Teen Who Was Supposed To Leave For Israel On Sunday”

Teen-Summer

PLEASE SEE FOLLOW-UP TO THIS POST ADDED TO MY BLOG ON 7/15

These were the words I shared at Kabbalat Shabbat Services on Friday July 11, 2014

Yesterday, I had to do something that I never thought I would have to do. I had to tell one of our families NOT to send their teen to Israel for a special summer program. It felt awful. It felt like I was betraying Israel – especially at this precarious time. How could I not support sending one of our teens to Israel – to stand with the Jewish people, not backing down to terrorism? Am I not giving in to Hamas and helping this terrorist organization, in a small way, accomplish exactly what it wants – to rid the land of Israel of Jews!? Undermine tourism!? Scare people away from the Jewish State!?

Tonight, I owe it to this teen to explain WHY his rabbi, who is a strong Zionist, who believes in the right of Israel to do everything in her power to stand up for herself, who, if he was younger and did not have a wife and children and a congregation, would enlist in the Israel Defense Forces – why did he tell his parents he can’t go to Israel!?

And so tonight, I want to share my thoughts with you – because maybe it will help me deal with the terrible feelings of guilt I have for the part I played in this teen not getting on an El Al flight this Sunday and experiencing the power of Israel.

Many of you know that until this recent escalation of violence, I have always felt that Israel is a safe place. My wife, Cheryl, and I have had no problem bringing our kids to Israel and traveling all over the country. And once the missiles stop falling – we would bring them back in a heartbeat. There are places I would not visit in Israel – specifically in the West Bank – but overall, until yesterday, I would talk everyone into traveling to Israel. And everyone I talked into going would always come back and say something like: “You were right Rabbi. I actually felt safer in Israel than I do here.”

There is a part of me that is tempted to take the El Al ticket that was issued to the teen who is not traveling to Israel and use it myself. Part of me wants to fly to Israel for a very short visit – just to show my support for the Jewish State. Some rabbis and other Jewish leaders are doing this. And while I would love to do it because I, in my heart and soul, stand with Israel – I also question if such a trip accomplishes anything real. The fact is, if I were to go to Israel with an organized rabbinic group – I’d be kept as safe as possible. I’d stay for a short time. Most likely spend some time in a bomb shelter. Take a few photos that would be shared with the media to show “I stand with Israel” and “I am not afraid”. But, eventually, once the photos were taken and the appropriate meetings took place, I would get back on a plane and return home to my very peaceful life here in South Florida.   And I would be welcomed home by Cheryl, who would have been on pins and needles while I was gone, and my kids who are old enough to know that I was literally traveling to a war zone. They would be afraid. And honestly, if I were to go, I would be afraid too.

The truth is, the situation in Israel right now is very serious. We have seen that Hamas militants have gotten their hands on Iranian and Syrian made missiles that can reach deep into Israel – threatening the major metropolitan areas of the Jewish State, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva – and now even Haifa (perhaps coming from Lebanon). Missiles have been directed at the city of Dimona where Israel’s nuclear reactor is located. Thankfully, the Iron Dome has intercepted many of the missiles before they were able to wreak havoc and kill Israelis. But, the Iron Dome is not invincible – missiles have hit, damage has been done, people have been injured and at least one person has died as a result of trauma related to the missile attacks.

Certainly, missile attacks in Israel are nothing new. However, we have seen over the past week that Hamas is using more advanced missiles now that can reach much farther into Israel – placing most of the heart and soul of Israel in imminent danger. When the missiles used to fall, trips could alter itineraries and stay away from certain parts of the country. Right now, missiles are falling over Northern, Central and Southern Israel – including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There are very few safe places.

To the teen who was supposed to leave on Sunday, while your tour organizers might have said that they could change your itinerary to avoid missiles – you just have to look at this map and realize that, unless you wanted to spend three weeks in Eilat – a very hot , southern beach town lodged between Egypt and Jordan, which is, for the time being “missile free” – there is really no other place that is missile free at this time. In addition, given that Israel tours involve a lot of time on buses, it is important to remember that when the Red Alert sounds and you are outside or on the roads – depending upon where you are exactly – you have at most 90 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. The roof of a bus won’t protect you.   And we don’t know when and where Hamas will fire their missiles.

