Last summer my family took a trip to Israel. After my visit to one of the holiest, most magnificent and diverse destinations in the world I was eager to share my experiences with friends and family. But what they were most interested in knowing didn’t have anything to do with history, geography or spirituality. They wanted to know, “Was it safe?”
So leaning in close, I whispered, “One night we were dining at a traditional Middle Eastern restaurant and a waiter came by and…”
“He accidentally stabbed me with a shish kebob and I nearly choked on my falafel.”
I wondered, why not ask, “Did you visit the Dead Sea?” or, “Did you pray at the Western Wall?”
It was like neglecting to ask a New York tourist, “Did you visit the Statue of Liberty?” or, “Did you see Time Square?” and instead asking, “Were you mugged at gunpoint?”
Our trip wasn’t what my friends and family probably imagined: “To the west you’ll see the Wailing Wall, to the east you’ll notice the Dome of the Rock, and to the south you’ll observe a city bus exploding.”
For two glorious weeks we marveled at the magnificent Mediterranean coast, explored ancient ruins and walked on sacred ground. We found the answers to deep questions: How did it feel to climb Masada, the mountaintop fortress where Jewish defenders killed themselves rather than be captured by the Romans? What was it like to unearth ancient artifacts over two thousand years old? We would even solve the proverbial question, “Why did the camel cross the road?”
It wouldn’t be fair to say there’s no violence in Israel. The 64 years since Israeli independence have been marked by conflict. What else would you expect of a country that’s surrounded on all sides by enemies? It’s like putting Batman in a boxing ring with the Joker, the Penguin and Cat Woman and not expecting any punches to fly.
It’s true that border areas around Gaza and the West Bank are susceptible to terrorist attack given the enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. And that’s why you won’t find me sipping a cappuccino at the Gaza City Café wearing a Star of David necklace.
But I didn’t miss the opportunity to visit Israel. In a country where homeland security is cutting edge and public safety is a top priority, I saw it as a worthwhile risk for a lifelong benefit.
Everyday we sweep chance under the carpet. The chance we might get T-boned at an intersection, the chance we may black out from noxious glue fumes while scrapbooking, or the chance we might be electrocuted reading kindle in the bathtub. And that’s just in our own neighborhood.
What about other travel destinations? With a crime rate of 845 per 100,000, Orlando is ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the U. S., but that doesn’t stop us from visiting Disney World.
So therein lies the question: Why did the camel cross the road?
Because he wasn’t chicken.
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