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Local Israel teen trip canceled as diaspora Jews react to terrorism
June 15th, 2001
Against the backdrop of recent terrorist activities in Israel, including the June 1 bombing of the Dolphinarium disco in Tel Aviv that killed 20 Israeli teenagers, some Americans, including Milwaukeeans, are changing their travel plans to Israel, especially for their children.
Israeli officials have voiced strong disappointment at the cancellation and postponement of trips. Perhaps the most visible of the local cancellations is Wisconsin’s annual Adventure Israel trip, a joint program of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Israel Resource Center. It was canceled late last week.
However, Jay Roth, JCC executive vice president, said, “We made the decision to cancel the teen trip for this summer, not because of safety concerns, but because of the shrinking number of travelers. Normally, we take a group of 40 kids. However, this year we never had more than 17 signed up, which had dwindled to six when we made the decision.”
Roth was quick to add that the national Jewish Community Centers Association is going ahead with summer trips and that he would help local families interested in sending their children to hook up with the national group.
Roth said, “We felt the small number of participants would cause our normal trip to be too restrictive and limiting in terms of the overall experience. So, we will defer to 2002, when we expect the Israel experience to be as it should be. We want our young people to develop a love for Israel in an enriching environment. We felt that would not be fulfilled this year.”
Nir Barkin, community shaliach (emissary) and head of the Israel Resource Center, said his office, too, will provide services to help teens interested in going to Israel this summer, “including sending a staff person to take them to the departure gates. Concerning the decision to cancel the local trip, it is important to let North American Jews make the decision as individual families, rather than cancel the trips as an institutional decision.”
Further, he said, “My office is focusing full gear on sending young adults and adult groups to Israel to show support and solidarity and to foster the North American Jewish/Israeli relationship.”
Barkin added, “This is a different time for Israel. I think it’s more like the War of Independence than the 1967 or the 1973 wars. Therefore, the front could be anywhere, and that’s the most important time for North American Jews to take action.
“The support being provided is enabling the North American Jewish community to clarify its values toward Israel in regard to its self-determination as Jews living outside the country. This is the reason why a time of crisis like this is a time ‘to do,’ not ‘not to do.’”
In support of that belief, Barkin is part of a special ad hoc committee, the Israel Solidarity Coordinating Commitee, that has been convened by the federation and the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations to coordinate community efforts focused on education and public awareness, advocacy and action, and travel opportunities.
The commitee met Tuesday to begin discussions of community strategies for responding to HaMatsav (the situation) in Israel.
Among the ideas discussed is the possibility of a local rally in support of Israel in September, which has been designated as Israel Solidarity Month by the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of North American Jewish Federations. Among its other planned activities, UJC will likely hold a national rally in support of Israel in New York.
Not all local trips have been canceled however. Plans for two trips under the auspices of the federation here and the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Education Department are going forward.
The most immediate is the educators’ delegation being coordinated by Barkin and Dr. Steven Baruch, director of the Coalition for Jewish Learning, the federation’s education program. Baruch will lead eight to ten of his local colleagues in the National Educators Solidarity Mission July 8-12.
“Many student trips have been canceled, so we think it’s important that we educators make the trip and bring back information to our students,” Baruch said.
In addition, he noted that four or five of the Milwaukeeans will spend three extra days in Milwaukee’s Partnership 2000 region of Sovev Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) with delegates from Tulsa and Minneapolis/St. Paul to meet with their Israeli counterparts.
“We’ll continue to work on [P2K’s] Educational Bridge Project with Israeli educators,” he said.
And, plans for the federation’s Community-wide Mission “Together, B’Yachad in Israel,” February 10-18, 2002, are progressing under the leadership of mission co-chairs Bill Appel, Judy Bluestone and Rick Ruvin. Details of the various itineraries will be released as they are completed.