To the teen who was supposed to travel to Israel on Sunday – I love Israel with all my heart and soul. But I am not willing to put you in the crosshairs of Hamas. Too many of our children – Israeli children – are in these crosshairs as we speak. Six million Israelis (a chilling number) – 75% of Israel’s population – are under the threat of rocket attacks. Too many children have had to run into bomb shelters this past week. I don’t want you to have to run to a bomb shelter. I don’t want you stuck in the middle of the highway as you watch the Iron Dome intercept a missile over your head. And I don’t even want to mention other scenarios.

Yes, for a teenager, the events going on in Israel might sound exciting – something out of the movies. But it is real. And, unfortunately, I know all too well the toll terrorism can take.

My first experience with terrorism was when I was 15 years old. On October 7, 1985, my close friend’s uncle, Leon Klinghoffer z”l, was murdered on the Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists.

My second experience with terrorism was when I was 18. On December 21, 1988, Pan Am 103 was blown up by Islamic extremists – killing one of my classmates at Vassar College.

My next experience with terrorism was when I was 25. On February 25, 1996, less than a year after I visited Israel as part of my graduate studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, a fellow student and dear friend of Cheryl’s, Matt Eisenfeld z”l and his fiancé Sara Duker z”l, were killed when Hamas – the same group that is firing rockets into Israel right now – blew up the bus they were traveling on in Jerusalem.

In 2001, as many of you know, I came face to face with terror as I saw American Airlines Flight 11 fly right by my window before it hit the World Trade Center. The Vice-President of the synagogue that I was working at was a VP for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. While most of his colleagues were killed, he was late for work and was caught in the elevator when the plane hit. He was severely burned and spent months in the hospital and rehab – but did survive. We lost too many others that day.

On April 17, 2006, one of our own Broward County, Jewish teens – a student at our local day school – a friend of many students here at Ramat Shalom – Daniel Wultz z”l – was killed in Israel when a member of the Islamic Jihad blew himself up on the street.

I know too well that terrorism is real. It is not something in the movies. It maims and destroys and kills. To the teen who was supposed to leave for Israel on Sunday, this war that is being fought in Israel right now can’t be avoided by even the best tour guides. Guides have been able to avoid previous wars – but not this one. The missiles are falling everywhere – and your itinerary can’t be changed to keep you safe. Not this time.

There will be a time – I do believe – a time very soon, if Israel does what she needs to do, going all the way to strip Hamas of her missiles and power to terrorize Israel, when you can and will get on that plane and travel safely through Israel. But, right now, Israel has a very important, very serious, very dangerous job to do. A job that is not pretty. A job that is not “exciting”. A job that involves defending Israel from those who are determined to destroy the Jewish State. A job that involves waging war with Hamas and her supporters. Sadly, there will be lives lost as this war goes on. Many Palestinians who are being used by Hamas as human shields have already been killed. And until Hamas is defeated, sadly, more will be killed. And Israelis – particularly Israeli soldiers – will also lose their lives. This is the reality on the ground. This reality is part of Israel. It is a tragic but necessary part of the Jewish State’s survival. To the teen who was supposed to leave for Israel on Sunday – you need to understand what we as a people will do in order to survive – what we have to do to survive – BUT, there is no need for you, at this point in your life, to witness this first hand, or G-d forbid, be a part of the violence.

So, teen who was supposed to leave for Israel on Sunday, yes, I want to keep you safe right now because, well, you are still a kid and we adults still have some control over your life. But, I am not just worried about your safety. Six million Israelis have had missiles launched at them. Six million. While we think it is great to be present in Israel during this trying time, the fact is, we are just more people who need space in a bomb shelter. We are more people that the IDF need to look out for and worry about. We are more people who will get on buses that clog important roadways and might need to be flown out of the country if the situation gets worse.

