Israel: An Incredible Journey
Connecting with her homeland in a time of crisis
Edie J. Herons
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to visit Israel. Somehow, the time never seemed right, either for economic reasons or otherwise. Besides, there was always tomorrow.
Published on LatinoLA: August 2, 2002
But for the last couple of years the desire to visit the homeland became greater and greater. I have always been very vocal in my support for Israel, and in this time of crisis I felt the need to show my commitment in action, and not mere words.
Inevitably, every time I mentioned my intentions, someone would always question my sanity, and point out how this was certainly the wrong time to visit. ?It?s dangerous,? people would say. ?You can always support Israel from home.? ?Why would you want to risk your life?? And so on.
One day a friend of mine told me about the Jewish Federation?s ?Single?s Mission to Israel? and gave me a phone number to call for information. Out of curiosity more than anything I made the call, certain I would not be able to afford the trip at this time.
And so the e-mails starting coming. Close to the departure date, the trip was substantially subsidized. I knew I could not afford not to go.
Of course I was afraid. Anyone in their right mind would be afraid! I was going to a war zone, where, even though every precaution would be taken, my safety could not be guaranteed. But heck, no one?s safety can ever be guaranteed anywhere!
And so my incredible journey began on June 30, 2002. Even as I sat inside the plane, I still could not believe I was on my way to Israel! The flight was long and the seats too narrow, but I was much too excited to let that bother me. There were 17 people from Los Angeles going on this mission, and altogether about 130. I thought that was a great number, until I heard that on previous missions they typically had close to one thousand.
?People are too afraid to go,? they said.
When we finally reached Ben Gurion International Airport on July 1st, I was overcome with emotion. I kissed the ground as tears rolled down my face. They were tears of joy and gratitude to everyone and anyone who had helped make this dream a reality: Ken Kahn, the person I had originally called; Tanya Labowitz from the Jewish Federation; Danny Irom, our local chair who made sure everyone would have the time of their life. And of course my friend Debby Novak, who told me about the mission in the first place.
I suppose visiting Israel is always an amazing experience for anyone. But standing in Israel, and not just with Israel at this time of crisis, has been a life changing experience for me.
The courage Israelis display as they go about their daily lives has given me a different perspective in my own life.
One of the first places we visited was the Park Hotel, where a homicide bomber massacred 30 people as they celebrated the Passover Seder. When you enter that room you?re immediately shocked by a wave of sadness, desperation, confusion, and pain. I cried all the while we were there, and I wasn?t the only one.
We then met with a couple of victims, or perhaps I should say, survivors of terrorism. Their gentle smiles showed me a different kind of determination. ?We are not going to let them win.? they seemed to be saying.
Everywhere we went people would thank us profusely for being there. I felt ashamed. How could I have been afraid to visit my land and my people? I should be thanking them for making sure I have a home to come to! For ensuring that Jews everywhere have a homeland!
The one week mission was a bit hectic, but nonetheless extremely rewarding. Our visits included a military base, the Hadassah Hospital, Magen David Adon, where our group donated 60 pints of blood. We helped paint a school and visited an old Synagogue in Safed. And of course the highlight of our trip was welcoming Shabbat at the Wall, where I felt deeply connected not only to my ancestors, but to future generations as well.
I saw firsthand the courage and determination of our people, and how they manage to remain human in the face of terror. I met a doctor who heals Jews and Palestinians alike, and heard a speech by Doctor Abraham Rivkind, who revived a young man who had been shot five times, twice in the heart. He had been declared dead on the scene, and was technically dead for 25 minutes. Against all odds, Dr. Rivkind decided to save his life. Today this young man is alive and well, and looking to his future with great expectations ? he wants a wife and a family. Dr. Rivkind also thanked us for our presence and support. I was grateful to be in his presence.
During my time in Israel, not once did I feel unsafe. I even went for a walk on my own, without the slightest concern for my well-being.
Life in Israel is not what you see in the news. Sure, they apprehend approximately seven terrorists a day, and everyone knows the bad guys will keep trying, and sometimes succeeding. But everyone also knows that Israel is here to stay. Our brethren need our support, not only economic, but also our presence.
God willing, the day will come when there will be a peaceful resolution to this conflict. But in the meantime, show our brothers and sisters in Israel you care. Let them know they are not alone. Show the world we stand together.
As a former president once said, ?We have nothing to fear but fear itself?.
Stand with Israel, and in Israel.
I?m ready to go back. And this time, I am not afraid.
Edie J. Herons:
Edie Heron is an actor and comedian. Her family immigrated from Lithuania to Mexico in the 1800s, where she grew up in Mexico City.