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Israel, Here and Now

January 6, 2011
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We're well into the first week of 2011, and many people likely have already broken their New Year's resolutions. But those types of promises generally have to do with losing weight or curtailing a dreadful habit. Such matters are easily discarded because they're so difficult to accomplish.

We would like to make a proposal that for most individuals in the Jewish community will be far easier to keep.

Our inspiration came from an opinion piece published in last week's Exponent. The writer, Archie Gottesman, offered 10 new commandments to help preserve Jewish life. The fourth of her suggestions was headed "Get to Israel."

"If I have to talk to another wealthy Jewish parent about how much her daughter enjoyed Birthright, I am going to vomit," wrote the author. "A family who goes on a safari in Africa, takes ski trips to Vail and jaunts to Rome but still hasn't brought the children to Israel should be embarrassed. Please don't get huffy about this. I know all of the Birthright arguments and I don't care. By the way, Israel is not scary. What is scary is the thought of the Middle East without Israel. It is shameful that because of Birthright, the Jewish community now has to pay the bill for doing what Jewish parents should be doing themselves."

Gottesman was spot on about the problem and the solution. But we'd like to supplement her point a bit. Birthright has inspired many young adults, but why should this be their first exposure to the Jewish state? (By the way, a family trip doesn't currently disqualify anyone from a later Birthright experience.)

As a tourist destination, Israel has everything to offer that any classic European venue has -- a beautiful and varied landscape, culture galore, first-rate cuisine. You don't even have to mention the religious wonders that abound at every turn to make it sound attractive. Nor do you have to pull out the "Israel-is-the-homeland-of-the-Jews" card -- or induce some other form of guilt feeling -- to construct a potent or meaningful argument.

Part of the problem that keeps some people away is that the mainstream media constantly focuses on the complex political and security situation in the Middle East. The Israel we know and love is often depicted inaccurately or not at all.

Certainly, things may go wrong during your stay, but that would be true of any choice you make (take that Africa trip, for example). But the Jewish state is as family-friendly as you can get, while also being a romantic locale that will satisfy serious couples. There are ski resorts, spas, zoos, amusement parks -- anything you might wish for. Israel is such a magical place,with a social scene that's as heady and vibrant as any in the world, that people should be flocking there. (And it's a bargain, comparatively speaking, especially if you've got that safari in mind.)

So make a resolution. And once you've been there, you'll see that all of us can use as much Israel as we can get.

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