FACT: Goldmans don’t gush. I, in particular, tend to be a woman of few words, especially in the company of my ever-loquacious family. For some odd reason, however, I desire to memorialize my feelings our family trip to Israel.
I have had the privilege of traveling extensively, both in the United States and abroad. Without exception, I enjoy my jaunts during the time of the travel and lament their end once I return home. This Israel experience, however, is quite a different matter. It has “legs.” Every moment was jam packed with adventure, history and just plain fun. Now that I am home, I find myself reliving and analyzing each day.
A trip to Israel usually requires overcoming some mental obstacles. I will admit to a few, although security was not one of them. I felt sure that the Israeli government and Tourist Board would ensure that visitors not find themselves in harm’s way. The first concern was the very title of the trip, “ Family Mission.” The word “mission” sticks in my craw, in the same manner as the hackneyed terms “closure” and “giving back.” Sure, I had a “mission,” to see the country, each kosher meat, learn some history, spend time with family and friends, and stimulate the economy with excessive purchases of jewelry, food and object d’art. Nothing altruistic or ego-gratifying.
The Goldman Family in Israel
My second obstacle, the “group” experience. I am not a rah rah sis boom bah kind of a gal. My nightmares are of Kumbaya and Row, Row, Row Your Boat being sung in rounds on the bus while I suffer a splitting headache. In truth, the “group” experience was great! Everyone was respectful of one another and showed up promptly at meeting times. We each brought something different to the group. I furnished over-the-counter medicines and Purel—others junk food and pearls of historical knowledge.
Having detailed the above lawyer-like caveats, I continue with the trip itself, replete with noteworthy experiences. Here are only SOME of the highlights:
- Eating kosher meals and delicious bialies on the El Al flight from JFK to Ben Gurion. For once, we didn’t have to identify ourselves as “the Jews with the Kosher meals” by ringing our flight attendant call buttons.
- Gazing upon Jerusalem for the first time in thirty years and seeing the building spread from hill to hill.
- Feeling the fervor of our guide in the Kotel Tunnels as he explained the significance of the Foundation Stone.
- Making it up the snake path to Masada, even though my husband and I were last to arrive. Group mates hung back on the hike to alert the paramedics in case we went into cardiac arrest.
- Having our children be among the first to reach to top of Masada from the snake path. All those tennis and dance lessons paid off.
- Seeing the look of horror on my daughter’s face as the women stripped off their swimsuits to shower off the Dead Sea salt. Ah, the end of innocence.
- Ogling buff Israeli soldiers with their guns.
- Visiting Yad Vashem and being moved without even going into the Museum. Our guide gave us the Israeli perspective on the Holocaust through Yad Vashem’s monuments and artwork.
- Digging at the archeological ruins of Beit Guvrin and crawling through an unexcavated cave.
- Visiting the underground bullet factor at the Ayalon Institute—the very definition of Israeli chutzpah.
- Riding mules at Kfar Kedem while dressed in biblical garb—a crowd pleaser for adults, as well as children. I have never chilled out enough to don a costume, yet here it seemed the thing to do.
- Jeeping in the Golan—a historical thrill ride.
- Sharing the arriving Sabbath with throngs of observers at the Western Wall.
The Bottom Line: For many, a trip to Israel is a deeply moving personal experience. For others, it is a fabulous cultural, historical and dare I say “fun” adventure. Israel is a vibrant, diverse, living country, not an anachronism. It is the home to many of the great historical and religious sights of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Go! You will end up gushing too!