Yes, Israel needs us now more than ever. But, Israel needs us here, speaking up, spreading the truth, standing up to the lies, the distortions, the bias. Israel does not need us in the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv right now. She does not need us trying to get selfies with real missiles being blown up by the Iron Dome over our heads. She needs space to do the work needed to insure the survival of the Jewish people and the Jewish State so that you CAN come to the land and travel freely.

So, teenagers who is not going to Israel on Sunday, you are not going because:

  • We need you to be a part of the future of Israel. Too many Jews have been hurt and killed by Hamas and      supporters of this terrorist organization. Your job is to stay here, keep up to date on what is going on, speak up for Israel and plan your future trip to the Jewish State.
  • Going to Israel right now does not make you a better Zionist, does not make you tougher, stronger. If anything, it gives the IDF room to do their job. Now is not the time to go and see the sites of Israel.

As Ecclesiastes teaches us – there is a time for every matter under heaven.

 

         A time to break and a time to build

         A time to weep and a time to laugh

         A time of wailing and a time for dancing

         A time for war and a time for peace

 

Now, sadly, is the time for war. Peace is, I believe, around the corner – a time of building and laughing and dancing – and a time when we can see you off to Israel for an experience of a lifetime. And, if your parents let me, I will join you on the trip to airport to see you off. I promise.

28 thoughts on “My Words To “The Teen Who Was Supposed To Leave For Israel On Sunday”

  1. Well said. While we at Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism have not had to send any of the many groups already here in Israel back to the United States or Europe, we also do not have any three week programs beginning at this time.
    We are not, thank God, “literally in a war zone” and we Israelis are not, thanks to our strong defenses and God above, in “immanent danger”. Israel has unfortunately been there before too and, trust me, what’s happening now is nothing like that. At the current casualty rate, one’s chances of being killed by a Hamas missile are much less than one’s chances of being run over by a bus in any big city. That being said, Rabbi Jacobs’ arguments are cogent, and a future trip, when the Israel Defense Forces have completed the work that needs to be done, will undoubtedly make for a more meaningful experience than one undertaken a this time.
    One final practical point – It is still and always possible to plan Israel travel prudently as long as that planning includes appropriate travel insurance. Those who have planned properly in this respect have received full refunds and will likely be able to book their alternative travel dates in a very short time. Until then, Rabbi Jacobs is correct. Now is the time for strong Israel advocacy as we all – Jews of Israel and Jews of the rest of the world – stand together in these trying times.

    • I have been lucky enough to know Yossi and the folks at Keshet for many years. They take our safety very seriously. Certainly, I agree with Yossi, Israel has seen MUCH worse and the IDF and Iron Dome are thankfully keeping most Israelis quite safe. I also know that once this operation is over, Israel will return to “normal”. I have never experienced a “Red Alert” in Israel, never seen a missile launched, never spent time in a bomb shelter. And I don’t expect I will do so when i return to Israel. Things will calm down.

      Yossi’s response highlights the differences between Israeli and America parents. Unfortunately, Israeli parents have had to get used to raising children in a world where missile attacks happen. For most American parents, we can’t get our heads around this. Missiles, drones, bomb shelters – all of these things are so foreign to us and our lives here in the US. Just the thought of our child having to be in a bomb shelter w/o us or even being within range of a Hamas missile fills us with incredible anxiety. For most American parents, the fact that those missiles are being launched, putting millions at risk, despite the effectiveness of Iron Dome, creates an extremely dangerous situation for our children. For most America parents, this type of environment is a “war zone” even though, technically, a war is not being waged. This situation is a reminder to American Jewish parents just how important it is to offer our support to Israeli parents at this time. Every child deserves the peace and security our children have here in the US – we must do our part to bring this peace and security to Israel.

      Yossi also brings up a great point that when you plan your next Israel trip – it is important to get trip insurance. The chances of you needing it are slim to none – but having it is important.

  2. I am truly amazed at the number of people who have read my last post regarding sending a teen to Israel. I appreciate all of the messages and phone calls I have received thanking me for my words. I also appreciate the messages I have received from those who disagree but have shared their thoughts so respectfully. In addition, I am grateful for the many people who have shared ways that we can help Israel at this difficult time. Local Federations have put together emergency funds as have organizations like Friends of the IDF and The Jewish National Fund. It is so important that we reach out and do something to help Israel right now.

