We are canceling our trip to Israel. Even as I say this, I want to be there more than ever. My wife and I debated this decision endlessly and were waiting until the last moment to decide. We did not want to abandon Israel. We wanted to show support by being physically present. We wanted to show support with our tourist dollars. And we desperately wanted to be with our family there.
On the other hand, we did not want to subject our children to the emotional trauma of air raid sirens and running to bomb shelters. We did not want our children to have a negative experience in Israel. Nor did we want to unnecessarily take up space or resources.
It seems the choice has been made for us. As of this writing, the FAA has ordered all US carriers to suspend flights to Israel, the State Department has issued a travel warning suggesting the deferral of non-essential travel to Israel, and multiple airlines have either temporarily or indefinitely suspended their flights to Israel.
Over the past few days, my wife and I have been living in a state of paralysis, unsure of what to do with ourselves and unwilling to say out loud that we are not taking our trip. Even now, I cannot face my 4-year-old daughter for fear of deeply disappointing her. Instead of placing notes to God in the Kotel (Western Wall), she will have to write notes to God in our home.
I’ve noticed that in addition to feeling paralyzed, I have been kissing my daughters on their heads more, silently blessing them and showing thanks that they are safe. As I push my girls on the swings, bathe them, feed them, read to them, and yell at them, I am crying inside for the loss of the connection to Israel and our family there this trip would have given them. And, I pray that I can see my elderly grandmother there in the near future, and that she can see her great-granddaughters.
For now, I am tired, angry, and saddened. I am angry because I see Jew-hatred spreading around the world. I am tired of defending Israel’s right to self-defense or to even exist. And I am saddened for the Palestinian people who are held captive by Hamas. I am saddened by the loss of civilian life. I am saddened that generation after generation, Israel must resort to violence to survive.
I have been looking everywhere for wisdom and a way to make sense of the conflict in Gaza. I know the importance of moral clarity. I understand the obligation to protect life. I appreciate the great value of sympathy for human suffering. And, my daughter has reminded me of the immeasurable value of all life.
A few days ago, as I walked with her in Central Park, I accidentally stepped on a small flower which was peeking out of the grass. “Don’t do that, Daddy,” she told me. “Hashem (God) will be sad if you hurt a living thing.”
As people are dying in Israel and Gaza, God is surely crying. And now that our trip is cancelled, my family will be crying, too.