Israel…the beauty and the horror

With Paul Frishman

When Melissa and I made our trip to Israel in July 0f 2022, it really was the trip of a lifetime. That’s because neither of us had ever gone there before, and given the circumstances, we will most likely not get there again. Not anytime soon, anyway.

And that’s a shame. Because while there seems to be a lot more glitz and glamour in Paris and Rome, there is something so special and beautiful about Israel.

Israel, of course, is considered a religious journey for so many people. But while that is the reality, it is almost unfair to categorize it as such. I also feel like I am not the right person to talk about Israel, other than to describe my thoughts and feelings. My dear friend, Paul Frishman, is more qualified to speak on the subject. As the CEO of the Miami Beach JCC, he and his wife, Caryn, have had more of an opportunity to experience and enjoy a life that encompasses a deeper Jewish identity and ties to the State of Israel.

Paul:

As a dedicated Jewish communal professional for the past 37 years, I certainly have come to understand the beauty, history, tradition, and the complexities of our beloved State of Israel. My wife Caryn and I have both visited numerous times – most recently one year ago as part of our South Florida community’s “Mega Mission” to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaout – Israel’s 75th birthday. On this trip, we were joined by over 800 community leaders, marking the largest group-mission trip ever sponsored by a Jewish Federation.

Caryn and Paul Frishman in the Old City

Similar to previous visits, we toured the magnificent religious areas of Jerusalem, the modern beauty of Tel Aviv, and journeyed to the Negev (south desert) where we connected with our “sister city” of Yerucham. The Miami-Yerucham Partnership was established in 2007 as a meaningful relationship designed to strengthen both communities, and to foster and develop a love of Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people. The partnership encourages a “people-to-people” relationship between residents of both communities. Caryn and I have developed so many incredible relationships with the “remarkable people of Israel” through this program and more.

The Miami-Yerucham Partnership

The Old City of Jerusalem was an amazing place. It was truly like taking a step back in time and seeing the world in an entirely different way. The ancient relics, the absolute beautiful churches, walking the same steps as those from biblical times…an experience that stays with you. Melissa and I were fortunate to have a great tour guide. Ruthie took us around like the locals go…and we even had the very best food in a place that only those locals seem to know.

Alan and Melissa with tour guide Ruthie

We always felt safe, as there was a huge police presence. And we had to go through a checkpoint when going to the Muslim side of Jerusalem. But it was all business as usual for everyone there.

There were people of all denominations….and with the exception of that police presence, you would never know that there were any tensions.

The real tensions were at the Shuk in Jerusalem, as Melissa and I were there on a Friday, as everyone was getting ready for Shabbat. It was overwhelming, vendors selling all the different foods…and I have never seen so much halvah and challah in all my life.

The Shuk before shabbat

We did a day in Tel Aviv…spent the day on the beach and then enjoyed a beautiful walk and dinner in city. Tel Aviv is almost the antithesis of the Old City, as it is quite modern and, for me, resembles the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.

Melissa and I are not really into organized tours…but we did do an all-day tour of sunrise at Masada, a hike an En Gedi, and a dip in the Dead Sea. I admit, that I sort of ruined sunrise at Masada because it was a bit high, the trail was on the edge of the mountain, and I have made it known that I am not exactly good with that. Melissa likes to hang off the edge of a cliff…I am hanging on for dear life. By the time we got to En Gedi it was 90 degrees and Melissa was not happy. “I thought there would trees…this is a National Park…where are the trees?” It was HOT. But we did get to cool off in the Dead Sea and get our very own mud treatment.

Sunrise from Masada

What I noticed about Israel…what appealed to me…was the difference in lifestyle and the difference in the attitudes.

There was less importance on extravagances like expensive automobiles, homes, everything was very conservative. People were natural…very little makeup or the fake nails, hair, eyelashes and heavy makeup. The obvious pumping of botox was almost non-existent. The one person we DID run into turned out to be another American tourist who stuck out like a sore thumb…or swollen lip.

The very best health care, education, and, of course, the security of the people were so much more important.

And it’s important to recognize that Israel, for all its beauty, is suffering from horrors brought on by others who want to see it all gone.

The holiday of Passover signals the survival of the Israelites under harsh and extreme circumstances, and celebrates how the angel of death passed over those that heeded the warnings and put the lambs blood on their door posts.

Ramses called for the murderous death of the Israelites then… and today…Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis (Iran’s Axis of Resistance), and, of course, Iran, themselves, call for Israel to be wiped from every geographer’s map.

On October 7, 2023, some 1,139 Israelites were not passed over when the angel of death entered the promised land and brutally tortured and killed so many civilians, and another 253 were taken hostage to be further humiliated, mutilated, tortured, and killed.

These were not soldiers, not national leaders, not enemies of any state. They were simply everyday people just trying to live their lives.

Paul:

The celebration of that extra-special 75th birthday visit was highlighted by songs, food, dance, an incredible drone & fireworks show, and a magnificent concert held at the ancient site of Caesarea on the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. We all danced with joy knowing that our Jewish homeland was celebrating a milestone occasion. It now seems surreal to think that just six months later, this glorious and historical country (and its people) would be viciously attacked by Hamas terrorists, igniting a devastating war. We pray for the 1,139 lives lost on October 7th and 253 hostages taken that day.

Praying for a safe return of the hostages

I’ve heard newscasters saying “Jews” rather than “Israelis.” The seemingly interchangeable use of the two shows the ignorance. There are over two million Arabs of different denominations in Israel with full rights. Think about that. It is the same for using “Palestinians” rather than “Hamas” in these circumstances.

The fact that people here in the United States and around the world are rising up to “support the Palestinian cause” in the wake of these atrocities sends a clear message that people around the world support terrorism against Israeli citizens and supporters. Students on college campuses around the United States are staging protests in support of Palestinians…on the surface…but those rallies are ripe with anti-semitism.

Paul:

Our Miami Beach JCC’s mission is “committed to meeting the ever-changing needs of the entire Jewish Community, for strengthening Jewish identity, and enriching the quality of Jewish life.” We proudly do this by providing the total community with a forum for open dialogue regarding matters affecting Jewish life locally, in Israel, and throughout the world.”  We have as a top priority our “Commitment to Israel & Our Jewish Journey”.

Overall, our impactful agency continues to do everything that we can to support, raise awareness, educate, and provide services for all those in need during this Israel War.  This has come in many forms – our community has now raised over $30 Million to support the local GMJF Israel Emergency Fund.  We have attended pro-Israel rallies, provided program services and support to the many Israeli families that have relocated to our community, collected needed items and prepared cards of support for our IDF soldiers, selling Friends of IDF merchandise, organized college student education events, and have brought in “Survivors” from the Nova Music Festival, and other area kibbutzim on October 7th.  All spoke of their first-hand, horrific accounts in powerful and chilling programs in front of many sold out audiences.

I would hate to think that the average person, anywhere in any country, would be in favor of the kind of massacre, kidnapping, and torture that Hamas conducted on October 7, 2023, and the continued endeavor of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Iran to massacre innocent people and wipe an entire country and its population off the face of the planet. Isn’t THAT the definition of genocide?

Paul:

We will continue our efforts on a daily basis to support Israel and Israelis, educate our community, and fight against the alarming amounts of rising Anti-Semitism all while continuing to positively impact our community.  Am Yisrael Chai!

May the angel of death pass over every one who is a lover of peace.

To donate to the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Israel Emergency Fund:

https://jewishmiami.org/gift/israel-emergency-fund/

To donate to the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center:

https://mbjcc.org/give/donate/

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