    For many American Jews, sending their children to Israel during this military operation is an extremely challenging issue. The reason I chose to share my thoughts openly on my blog is because I feel strongly that our dedication and commitment to Israel is not determined by whether we send our child to Israel during this tense time or wait for things to settle down a bit. There should be no shame or guilt with making a decision to protect a child.

    A few people have shared with me pieces of Torah and halakhah that obligate us to travel to Israel no matter what. In response, I share these lines from the Shulhan Aruch:

    Wherever there is a potentially life-endangering pitfall or obstacle, it is a positive commandment to remove it, to be on guard against it and to take very good care in the matter, as the Torah says: “Guard yourself and guard your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10). And if one leaves dangerous pitfalls and obstacles and fails to remove them, he has not fulfilled the positive commandment, while also transgressing the negative commandment of “Do not put blood upon your house” (Deuteronomy 22:8). The Sages prohibited many things that can endanger life. Anyone who violates these and similar prohibitions, saying “What business is it of others if I choose to put myself in danger” or “I am not bothered about such things” is liable to get punished for rebellion against the Sages, while those who are careful will be blessed with good.
    (Shulhan Aruch, Hoshen Mishpat427: 8-10).

    In response to this, Rabbi Moshe Rivkes, in his commentary Be’er Hagolah , explains:

    In my humble opinion the reason why the Torah commands us to guard our lives is because the Holy One, blessed is He, created the world in His kindness to bestow good upon His creations, so that they might recognize His greatness and do His service, fulfilling His mitzvos and Torah, as Scripture states, ‘All that is called in My name, I created for My honor’ (Yishaya 43:7), and to give them reward for their effort. When someone puts himself in danger, it is as if he is rejecting the will of his Creator, as if he desires neither His service nor His reward, and there is no greater dishonor and impudence than this.

    Many of our Sages would certainly agree that parents have a responsibility to do everything in their power to protect their children. Different parents will make different decisions. And we must respect each other. If parents choose not to send their children to Israel right now – it does not make them bad Zionists. On the contrary, these parents and their children can help Israel remove the danger there by supporting the Jewish State financially and by speaking about Israel to those in the US – where the bias and propaganda is terrible. And these parents can and will send their children to Israel in the near future.

    A few have argued that some Jews still send our children to New York City or Chicago or other places that are “dangerous” – why should we not send them to Israel? I am the first to get upset at people who say, when the status quo prevails in Israel, “Israel is not safe so, instead, we are going to Turkey/Spain/New York/London…..” Israel is safe and secure most of the time. However, right now, most of the country is at risk. One can’t deny this. The Prime Minister has openly stated this. And to condemn parents who don’t want to send their children there now is a terrible thing to do. It only alienates these parents them from Israel and divides the Jewish people. We can’t afford this.

    This is not the time to attack each other over how we express our Zionism and Judaism. For those who want to do that, who want to call each other names, who want to insist that there is only one way to be a Jew, who demand that their way of being Jewish and their way of being a Zionist is the only way – you overlook our rich, diverse history. Most importantly, you build walls and borders that divide us. Jewish history teaches us that we are strong when we are unified. Whether we send our children to Israel right now or not. we can ALL STAND STRONGLY WITH ISRAEL.

  3. very powerful and sincere as a parent i will adhere to your thoughts and not let my child(48) years old= trip for mothers of birthright children there will be a time, hopefully not in the distant future when will go in peace

    • Thank you for sharing this. Some of us will offer support by being there and, yes, we all pray for their safety. Some of us will offer support by donating to organizations that help Israel and we thank them. Some of us will offer support by being a voice for Israel in the Diaspora – there is a huge need for this – and we thank these people for raising their voices.

