Chaim Ingram

Reflections on our recent trip to Israel

In the tefilat ha-derekh prayer which we say when embarking upon an out-of-town trip, large or small, the following phrase always stands out for me: Ve-tancheinu el mekhoz cheftseinu lechaim ulesimkha uleshalom. “May we arrive at our destination in full vigour, in joy and in peace!”  When we travel, we must always endeavour to go le-simkha, amidst joy!

We were preparing to say this tefila while our Emirates plane bound for Dubai en route to Israel where we were to spend Pesach with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, rolled slowly along the Sydney runway.  Suddenly our iPhones buzzed with the dramatic news that an Iranian mass missile attack on Israel had just begun; and that planes bound for Tel Aviv were being turned back.

Our hearts were in our mouths. Minutes later, following take-off and with our phones now switched off, we uttered probably the most heartfelt and passionate tefilat ha-derekh we had ever said.So began fourteen hours of agonising uncertainty.

Actually we did not have to wait quite that long. Late into the flight, we had the surreal experience of live TV news on our screens – never before had we experienced this in the air.  We flitted from CNN to BBC and listened to seasoned reporters all falling over themselves in their zeal to describe the abject failure of Iran to achieve their nefarious aims. Not one missile had hit its intended target.  Our searing concern turned to soaring hope and optimism – and yes, simcha!

Arriving in Dubai, we were advised that the good news had come too late for our connecting flight to be salvaged – so we enjoyed an all-expenses-paid restful night at the Dubai Airport Hotel before being placed on a FlyDubai flight the following afternoon. Had we been forced to wait one more day, we would have been caught up in the unprecedented floods that hit Dubai out of the blue – and goodness knows if we would have arrived in Israel in time for Pesach!.  The One Above granted us a narrow window of passage to our mekhoz cheftseinu!.

Queueing at the transfer desk for the replacement flight, I got chatting with an Israeli lady from Beersheva, not religious.  Her words to me were very striking.  “Now” she said “is going to be the best time to visit Israel!”

These words were indeed prophetic.  Those who had eyes in their heads were rendered speechless at what one Israeli rabbi aptly termed “a neis (miracle) of Biblical proportions” that took place that Saturday night of the Iran missile attack on Israel.

Consider if you please:  When Israel fought Midian in the fortieth year of their stay in the midbar, in the desert, the commanders of the army present themselves to Moses and they say: “We took a census of the men of war under our battle command v’lo nifkad mimenu ish, and not a single individual from among us is missing!”  Not one fatality!

 Well, my friends, there was a constant barrage of missiles fired from Iran that night aimed at decimating the population of Israel, v’lo nifkad mimenu ish, and there wasn’t a single loss of life. Not one!  (Fascinatingly, the Gematria of אירן  is identical with the word אסר which means bound, restricted, prevented. Indeed Iran was miraculously prevented that night from harming any Jew!) Many were declaring that it was a miracle even greater than that of the Six-Day War – and I am not inclined to disagree.

Truly a neis of Biblical proportions!

   On our last Shabbat in Sydney before leaving, the eve of our departure, we heard helicopters flying above us, and we wondered what was happening.  We didn’t have long to find out.  Immediately after Shabbat, we learned of the carnage that took place in Westfield, Bondi Junction, literally on our doorstep, during that Shabbat afternoon when a knife-yielding madman killed six and seriously wounded several others.

Now, while there is absolutely no reason for any Australian Jew to go into panic mode, look what we are seeing here on our shores upon university campuses across Australia,  and in city centres throughout the country! Hate-fuelled, antisemitic, leftist extremists spewing vitriol, ostensibly against Zionism and Zionists, but in reality against all Jews!  In America, in Britain, in France, it is even worse.

Yet these governments, and notably our Australian government, have the chutspa to call upon their citizens not to travel to Israel because it is, in their words, “a war zone”, and for Australians in Israel to leave!

