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Op-Ed: The Other Boycott

My fellow Jews, the terrorists are having their way. Not directly - the Israelis stand firm and are dug in for the long haul. But outside of Israel, the war is being lost every time you go on vacation somewhere else, every time the temple decides not to send its youth group to Israel, every Bar Mitzvah in Israel that is cancelled, every Birthright slot that goes unfilled. The same people who are c
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2002 11:49 PM


I just returned from ten days in Israel. I was in Jerusalem, Haifa, Safed, Tel Aviv and many other places from the Northern Galilee to the mid-Negev. Israel remains the wonderful, spiritual, inviting, warm and wonderful country it always was, welcoming visiting Diaspora Jews as honored and loved members of the family.

Yet, something is missing, hurting Israel economically and spiritually. Missing are the Jewish tourists who are boycotting Israel, abandoning Israel and her people in their time of greatest need.

Everywhere I went in Israel I talked to people who told me the same thing - they desperately need the tourists to come back. Over 6 million Jews live in Israel every day and they don't understand why the world's other Jews think it's too dangerous to even visit. One of Israel's biggest industries is (or was) tourism; the boycott of Israel by Diaspora Jews is hurting the economy - a lot. There is more than economic pain. As Avi the cabdriver told me, "For me, I will survive. But I worry about the children, the next generation." Avi's children see that their Dad can't make a living in Israel and so they are talking about moving to India where they see greater opportunity.

My fellow Jews, the terrorists are having their way. Not directly - the Israelis stand firm and are dug in for the long haul. But outside of Israel, the war is being lost every time you go on vacation somewhere else, every time the temple decides not to send its youth group to Israel, every Bar Mitzvah in Israel that is cancelled, every Birthright slot that goes unfilled. The same people who are canceling their subscription to the LA Times or writing letters to Norway about their boycott of Israeli products are themselves destroying Israel bit by bit with their fear.

It is undeniably true that there is an increased risk in Israel, but there are deaths on the highways and people don't stop driving cars. People don't stop smoking or lose weight even though they know it hurts their chances for good health. Yet they have stopped going to Israel. Why? One factor is the media. All you see on TV are ambulances screaming down the streets, blown-up buses surrounded by rescue workers, reporters in flack jackets with tanks in the background. But that's not reality. When you are in Israel you see normal people going about their lives; you see 3,500 years of Jewish history increasingly excavated by archaeologists; you see happy young people in IDF uniforms proudly defending their country, and by extension Jews everywhere. You can swim in the Mediterranean Sea or float in the Dead Sea, or go camping along the Jordan River along with vacationing Israelis. You can be enchanted by Safed or pray at the Kotel. There is still city nightlife, shopping malls, festivals and celebrations. All this and more is there and accessible with little or no feeling of danger.

When you decide not to go to Israel and decide not to allow your children to go, you are making a tragic mistake. You undermine Israel today, you jeopardize Israel's future and you teach your children to be cowards in the face of danger. Yes, there is a risk when you go, but you corrode your soul when you stay away.

Imagine the effect on Israeli morale, on the Israeli economy, on world opinion and on the terrorist masterminds if every time there was a bombing tourist traffic increased. If El Al had to put on extra flights, if hotels were booked to capacity, if Jewish historical sites had waiting lists to get in... Imagine! And why not? Only the personal decisions of thousands of frightened Jews is preventing that from becoming reality.

In the future, when the history of this time is written, what will be your legacy? That you stayed home? I challenge you to write a different history, that you faced the risk and made a crucial difference when it was most needed.

Stop the boycott. Go to Israel. Go again.
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Chuck Chriss, President of the Jewish Internet Association.