Safety First for the Trip, Support First for Israel.
As we prepare to leave Ir Hakodesh the Holy City of Jerusalem, for now, we turn our eyes to the desert for our trip but to the south in our hearts. We remain committed to our time in Israel. Here are some observations from the ground, and our changes to the itinerary:
Since our arrival, Hamas has continued to fire attack missiles from Gaza to the Israeli south and the Israeli coastline. Dozens of rockets each day are fired indiscriminately against the towns within their reach. No country can tolerate such a situation, and Israel knows Hamas well. In the last two days the Israeli cabinet has decided to pound Hamas in Gaza from the air, while mobilizing for a potential ground force if necessary. On the side, back door diplomacy through Egypt or others has produced nothing, so the military response is the only viable option.
One thing is clear: without the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Ben Gurion Airport and at least a half dozen southern towns and cities would have already been hit. Without the power of Israeli air power, scores of missiles now destroyed would have also been launched. It is only the military power of Israel, both offensive and defensive, which has prevented a greater tragedy in loss of life. U.S. support for this ability must never waver, as it can be called upon at any moment.
As for us, our family and friends should know that we are taking the situation seriously. If it were only me, I would be going to Beersheva, and Sederot, and the other places on our itinerary, but it is not only me. The synagogue trip will adjust, and keep us out of the line of fire. We continue to the serene environs of Qumran, Masada, and a Dead Sea resort today. Tomorrow morning we will hike in Ein Gedi and swim under a desert oasis waterfall. By Friday afternoon we will meet our friends in Arad at our sister congregation Shira Hadasha, and spend a joyful shabbat there, far from the reach of Hamas.
On Sunday, we will enjoy a jeep tour of the desert, and then move directly on to Tel Aviv. Our friends at the JNF, who do so much for the safety education and development of Israel, have made Ne'ot Kedumim available to us on short notice. This Biblical nature reserve will be the venue for symbolic tree planting, and biblical study under the trees of the JNF.
On Monday we will go up the coastline to Caesaria, and make our way back visiting Atlit, a detention center museum, Zikhron Ya'akov - one of the first Zionist settlements - and the Carmel Fire Fighters memorial.
By Tuesday, we will be back on our itinerary, seeing sights in Tel-Aviv and enjoying a final free evening on the boardwalk.
Stay tuned for more updates as we adjust, and remain committed to our experience in Israel "lamrot hamatzav" despite the situation.
More to come!
Rabbi Robert Tobin