By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

Have you ever taken a trip somewhere without an itinerary?

Is it the type of thing that would induce unnecessary stress and anxiety for not having a set daily schedule even on a technical vacation?

I honestly didn’t know what it would be like to not know what we’d be doing for the nine days we were spending in Israel, but I had spent so much time stressing over being away from the kids for that long, and letting things just happen the way they would at home without having much control, that once we arrived and Jeremy’s kids (who live here) asked what we had planned for our stay, we looked at each other and back at them blankly and said, “Hang out with you?” because that was all we had thought of covering while here.

A no planned getaway is a double-edged sword.

It’s the type of thing that could feel very liberating in the overly scheduled life we lead but can also leave one feeling like they’re not taking advantage of all that’s offered in the various locales that one might visit.

Israel is the kind of place that can’t be fully covered unless you spend a significant time here.

There was so much I had wanted to do now that we finally found ourselves coming back, but due to the current climate, we wouldn’t be able to.

So we started small. We’d do pickups from gan and take the grandchildren out for some early Chanukah toy shopping. We purchased that good Israeli candy and other various goods, which both assuages our guilt from being away and helps the Israeli economy, so win-win on that front.

We worked hard at not eating at any of the thousands of restaurants available here more than once, so we could get in as many new dining experiences as humanly possible.

I’m also certain that no matter where we travel in the future it won’t ever measure up to the quality and artistry of the food here. From the chic decor of the venues to the artful plating, from the exciting flavors to the mismatched plates and wine bottles recycled to serve water, Israel and its bohemian vibe keep coming up with new ways to pique our interests and appetites.

We visited kevarim where our grandparents have been laid to rest and did a little kever hopping to snap pics of loved ones who have passed for friends back home.

As we leave this beautiful country, my parents arrive for the yahrzeit of my grandfather Nison Gordon, z’l, who passed suddenly on the sixth night of Chanukah 34 years ago.

I was only nine when he passed and feel that there was so much I could have learned from him as a person, a journalist, and a pioneer in Jewish written thought.

He was a modern man who was way ahead of his time and I’m proud to say that at the very least, I’m able to see him and my grandmother, Rosalind Gordon, a’h, a couple of times a year and tell them how life is going.

I’ve received a fair number of messages from concerned people who had planned on visiting Israel before the war began. They messaged me to ask if I think they should keep their reservations and family trips that they planned on taking here and asked me what the overall vibe is here.

I won’t act like some big shot who wasn’t terrified to come visit while Israel is engaged in war. I won’t make believe that there weren’t stressful times during the trip, that going to the park with little kids and watching the Iron Dome intercept many rockets wasn’t nerve wracking. Or that running for cover after hearing a siren sound while sitting outside on a beautiful Saturday night at a pizza shop isn’t something worrisome. But it’s part of the fabric of what being a Jew in Israel is.

We’re engaged in war and we’re shopping at the mall. We’re living our lives and won’t stop visiting because all the good outweigh the sometimes not so good. We have a responsibility to be good to the only place in the world that has always had our backs. We need to support the struggling business owners, the chayalim, and their families during this difficult time.

There are so many ways of doing it, and being there to see women getting together to prepare meals for the wives and families of soldiers was just one example of how the Jewish nation feels about one another. We’re there for each other, especially in the tough times. We don’t turn away, we run toward.

This latest Israel journey has been full of amazing experiences I know I couldn’t have had elsewhere and I’m so happy I didn’t let the fear from what we hear from afar deter this trip from happening.

We had a good balance of getting to see an Israel I had never seen before. From getting the chance to join a group called “the mangalistim” (the grillers) and helping to prepare dinner for a couple hundred chayalim in Sderot to seeing the tireless work of Dr. Shiloh Kramer. Dr. Kramer runs an organization called Chaya Israel Fund that procures lifesaving gear for the army. At his “day job” at Adi Negev Hospital, he helps so many survivors of the October 7 massacre.

This trip was mainly spent outside of Jerusalem, visiting many cities along the way. We saw “the real Israel”—the various climates, the fruit trees that grow just about everywhere, and every imaginable type of Jew out there is a special sight to behold.

I’ve been to places in my life that I’ve loved but had no interest in returning to. But Israel has that magic, that way of never really leaving you even as you step onto the plane to go home. Israel will always leave you wanting to come back for more.

“Israel was not created in order to disappear—Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy, and it honors the sword of freedom.”—John F. Kennedy n

 

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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