My friends, we just returned last week from three and a half weeks in Ramat Bet Shemesh where my daughter lives. Ramat Bet Shemesh is a burgeoning conurbation of charedi, dati leumi and secular Jews living together, situated about 30km south-west of Jerusalem.  I can tell you that BH life could not be more normal there. You would not know there was a war on.  There wasn’t one siren alert in all the time we were there. (One siren did go off – but that was to announce a minute’s silence on Yom HaShoa.)

Yes it’s true that that’s not the picture everywhere.  There are two Israels presently. There is the Israel of the northern and southern border towns to which evacuees have still not been able to return safely and where Hezbolla and Hamas are still constant threats.  But there is  also the Israel of the centre of the country  where I would deem it at least as safe as where I am right now! (I am told by a student currently living in Tsfat that even that far north all is quiet and the few sirens that have sounded have proven to be false alarms.)

Yes it’s true that seven months ago, Israel suffered an horrific attack which took a terrible toll of Jewish lives. Yes it’s true that there are still 130 Israeli hostages held captive by Hamas and we have no idea how many of them are still alive. With hindsight, we know the unprecedented attack could have been anticipated.  Israel was unprepared. Israel was complacent.  Israel was disunited. I would like to think that those issues are now far less acute.  The IDF are, barukh haShem, as in control as any human can be. Nobody is complacent anymore and there is much more unity.

In the parasha, we read about all the chagim, all the yamim tovim which the Torah calls mikra’ei kodesh, holy assemblies.   In particular, for each of the shalosh regalim, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot, when the Temple stood, everyone was enjoined to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem and the Torah makes a promise. It promises v’lo yakhmod ish et artso, no person from the surrounding nations will covet your land, no squatter will take possession of your home while you are away in Yerushalayim for the Chag.  Why not? Ba’alotecha leira’ot et pnei Elokeicha, because you will go up as one man with one heart, to celebrate before G-D in Jerusalem.

When we are b’achdut, in unity and we recognise HBH, there is no safer place than Erets Yisrael!

We aren’t there yet. But we’re getting there.

I would urge everyone who is able, to consider (besides constant prayers and monetary donations) taking a trip to Israel imminently,  The Israeli economy needs you. Israelis need to know they are supported in the flesh. One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that when we visited our favourite local eateries as well as a delightful restaurant, Avramito, in Mamilla on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City with members of the family, whereas in previous years we would typically wait 45+ minutes for our meal and would have had to laboriously key our choices into a machine, this time it was more like 15 minutes and they were hovering over us to take our order! Quite simply, there are fewer patrons because there are fewer tourists – and because so many of Israel’s civilian population are busy fighting a war on two fronts. .

When we visited the Kotel, I was shocked at the empty spaces in front of the Wall. Sadly, many Diaspora Jews are taking their governments’ warnings not to visit Israel at face value,  I tell you here and now, the centre of the country, thank G-D, is calm and safe.  Long may it remain so!

Please G-D, if we can return fully to the same degree of unity we had on October 8th, it will not be long before the sirens on the northern and southern borders will be silenced and be replaced by the kol Shofar, the voice of the Shofar heralding the Messianic age of shalom ve-shalva, of peace and tranquilty, veshav Yaakov be-shakat ve-sha’anan v’ein macharid, “when the children of Jacob will rest tranquil and at ease with no-one to make them afraid” (Jeremiah 30:10).

 May that day come bimheira be-yameinyu, speedily in all our days!

Endnote: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi who was killed in a helicopter crash in Azerbaijan this week was the individual most responsible for planning and executing the missile attack against Israel. There are rumours that some Iranian officials are seeking to accuse Israel of having engineered the crash. These officials have it almost right. They just missed out one word. It wasn’t Israel. It was Elokei Yisrael,  the G-D of Israel!

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of five books on Judaism. He is a senior tutor for the Sydney Beth Din and the non-resident rabbi of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He can be reached at