  4. A friend forwarded me your blog entry. My daughter is currently in Israel and arrived with a Bnai Akiva program last week. As she arrived in Ben Gurion airport air raid sirens went off and they had to remain in the airport until they received the all clear. That night they proceeded to Jerusalem and had dinner in the old city. During dinner there was an other air raid warning. Both warnings lasted minutes, but the Iron Dome did the trick and no one was in any danger. Since then, the group has been up north: Tiberias, the Kinneret, the Golan and there have not been any alarms as that part of the country, has till now, thank Gd been pretty tranquil. I should also add that I went to Syracuse University at a time when dozens of my classmates were murdered by terrorism on board a Pan Am aircraft that was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland and on 9/11 I watched the World Trade Center on flames as my office was one block away from Ground Zero. My office was in the midst of the war-zone for months and I could not go to work, or even get to my office to retrieve files for months, without an armed military escort. The cough I sustained from the ash and smoke lasted a year. I have seen the effects of terrorism first hand, and I do not take it lightly.

    That being said, in sending my first-born daughter to Israel, I cane to the diametrically opposite conclusion you did. This is precisely the right time that we should be steadfast in sending our children who had planned to go , to Eretz Yisrael. Not for the excitement, or the selfies, but because they should know….They, the Israelis should know that all of the Jewish nation are in this fight together. That this war is not simply one of convenience that the Jews with privilege in the American community can willingly sit out when things get tough. They, Hamas, should know that we will not be cowed by their futile attempts to terrorize our brothers and sisters, and yes, our sons and daughters. And they, are children should know that Israel is not simply a place of teen tours and ancient relics. It is a thriving community of people, and families just like them.

    Yes, the missiles are an inconvenience and they need to be stopped. But thankfully, thanks to iron dome, they are less dangerous than they have ever been. This is Reagan’s SDI in action. The teens who are there may not be getting the full happy, happy tour experience. But they might be getting something a little more meaningful. a taste of what life is like for actual Israelis today, which yes, include, some moments of fear, but also includes a spirit, that even so, life goes on, basically normally.

    • Thank you for sharing. I respect your decision. The reason I shared my thoughts, however, is because those who choose not to send their children, should not be seen as making the “wrong” choice. This is not about right or wrong.

    • Thank you, Stephen, for your most eloquent response. I agree with you 100%.
      My 16 year old granddaughter is in Israel on USY Pilgrimage after having been to Eastern Europe and visiting Auschwitz.
      She has texted us that this is the best experience of her life. She will be an advocate for Israel, with personal experience as to how Israelis live every day. Of course we are concerned for her safety, and for the safety of all teens on summer Israel programs.

      Interestingly, at services this past Shabbat, my congregational Rabbi congratulated our teens and other members of our congregation for not canceling their trips.

      My thoughts and prayers are with all who either live in Israel, or who choose to be in Israel during this difficult time.
      We will all be stronger because of what you do.

  5. In light of your blog entry I wanted to share with you the experience and the effect of a teen who travelled to Israel during the current situation. His group’s itinerary was adjusted, so that they avoided Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the South – these were replaced with hiking in the Galilee, swimming in the Sea of Galilee and a spiritual visit to Zfat. During his stay, he never even heard a siren and was never places in a dangerous situation.

    The participants returned to North America with a fond memories of their visit, a deep connection to Israel as their homeland and of the Jewish People – perhaps a unique connections, because of the events taking place in the background of his trip.

    “Places you go make for a nice memory, but the people you are within these places create unforgettable memories that last a life time. When I came to Israel alongside the Y2I group I promised myself to make multitudes of friends and beautiful memories; and that is exactly what I accomplished.
    Although this trip was not at all what I expected it to be, it was like a fairytale to me. Almost every person I met carried this optimism and open mindedness that I grew attracted to and learned to love deeply. However myself I was guilty of becoming pessimistic and negative towards the future of the trip due to complications that were unforeseen by all.

    Eventually I realized that no matter how terrible and unfair a situation is, it is up to the people within the dilemma to either sink to misery and despair, or stay afloat smiling happily. And for the most part, no matter what happened, no matter where we went, everyone made the most of it and every second count.

    Having lived and breathed Israel for a little over a week has me head over heels for this little yet unbelievably strong country. The cites, the citizens, and the company came together to paint a beautiful mural that I will hang forever in my heart until the day I die. I am not a religious man but I am a Jewish man and forever will be my own man no matter what anyone tells me. This small journey opened my eyes to the important of staying true to one’s Jewish roots and to keep those roots strong and sturdy.

