For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Today (Thursday), I am en route back to Washington, D.C. Being in Israel at a time of regional upheaval -- more so than usual -- is an interesting experience. The gap between reality and media image is never so great as when you visit a functioning, affluent, cosmopolitan country that is, unlike its neighbors, tranquil and fully within the Western world.
For more than 60 years the United States and Israel have enjoyed a warm relationship. In a real sense, the United States has been the senior partner -- providing economic and military aid, using its influence to shield Israel from harm on the international stage, and providing counsel. Now the United States is more akin to a flaky teenager -- self-absorbed and flighty. Literally and figuratively rolling their eyes, Israelis are chagrined and nervous that their partner is now, like an errant teenager, undependable and unpredictable.
In Herzliya, in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem and the West Bank (more about that in the days and weeks ahead) the country builds and grows. Tel Aviv is filled with construction cranes. Many of the suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which the administration insists on calling "settlements" (they resemble housing developments in the San Fernando Valley in California), are in their fourth generation. And yet Israel's biggest problems these days seem to be with the international community, whose media and government elites come to Herzliya to lecture Israel about the need to be "forthcoming."
One gets the feeling that for 11 years the same people, spouting the same positions, have been coming to Herzliya to describe how the rest of the world regards Israel and what an arduous task Israel faces in getting back into the world's good graces. You have to wonder why the Israelis bother. It seems to perpetuate the view that Israel is about strife and bad PR. There is that, but there is also a rich national experience that is crowded out of view.
Here's a suggestion: Invite Europeans and Americans to a conference entirely about Israel -- its economy, its technology, its archaeological findings and its absorption of refugees from other countries. That might at least teach the outside world about the real Israel, as opposed to the media creation that turns Israel into nothing more than a player at odds with the Palestinians, the Muslim countries, the Europeans, etc. Really, can you imagine Russia hosting an annual conference where the world comes to tell Russia about the occupation of Georgia, its testy relationship with other former Soviet states and the danger posed by Islamic radicals? I can't either.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"