This summer, we’re going to Israel! I cannot express how wonderful a blessing this is after the difficult, heartbreaking summer we had last year.
Last summer, I wrote about grappling with the decision of whether to cancel my family vacation to Israel in the midst of the war. Not surprisingly, we were deluged with family members telling us not to go. We also heard from many others, including the rabbi of my daughters’ preschool, who told us that during war we were obligated to go more than ever. My wife and I were frozen, unsure what to do, concerned with our children’s safety and mental health, and worried about what their first memories of Israel might be. Ultimately, we canceled our vacation after the FAA suspended all American carriers, including the one we were to fly on, from flying to Israel.
This year, I almost gave up on this trip. After experiencing the pain of telling my daughters that we were not going to Israel last year, I was hesitant to promise them a trip only to face the possibility of taking it away again.
But, something called my spirit into action. Sure, the fact that my 94-year-old grandmother, who lives in Israel, is still with us continued to be a motivating factor. Two of my cousins also had babies, and another got engaged, and these are more wonderful reasons to go. And, a chance at redemption is always nice. Indeed, a beautiful thing about life is that it can give us second chances. A beautiful thing about humanity is our capacity for hope and our pursuit of happiness. Funny, these sentences could be a description of Israel itself.
Most of all, my love for Israel and its people, culture, language, and food drove the decision to take this trip. This love is something I am determined to pass on to my children.
And so, although it felt a bit like the film “Groundhog Day,” we started talking to our children once again about the notes we would write to leave in the Kotel (Western Wall). We read “Sammy Spider’s First Trip To Israel” and “Dinosaur Goes To Israel.” We started going over the Hebrew alphabet and a children’s Hebrew phrase book, in which my girls found their new favorite word: boobah, Hebrew for doll. I *wonder* what made them laugh hysterically at that one.
We told them about the people we would see and the food we would eat. We sent them to bed with dreams of beaches and stone walls, water parks and fortresses, deserts and mountains. And, we impressed upon them the Jewish people’s connection to this land, even incorporating our exodus from Egypt to which my 5-year-old daughter responded, “Yes, we were slaves once.”
Don’t worry, though, we still had our share of stress this summer mostly related to when we realized we had to renew our 5-year-old’s passport and my wife had to spend a day of hell at the Passport agency to obtain a rushed renewal passport. And, as I am finishing writing this, we are somewhere flying over Europe and my children are a challenge no matter how many iPads, DVDs, books, stickers, crayons, or yummy treats we throw at them.
So, what does this trip mean to my children right now? I’ll let my 2-year-old have the last word: As she stood up in her seat on this plane ride, she shouted, “We’re going to Israel! We don’t need to wear socks anymore!”