    I am American, I am Russian, and I am Jewish, and Israel will always be a place to call my home. For that I will always love and thank this young state for allowing me to be a part of a community that lives and breathes love and happiness for all of its people.”

  6. I’m so sad to read your blog. We leave for Israel this week for my son’s Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel with my entire family and extended family. It never occurred to me that an American Jew would post something like this and so publicly urge fellow Jews not to send their teens there. Coming from Europe, I understand only too well the dangers of terrorism and the dangers of rising anti zionism/semitism and personally would be more worried about going to a shul in Paris this Shabbat than going to Eretz Israel. LIving 40 minutes from Newtown I realize only too well that there are dangers lurking everywhere, both known and unknown. I would never urge my European friends not to come to America due to the highest incidence of gun violence in the Western world. To play on these fears and encourage Jews to feel unsafe serves no purpose. You speak of there being no wrong choice here but your article clearly praises their choice as being right. At a time when Israel most needs it’s friends and allies to publicly advocate for it, I think this blog does nothing but make Jews in Israel feel abandoned. A bit like Europe must have felt during America’s isolationist years in the past. I guess not everyone can stand up and be counted in Israel’s time of need. And by hour of need I don’t mean the security situation which so far has proven to be 100% effective but it’s need not to be abandoned by fellow Jews in the diaspora. Thanks for your consideration.

    • Thank you for your post. I appreciate your support of Israel and I do NOT think there is a wrong choice when it comes to sending children to Israel right now. Yes, I support those who choose not to send their kids and I have supported those who have kids there now. To shame parents who decide not to send their children now does NOTHING to help Israel. Just look at some of the comments on this blog. It is disgraceful that we as a community have the audacity to question a person’s Zionism because they want to keep their child out of Israel at this point. While you are right, there is no place that is 100% safe, to imply that I am exaggerating the situation in Israel and playing upon people’s fears is totally inaccurate. Yes, thank Gd, the Iron Dome has been effective, but Israel is being attacked by terrorists. That is why Israel is now engaged in a ground operation in Gaza. To deny the severity of the situation belittles the awful conditions that millions of Israelis are facing and plays into the lies of those who say Israel is at war for no reason. In addition, I feel (and this is my opinion) very strongly that, unless people are going to Israel right now to help the IDF or help families in the line of fire, now is not the time to tour Israel. Donate your hotel rooms to families in Sderot who can’t sleep through the night! Donate the money you would have paid for tips and meals to the IDF – as the parents of my teen did!

      Again, I respect your passion, but please, do not accuse me of not standing up for Israel. There is a different type of battle going on the US and elsewhere that requires Zionists to stand up and fight for Israel. This fight involves spreading the truth and lobbying our governments to support Israel. The future development of the Iron Dome needs funding! The lies and distortions need to stop! The delegitimization campaign is dangerous and powerful. I am committed to stopping it. I am also committed to sending kids and families to Israel as soon as Israel does the hard work that is before her. And this, Gd willing, will be soon.

      I am deeply troubled that some would accuse any proIsrael parent or rabbi who decides to hold off sending children to Israel now of being someone who abandons Israel. This false accusation only serves to divide the Jewish people and now is not the time to do this.

      I am sure your travels in Israel will be meaningful.

  7. Rabbi,

    I don’t usually post comments on blogs, but my wife and I wanted to thank you for sharing your letter. It helped us a lot. We love Israel. We are very involved with AIPAC and other organizations that support Israel. We have been many times. But we chose not to send our son this summer. It was an awfully difficult choice to make and we were made to feel a lot of shame because of it. We were looked down on – as if we don’t support Israel. This is just crazy and insulting. I should not have to prove. my love of Israel by sending my child into a war zone. He is not a pawn or a symbol. He is my kid. And my job is to protect him. We will be going to Israel again in the near future and our son will be with us. We will continue to offer support to Israel. But, my experience with those who shamed me has left a bitter taste in my mouth. But, you made my wife and I feel better and we thank you.

