I am sure that the tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17 had something to do with the suspension of flights to Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. The FAA of the United States, along with other European Airlines decided to suspend flights a few days ago. A Hamas missile had exploded relatively near the airport, and that fact combined with the horrific tragedy of Flight MH-17 brought about the temporary suspension.
Not everyone, however, heeded that advisory, and among them former Mayor of New York City, Mr. Michael Bloomberg. I have always admired the mayor. He donated an entire wing of the Johns Hopkins Medical complex, a children’s hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland. I know him to be a staunch supporter of Israel.
During an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN yesterday, the former mayor of New York City stood together with the current mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. Nir Barkat. Mr. Bloomberg stated that after 9/11 the city’s administration did not let journalists and “talking heads” scare people away. I understood Mr. Bloomberg’s visit to Israel and to Jerusalem as a wonderful gesture of solidarity and support.
Tourism is a substantial source of income for Israel. With that in mind, and while I understand that tourists will be reluctant to visit Israel while the current conflict is ongoing, there is much to be done. My four wonderful children live in Israel, as do my four beautiful grandchildren. My wife’s cousins live in Israel, as do many of my friends. I understand the reluctance of tourists to visit Israel, because I am very concerned for the safety of our families and friends there. It would be wrong and callous of me to say otherwise.
My wife and I were in Israel visiting our families during Operation Cast Lead, a few years ago. It was tense, and we were concerned. This time, during Operation Protective Edge, the range of Hamas missiles and rockets is unfortunately much greater.
And yet, there is a great deal that can be done without actually traveling to Israel at this time. One can shop for Israeli products that are prominently displayed in supermarkets. I shop at a chain in New Jersey that has at least three aisles of products from Israel.
The FAA has lifted its suspension of flights to Israel. European airlines are resuming flights to Ben Gurion Airport. To those, like Mr. Bloomberg, who come to Israel, I say “KOL HaKAVOD” I salute you. And, to those who will postpone their visit for now, call your friends there. Email them. Send them a note of encouragement. Remember your friends from that Birthright trip you took, and send them a quick SHALOM.
It is during times like these that we need, more than usual, to come together and give our support to our Israel, our TIKVAH, our hope, and our constant prayer for SHALOM, peace.