Tuesday, August 27, 2002

This lovely letter came on Naomi Ragen's mailing list just now:
“Cathy and I just returned from a 2-week vacation in Israel. It was great. Yes there was terrorism. Yes, many of our family and friends thought we should not go at this time. However, it had been 20 years since either of us had been. We talked about going this year a long time ago and we decided not to change our plan. We wanted a special vacation, to spend time with family and friends, to revisit the country from the perspective of adult parents, and to enjoy the Mediterranean.

Although "The Situation", as viewed in the media, was scary- we realized that the chances of us being in the wrong place during an attack were extremely remote. (WE did stay off buses and stayed away from some areas.) We could be the victims of a random tragedy anywhere on this earth. We could not let the hatred of Jews and the State of Israel influence our decision to go anymore than choosing to go to our synagogue or JCC. Given our history how can any Jew be afraid to go to Israel?

The whole trip was awesome. I'm glad we insisted on flying El Al. That way we were in Israel as soon as we boarded the plane. We loved staying with and being with family and friends. We enjoyed revisiting many of the tourist attractions and historical sites. It was special just being in Jerusalem, around the Sea of Galilee, and in biblical mountain ranges. The bond that we had with the land years ago was still there. It felt so good driving through the kibbutz farmlands of the Hula valley and swimming in the Sea of Galilee. We were proud to stand in flourishing settlements created by Jewish immigrants of the 1st and 2nd aliot. We marveled at advanced Israeli technology with the launch of an Ofek satellite. It was amazing to see the development of infrastructure and business despite the constant need to invest in a strong defense. We loved being with and talking with Israelis.

We never felt in danger despite two terrorist attacks while we were there.
Security was extraordinary. Guards were stationed at all the banks, in front of grocery stores, post offices, and restaurants. Cars were searched before entering parking lots to the malls. Soldiers were patrolling the Old City of Jerusalem. All of this simply made us feel safe, even good that we were being watched over by Jewish security. It did sadden us that these measures were necessary, but we never felt threatened by it.

Israelis are sad, frustrated and somewhat depressed. They are not sure that everything is going to be ok. The world is boycotting them; people and business are staying away. Only President Bush (Thank G-d) and the Americans are with them. They understand that their control of the Palestinian population is demeaning but they feel there is no alternative. They do not see anyone on the other side who is willing, capable or has the power to implement an enforceable peace. The other side is not preparing for a harmonious relationship. There is no Palestinian who is willing to stand up and take any responsibility for their people's predicament. No infrastructure has been built or planned to improve the lives of the Palestinian. They are not transforming their refugee camps into modern cities. They are not building education facilities or curriculum designed to promote peaceful coexistence with Israelis as neighbors. They are not creating jobs by supporting business growth. Instead, they promote hatred and war. Their resources are used to buy weapons and teach suicide
Bombers how to build bombs. Leaders have become rich while the people suffer.
Israelis will have to live with the consequences for a long time.

Our trip was everything anyone would want to get out of a vacation. We did not start out on a mission of solidarity. We just wanted to go to Israel. Many American Jews thought we were nuts, Israelis thought we were special and told us so. They were delighted to see us. People would approach us to see if we were tourists (the lack of tourists was so obvious by deserted tourist sites and near empty restaurants and shops), asked if we were afraid to be here - obviously not- and then thanked us for coming. Sometimes they chatted with us, other times they just wanted to say we are glad you are here. In nearly every restaurant we were treated like royalty. Management gave us free drinks and desserts. One manager insisted we take several desserts home with us. Can you imagine how we felt? We were in Israel for our benefit but everywhere we visited we made others feel good that we were there. We thought we were going to have a nice vacation and we did. We never imagined that our mere presence would make some Israelis feel better simply because we came. That is the memory that we will cherish from this trip. We will return soon.

To our friends and family. Thank you for your concern and prayers while we were there. We appreciate your heightened awareness during our two weeks in Israel.

Lanny and Cathy Plotkin