“So what brings you to Israel?”
I was compelled to start this conversation because he had opened the dialogue with me first. “So, do you live in Israel?” he asked. Sitting on the plane next to a middle aged couple, American, baseball cap and all, starting a conversation that I’m sure has taken place thousands of times on an airplane.
Well, they start, we joined our temple group to come visit Israel for the first time.
Hmmm. First time, ey?
So what were your impressions?
After discussing how the food was excellent and how the soil was rich with history, we began to discuss their itinerary. As expected, there was Safad, Masada, Ein Gedi, the Galil and the Western Wall. The norm; as one would imagine. Then he totally threw me off with, “We also went to the border line of the Gaza strip.” Well there, kind sir, how did you get permission to get that close up to one of the most controversial territories in the world? Him and his wife explained their tour guide was a connected, well rounded fellow, who was able to grant them access beyond the normal borderline that prevents Israelis, and of course tourists, to pass. So he saw a sight I have never seen. Although, I was thinking, last time I was there, it was still called Gush Katif.
The man started to tell me how watching trucks of food and supplies, being sent by the Israeli government into the Gaza strip, profoundly shook him. As I would imagine, he began to tell me how unbelievable it was to experience, that the truth he understood, as given over to him by CNN, NY Times, BBC and media in general, was actually inaccurate. He couldn’t get over that in reality, as he was witnessing with his own two eyes, Gaza is given what they need by the Israeli government. Their electricity, their water…is all supplies are provided by Israel. The tour guide explained to their group that what they hear in America, what the world’s message is on TV, newspapers and the radio (for those who still listen to it in their cars) was false. unadulterated twisted reality without a hint of authentic reporting.
Mr. Sir Man here sitting next to me on the plane began to explain what it’s like to hear this for the first time in your life. He always had a distaste in his mouth for the Israelis and how poorly they treated the Palestinians. His heart always ached a tad for the poor distraught mistreated mal-functioning Palestinians. So when his temple offered this trip to Israel, it took a very open mind, a convincing wife, and a itch to see the Holy Land that got him packing.
Two weeks later, he’s on a plane on his way home to NJ, and he realizes his life is changed forever. He used all his five senses, to see, hear, touch, smell and taste the truth of Israel. They are born to hate. We are born to love. They are educated to kill. We are educated to save lives. They are taught to fight. We are taught to want peace. They are here for revenge. We are here to protect ourselves.
You and I, we know already it is untrue what the world reports. How the pictures are distorted. How the articles are written without objectivity. How the media displays “what will sell” and “what wants to be heard”…and not reality. But what if this was news? What if you never heard this before and you were experiencing truth for the first time? It’s like finding out you’re adopted, or your child that was just born is Down syndrome, or you find out for the first time your mother was Jewish or your entire childhood you were never told you had a sibling who was given away to a foster home. Some of us experience life changing news that demand of us alteration in our thinking and experience of life. The experience, for this man, visiting Israel was just this. Wow. Israel stands in the right and those Palestinians — they do not wish for peace treaties, collaboration or friendship. They want Jewish blood, and just like our nation’s long history, they are our current enemy.
This man sitting next to me changes me. Not because I didn’t know this truth. But because it reminded me that some people are hearing this for the first time and others, millions, Jewish and not, don’t know the truth and probably thousands will never know the truth. My own grandmother, a liberal religious Jew in NY, still fiercely believes in Obama. It’s a hard decision to make: Should I try to convince her otherwise? Should I explain that her political views are secondary and the fact that she has 2 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren living in Israel, should be her primary concern? The world is not on our side. And as hard as it is to do the uncool or unaccepted thing, and as uncomfortable as it might be to swim against the current, heroes have been setting this example for decades. The most famous men and women for heroic acts in our history are individuals who said, “I won’t do as everyone else is doing. It’s wrong. And even if I’m the only one, I will stand up for right”. Why would we not want to follow in their footsteps? Rosa Parks would have been a wonderful Israeli advocate.
As I arrive at JFK, I want to shake hands with everyone person I meet and say, “Good morning, ma’am. I’m from Israel. Can I have a moment of your time to explain how the world has been lying to you?”
But I’m one person against billion-dollar media corporations and I don’t stand a chance. So instead, I’ll carry the message and hopefully spread it wherever there is a vessel that is open to hearing the honest truth. And no that’s not redundant.
I wish my new friends a farewell and tell them that their mission is not to go back and tell everyone how their trip was so special and wonderful, but rather how disturbing it was to unravel, and dig up the truth of what is really going on. I encourage them to spread the message and be delegates of honest reporting. They seem to think it’s a good idea, but they refuse to use the words “disturbing,” cuz after all, who could describe one’s first trip the the Holy Land with such a derogatory word? Enlightening is more accurate they tell me. And me? I’m just fine with that choice of description.