I visited Israel with a touring camp from June 29 – July 28, 2014. I heard about the three Israeli boys and was afraid that I might be kidnapped. When the plane landed, I felt that everything would be fine. I’ve always wondered why my Israeli relatives said that they felt safe living in Israel no matter what’s happening. If I hadn’t visited Israel, I’d still question anyone’s sanity who dares to live next to an organization whose sole purpose is to wipe out Israel and kill all Jews. I am thankful to G-D, my family and the Kraft Passport Program by providing me with the experience of a lifetime.

First stop – Jerusalem. While standing at the Kotel (Western Wall), I felt the land’s holiness observing so many people praying to G-D. Later that day, the three boys were found – murdered. Why did they have to die when the whole world was praying for them? Had our prayers to G-D been ignored? When I left Israel, I understood why the boys died. Had they not died, the Jewish teenagers wouldn’t have killed the Arab boy. Had they not killed the Arab boy, there wouldn’t have been as many missiles from Hamas. If Hamas didn’t launch as many missiles, the Israeli troops wouldn’t have gone into Gaza. Finally if they didn’t go into Gaza, the IDF wouldn’t have found the tunnels and the surprise attack planned this Rosh Hashanah designed to kill thousands of Jews. In my opinion, these three boys saved thousands of lives.

Next stop – Golan Heights. Some believe that there would be peace with the Palestinians if Israel returned the Golan Heights to Syria; however we learned about the Golan Height’s strategic importance. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) provides 70% of Israel’s water supply. While rafting in the Kinneret, I noticed the low water level. It had barely rained in Israel this past year.

After we left the Golan, Hamas launched missiles everywhere. We were told that there were rocket sirens just where we had visited.

Next – Jerusalem again. We heard that Jewish teenage boys had killed an Arab boy. Jerusalem’s streets were deserted because everyone was afraid to go outside due to the Arab rioting. Some people in my camp wanted to go home, but I felt that we would stay safe.

Next day – Eilat. We were told that there were sirens and rocket attacks in Jerusalem. I thought that G-D must be looking out for us because that’s twice we avoided sirens.

I loved swimming in the Red Sea’s clear, blue water and playing different water sports. On Shabbat, we stayed at a hotel that was packed with other families who left their homes because of the missiles and riots. I thought about the Eastern European pogroms and couldn’t imagine leaving my home because people who hate Jews were bombarding it.

Afterwards, our camp leader said “we aren’t running away from sirens. We’re returning to Jerusalem and you’re going to be a man. They’re sending rockets to scare everyone. They want us to stop our lives and live in fear. We refuse to do that. We will not be stupid, but we are continuing the tour as planned. If you hear a siren, you will go to a shelter.”

Back to Jerusalem. We were told that there were sirens and rocket attacks in Eilat. Really? We were just there. For the third time, we avoided hearing sirens. Once is luck, twice is coincidence, but three times? That’s a miracle.

The people in Jerusalem returned to their daily lives. While walking to the Kotel, we learned what to do if we heard sirens. I thought about a video that I watched showing American kids in the 1950s learning to “duck and cover” if an atomic bomb was coming. I never thought that I would learn the same thing. Yet, I had so much fun in Jerusalem – it’s like Boston. You have the Old and the New. If I lived in Israel, I would live in Jerusalem.

We then learned that the Israeli soldiers might go into Gaza. We canceled an activity and helped package food for the soldiers. That was a good and fun experience, knowing that I was making one small difference in a soldier’s life. When the soldiers went into Gaza, the entire Israeli population bonded together and did whatever they could to help the war effort. I’ve never seen anything like this. Thousands of kids, including myself, wrote letters to soldiers and prepared care packages.

At Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum), we watched a video from the 1920’s showing Jewish children and adults dancing, laughing, playing and encouraging viewers in German to “come”. I felt sad seeing how good their life was and knowing that in only a few years it would all be taken from them.

I experienced my first siren at the Latrun Tank Museum. I barely even heard it. The ten minutes that I spent in the shelter was not scary. I was with my friends playing games and having a good time. The American News media shows Israel blowing up in flames when it’s really not.

That night, some young Israeli soldiers and 150 Palestinians were killed. I imagined how the families of these soldiers felt and imagined my own brother, so young and innocent, on that battlefield. I prayed that the fighting would stop.

I felt sad leaving Israel. I had so much fun going places, trying new foods and meeting different people. If I believed the American media, I would’ve thought that Israeli life had come to a standstill. Life went on normally for me and the rest of Israel, because different than the American attitude, the Israeli attitude is to go with the flow and live happily. That is exactly what I did. If given the opportunity, I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Israel.

(c) Copyright 2014