July 21, 2014 – Jerusalem, Israel
I was filled with emotions as I boarded my flight to Israel last night. Excited to see friends and colleagues, but also anxious to see and hear for myself about the situation on the ground. I was immediately excited by the shear number of people aboard my flight…fear was not holding people back.
Upon landing in Israel I began to notice one slight difference from all my other visits, the country appeared to be quieter. Almost as if the country is tuned in to the news, whether by TV or radio to learn what is going on. As I rode from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, my cab driver and I were listening to the news when an alert came over the radio about rockets being fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod and Yavneh. He said, “Excuse me” and quickly called his young son in Ashdod to make sure he was awake and headed for a shelter. I can listen to the Red Alert app all day, watching a father call his son to tell him to head for safety brings the situation much closer to home.
As an American I have grown used to wars being fought on TV, 7000 miles away, this is an altogether different feeling. This a war that is an hour away being fought by our children, spouses, parents and siblings.
This evening I had the privilege of hearing from Natan Sharansky, who has held a number of posts in the Israeli Government, now the head of the Jewish Agency. Sharansky, no longer being part of the government, gave his thoughts on the situation. He also remarked that during the Lebanon War the Jewish Agency tried very hard to move families and children from the North down south the keep their lives as normal as possible. He remarked that it was difficult financially for Israel to do this…however during this current situation The Jewish Federations of North America, through donations, have made it so that the Jewish Agency can see to it that children in the South are able to come up North on almost a daily basis.
Our second speaker was MK Dr. Yuval Steinitz, who currently serves as the Minister of Intelligence. Steinitz thanked us for coming to Israel to show how united the Jewish people are regarding Israel’s security. The Minister outlined for us a few of the goals for this current mission. 1. To destroy Hamas terror infrastructure in Gaza, of which he believes over 50% has been wiped out. 2. Bring calm back to Israeli society. Israeli citizens deserve not to live under the constant barrage of rockets.
MK Steinitz is also the lead representative for Israel in the ongoing Nuclear talks with Iran. When asked about his thoughts regarding the extension of these negotiations, he responded that it was better to extend then to sign a bad deal. He did not appear confident in an accord being struck, but said that talking is better than nothing.
It has been an incredible day. I look forward to visiting masorti kehillot in southern Israel tomorrow and showing our support.
In closing let us never forget the brave men and women of the IDF who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and the People of Israel.