Without doubt the highlight of the summer, if not the whole year, was our family trip to Israel. I have to admit, while I was looking forward to the trip the whole year leading up to it, I was also anxious about the logistics of traveling with three small children on an 11 hour plane trip, schlepping in and out of cabs, hotels, and restaurants, figuring the whens and wheres of ‘naps’, and contending with the heat on top of everything else. After having been there and back, I can confidently say that the heat, the schlep, the exhaustion and everything else was overwhelmingly worth it.
What brought us to Israel were the 18th Maccabiah games
– essentially the Jewish olympics. My husband coached and played on the over 35 soccer team. Based on the literature that we were given, the Maccabiah games, which take place every four years in Israel, is the third largest sporting event in the world, exceeding even the winter olympics. The 2009 games boasted over seven thousand athletes with delegations from all over the world. The sheer size of the event powerfully hit home at the opening ceremonies at the Ramat Gan stadium just outside of Tel Aviv.
Yes, contrary to all of the well meaning advice of concerned others, I braved the trek at night to the opening ceremonies with my three kids (ages 7, 4, and 1) accompanied by my in-laws. No matter what the deterrents (like potentially hot, cranky, jet lagged, tired kids) there was simply no way that I was going to miss the sight of my husband marching into the stadium, proudly donning his Canadian apparel, with seven thousand other athletes – Jews uniting from all over the world with the single goal of excellence in sport and good will. I have to say, it was truly amazing. To see the look on my children’s faces when they saw their Dad marching with the Canadian flag made everything worth it. Just remembering the charge of being in that stadium with upwards of forty thousand Jews, knowing that without the state of Israel this might not at all be possible, was an incredible feeling. The singing of Hatikvah
was more moving than ever.
And that essentially captured for our family what the trip to Israel was all about this summer. It wasn’t about traveling the country and taking in its beauty, sightseeing, or appreciating the history of the place. The children were too young for that kind of experience. What I quickly realized soon into the trip, was that it was ok to ‘hang out’ for hours in the hotel lobby or at the hotel pool (as opposed to schlepping to museums or archeological sites). For the kids, the hotel lobby, hub to hundreds of Jewish athletes spanning the globe, was at the heart of their Israel experience because it represented for them the idea that Israel is the home for all Jews. While we might all come from different places, with different food, and different languages, Israel is our common denominator. It is special to all of us, it is a place where we can all come together from different backgrounds, and feel comfortable and at home. This is exactly the feeling that my children walked away with. What more could I ask?