At our home in Tel Aviv, we watch the BBC. Online, we peruse The Times, The New York Times and Al Jazeera. I get it.
Right now Israel doesn’t top any summer holiday lists. Indeed, summer occupancy rates at hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, typically near 100 percent, have swung below the 50% mark.
So, with this rosy picture in mind, I am now going to persuade you that this is precisely the time to book an Israel trip. Or as the sage Hillel put it, “If not now, when?” As the founder of Pomegranate Travel, I am in the business of bringing people to Israel. However, I for one chose to leave a comfortable life in London to make aliya, because I care deeply about this country. I left a successful career in investment banking and set up Pomegranate Travel because I am passionate about encouraging people to engage with Israel, and to get the very best out of their time here.
Back to Hillel. The full quote is, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14).
Let’s deconstruct this further.
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” I think this means “look out for yourself, take responsibility for your own safety and well-being.”
And you might be thinking that this is exactly why you should steer well clear of Israel visits for the time being. Who would want to come out to a war zone to watch rockets fly overhead? Stepping back from this quite understandable initial reaction, it is worth noting the reality on the ground here in Israel. The Iron Dome missile defense system is a miracle which has completely undermined the potency of attacking rockets.
Despite thousands of rockets, there have been zero injuries in areas commonly visited by tourists. In any event, at the time of writing, here in Israel the whole situation feels as if it’s de-escalating. IDF soldiers are home from the Gaza Strip, and we have not had sirens in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for over a week. If, however, you’re not yet convinced, then no need to jump on the next plane out here. Picking up the phone and booking for October or later in the year will do just fine.
“But if I am only for myself, who am I?” I believe this means that we are all part of a greater whole, and have responsibilities to our wider ecosystem.
IF ISRAEL is part of your greater ecosystem, perhaps because you expect Israel to be there for you in a time of need, or because globally thriving Jewish cultural or religious life matters to you, then it’s only fair to recognize a degree of reciprocity. In short, if you count yourself as a supporter of Israel, you might be asking, “what can I do to help”? Visiting Israel is an obvious, easy and effective way to make a real difference.
Experts currently estimate this summer’s tourism industry losses to be in the range of $700 million.
Quite apart from coping with loved ones being called up to serve in the army, and daily life having being disrupted by sirens, those who own or work in hotels, tour operators, restaurants and shops have all been badly hit in the pocket as legions of tourists have canceled plans to visit.
Unfortunately, the effect has been not only economic, but psychological.
When tourists stay away, it adds to the Israeli experience of isolation already fueled by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic protests through Europe, flight cancellations, and the boycotting of loosely associated cultural events such as the UK Jewish Film Festival, recently rejected by London’s Tricycle Theatre.
Booking an Israel visit enables to you to stand by Israel economically, symbolically and physically. Plus, an Israel trip is not exactly a hardship.
Israel is an outstanding travel destination, an impossibly diverse gem box of cultural, historical and natural attractions, relevant to anyone with an interest in Jewish or Christian heritage – or quite frankly – in the history of the West. In addition, it offers 300 days of sunshine a year, sparkly new boutique hotels and some of the best food in the world.
“If not now, when?” I take this to mean, “stop procrastinating and do something now.” If you want to take action, if you want to support Israel, then this is the time to make a difference.
Don’t procrastinate, don’t waiver. Book an Israel experience today. And if you need one final incentive to make that call, then it will come as no surprise to hear that prices are significantly down.
The author is an avid supporter of Gesher (www.gesherusa.org) and the founder of Pomegranate Travel, specialists in luxury tailor-made holidays in Israel.