In two weeks, I am scheduled to visit Israel with my family, including my two young daughters. We have been talking about this trip with them for weeks, excitedly planning each detail. My 4-year-old has learned a great deal about Israel in her preschool this year. She knows about the shuk (market) and the beaches. She knows the signs we will see with Hebrew letters and the food we might taste. She knows the Passover story and about how the Jewish people fled slavery in Egypt and came to Israel. But most important, she has told us about the notes to God she plans to put into the Kotel (Western Wall).
While I have a strong desire to show my children Israeli culture and Jewish holy sites, a major impetus for this trip was also to visit my 93-year-old grandmother, who recently lost her younger brother. I also want to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my wife’s cousins along with all their young children–all people who I love and miss.
Of course, as I write this, rockets are raining down on Israel, traveling ever deeper into its heart. Tens of thousands of reservists are being called up and more than a million Israelis are in bomb shelters. Air raid sirens can be heard in major cities like Tel Aviv, and Twitter and YouTube allow us all to see this in real time.
In the past two days, many people have asked us what we intend to do. “You must monitor the situation closely,” I’ve been told. “You have to really think about traveling there with children now,” someone said. “Do you have travel insurance?” asked someone else.
I wish I could tell them, and you, that I am taking this trip no matter what. I wish I could tell you that I will not be deterred by terrorists attacking civilians. I wish I could tell you that I will see my grandmother this summer and that she will get to see her great-granddaughters. The truth is, I don’t know what will happen.
On one hand, how can I tell my family who is living this reality every day that I will not be visiting? How can I tell cousins with young children that their country is too dangerous for my children and not theirs? Isn’t the best way to support Israel to travel there, to spend my tourist dollars there, and to be physically present even with Israelis under fire?
On the other hand, I wonder will I need a gas mask to see my grandmother? Will we land in Israel and be rushed into bomb shelters? Will the airport be open to commercial flights? And will travel insurance even find that terrorism against Israel is unforeseen since it faces these risks constantly?
Now I am watching the events unfold with the rest of the world and I don’t know what will happen. I pray for the safety of my family and for all Israelis. I wish a swift victory for the Israeli Defense Forces. I long to embrace my grandmother and to see her smile at my daughters. And I sincerely hope my daughter has a chance to place a note in the Kotel, that God receives it, and then delivers peace.