  8. I understand your point. Some say if you love Israel you must come to us no matter what. But you remind us that at times like these there are other ways to help our country. Why send children into this frightening situation, especially without their parents? If the children can delay the trip, why not? It is far from pleasant here. Many frightening moments and it is unpredictable. If the child comes when it is quieter, he will want to come back. Will he if he comes now? Maybe, but let him enjoy Israel
    and not be afraid. But this is up to the parents. It is personal decision.

  9. Sorry!!! There are two comment theads going on. I am humbled by Andrea’s comment listed under the follow up post. Thank you Andrea! You can see Andrea’s comment under the follow up post

    Dear Rabbi Andrew,
    I am deeply humbled by your response to “the teen who was supposed to leave for Israel on Sunday”. Your comments drove me to tears. I know how much you love the country of Israel. For you to put your own politics aside and think of that family first is truly a righteous act. Israel the country has a horrible mission ahead of herself. Israel the people stands by our name. We wrestle with our decisions and do what we feel is best for those we love and want to protect. This couldn’t have been an easy decision for anyone to make. Thank you being a Rabbi at this moment.
    Andrea Perez

  10. Thank you to everyone who has shared thoughts here and in private messages to me. All comments posted on the blog are moderated. We are a bit behind on reviewing the comments. Please note that comments that are derogatory will not be posted on the blog. Thank you for your understanding.

  11. Rabbi I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for having the courage to say what no one else has said. Thank you for allowing me as a concerned mom to NOT have to feel guilty for taking my son OUT of harms way. I choose to bring my son home from Israel before I read your blog….. I took a fabulous trip with BBYO to Israel whe I was 16. When my son was born I knew I wanted him to go to israel when whe. He turned 16. I worked hard and struggled for years to save to send my son to Israel when he turned 16, that happened to be this summer. It was my DREAM to send him. Israel changed my life. I come from a family that includes A Rabbi and a brother that also went to Israel at 16 and went on to study at Jewish Theological seminary and become an archeologist. Israel changed all of us. BUT the summer I dreamed of for my son turned on a dime when violence increased across the nation this Summer. In all other circumstances, as a mom, when My kids are in harms way I am complimented for bringing them to safety. When making this decision, the one to bring him home from Israel, I found I was criticized and felt overwhelming guilt from the comments I received from so many. Well I fought through the guilt and made the choice that worked best for my family and brought him home. Then a few days later I read your blog and I no longer had to FIGHT through the guilt. You taught me I am not a bad mom, a bad Jew or less of a Zionist because I brought my son home. You taught me I can love and support Israel from here and gave me examples of how I could do that. I post this to thank you. I do not want to engage with others in a back and forth conversation or be attacked or criticized here. As Jews we must love one another and respect each other’s decisions. Rabbi thank you for letting me know mine was ok.

  12. I found your article after scouring the internet and reading two Israeli sites and three American sites that recount the recent July *emotions* of teens and their parents on re-structured Israel tours. Your posting stands alone in asking, “Why place oneself (or one’s children) in or near harm’s way?” My child’s tour had a phone conference before they took off, but now the updates are by email. We don’t know where our teens will be from day to day. Our teens don’t know where they will be for Shabbat, and it is three days away. (Of course, in life, no one knows the future, but it is helpful to have a plan!) We parents are not privy to how the decisions are made, nor who is deciding them, except a mantra of that is what the Situation Room recommends.

    Before sending your child, please consider asking who at the organization is making decisions and who that person is consulting with; ask about trip insurance; ask under what circumstances trips have been re-routed or cancelled in the past; ask what steps you need to take to bring your child home early if you–the parent–decide to do so. In addition–and I wish we had–you need to discuss this all with your teen because once s/he is in Israel with peers, anything you do to interrupt their trip is not the same as your having said, “No” before starting out.

    The difference I see between a teen travelling in the US and your saying, “This is not a safe way to spend your time” and your saying that in Israel is that in the US, your teen will honor your experience. In Israel, there are so many opposing voices, that we find our teen is telling us that we speak from ignorance and that our opinion is tainted by the media. Our teen is correct, but that does not mean that we are wrong.

    May we know peace speedily and in our day. Amen.

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