May 16, 2024
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Another Worthwhile Journey to the Holy Land

From one journey to the next, traveling to our Holy Land has become most challenging to say the least.

Over many years since our children made aliyah, we have taken for granted our trips back and forth to Israel and it has become a joy and staple of life to spend the chagim with our cherished Israeli clan, from our children to grandchildren to a great grandchild now, baruch Hashem, as the generations unfold.

The excitement has always been infused with all the energy and planning to get there. It used to be the detailed packing to satisfy our grandchildren’s requests that was the highlight of our challenges, along with keeping the luggage weight at 50 pounds. We have virtually taken the proverbial “kitchen sink,” entailing the need for extra luggage that was well worth the additional cost. When the kids were younger, we schlepped with delight a toy couch and ottoman, Duncan Hines cake mixes (before Israel stocked them), plus a slew of items from Amazon in the extra baggage. It was worth the effort to see the joy on our grandchildren’s faces when we landed.

Then came the COVID episode we all remember so well. With the sudden restrictions of lock- downs, we were faced with the reality after Purim 2020 that we are not going anywhere over Pesach, let alone to Israel. How dare anyone tell us to stay away from family, but we were left with no choice for the ultimate health and safety of everyone. Finally, when air travel opened up again in 2022, we were back to flying after being denied a previous Sukkot and two Passovers when we cried along with our children, yet accepted the distance time and again.

Finally, we celebrated when we could once again fly to Israel for Shavuot 2022. We thought the drudgery was over. Yet we were then faced with a different type of problem. Rockets were launched from Lebanon in an intense imminent conflict, and we were informed at the airport that our flights were diverted to land in Eilat as opposed to our usual destination. Whatever the case might be, we were determined to get to the Holy Land in time for Shavuot after a long hiatus. To our delight and ease, an update was announced that we would be landing in Ben Gurion Airport, which alleviated potential transportation problems, and we were elated to be on our way.

Once again, we thought our travails had reached its annoying peak of challenges. But much to our surprise, on October 7, 2023, which was Simchat Torah, the worst terror perpetrated on our people since the Holocaust occurred. That morning we ran with our grandchildren to the safe room (mamad) in our children’s home in Ramat Beit Shemesh in response to the siren warnings of attack. That fateful day is embedded in our lives forever and we thank Hashem we were there hugging our grandchildren for comfort while sharing this frightful experience.

As is generally known, the journey home required rearranging our United flights to a new flight with El Al, with a stopover in Czechoslovakia, leaving two weeks later than we had planned to return. We almost gave up and figured we might as well stay in Israel until the next chag, but the routine of life where we primarily live beckoned.

Once more, we thought the rocky road had come to an end, but boy, were we wrong! Six months later, it was deja-vu all over again this past Pesach.

The night before our scheduled flights the week before the holiday on Sunday, Motzei Shabbat was ladened with news of a barrage of rockets shot from Iran, with threats that the airports were closed. What were we to do? Our thoughts focused on preparing for Pesach at home within short notice. However, the next morning we woke up to miraculously acknowledge the miracle of Hashem. Of the 300 missiles shot at Israel, 99% were intercepted expertly from Israel, with countries such as Jordan, Germany, England and France galvanized to join for a quick response.

We were thrilled to fly as planned. It is truly remarkable how the adrenaline and strong desire of getting to Israel on time overshadows any thoughts of deterrence and fear of the reality facing us. We felt fully safe and confident that all would be okay, with bitachon that we were destined to be there along with our grandchildren despite whatever situation might arise.

After arriving in Israel, it was very refreshing that a positive attitude among the Israelis was pervasive, with a strong feeling of pride for their success. It was enlightening how much this meant to Klal Yisrael, who deserved the welcome perk of immediate success.

We had a wonderful chag and were in time for our great-nephew’s bris on Chol Hamoed, and life was as precious as ever. Even Waze, which had been temporarily dismantled due to rocket fire, was in full swing.

We were impressed to see the bustle of life continue, with streets and restaurants full of vibrancy. But juxtaposed with this was the unfortunate reality: we saw numerous posters of the hostages daily, as well as a new memorial for IDF soldiers from Beit Shemesh (including Jen Airley’s son, z”l, a personal family friend),), all of whom were killed on October 7 along with so many other precious soldiers. The memorial was planted in the Ramat Beit Shemesh park in commemoration of the young lives we’ve lost so tragically.

On the plane back from this past Pesach, the flight was uneventful, with no delays or hassles. However, the interesting part this time was the people who were flying back to America with us, which made our journey so meaningful. We actually sat next to an Israeli soldier and the conversation was about his Nova music festival experience during the attack. His name is Lahav Deri, and we were horrified to hear that his two brothers were shot at Nova, one more critically than the next. Lahav is forever left with a story to tell as he escaped unscathed, while saving the life of his brothers. At the young age of 30, he has become a renowned speaker as a survivor, whose focus is on conveying a positive approach despite the terror of the experience.

I appreciated hearing the insight of someone who witnessed the tragedy firsthand, which has surely made an indelible mark on others too. We discussed effective relevant books such as Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, IsIam by Douglas Murray. I spoke about the book Attack by Kurt Schlichter, which predicts that this kind of attack would occur on American soil. This was also portrayed in Nelson Demille’s Lions Game novel long before the 9/11 tragedy occurred in the United States. We also spoke about the shock of blatant discrimination of the Jews and how life has become so Orwelian, where our proud democratic ideologies have been obliterated for a false sense of freedom.

In addition, we met Shai Davidai on the flight. He is the famous Israeli professor at Columbia who is advocating for Jewish rights and freedoms on campus. Upon returning home, we saw him on various news channels, speaking about his struggle to promote freedom for all students. The audacity of encampment and makeshift tents from the anti-Israel groups on campus were eerily pervading college grounds. Most frustrating was the deafening silence from the college administrators to quell the incitement, yet they maintained a conscious attitude of free speech for all, eliminating the “incendiary” factor of free speech that is clearly prohibited. To our dismay, nothing has been done to deter the tsunami of hatred and discrimination on campus.

Sometimes, boring cand be a good thing, but the disturbing incidents throughout American university campuses are constantly recurring. We can only hope that one day the situation will go back to normal without the drama of disease, twisted terror and hatred toward Israel and Jews. But for now, it is still a journey of surprises with despicable antagonism and protests along the way. Who knows what is in store for our next flight?

However, Hashem Yishmor, we will persevere, never succumb and never stop going to our Holy Land as long as there is a last plane flying out. Am Yisrael Chai!


Ruby Kaplan is a realtor licensed in both New Jersey and New York. Visit Rubykaplan.exprealty.com for more information. The Ruby and Bobby Kaplan team/EXP Realty/ will promote your home with the best of social media and create alerts for your criteria of housing needs. Your housing Needs are our priority! Ruby can be reached at 201-314-4152 or on her cell at 917-576-4177, or at [email protected].

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