Israel@60 Mission: Farewell

On my last morning in Israel, I woke up before dawn, too restless to sleep. I wasn't the only one. This being Yom Ha'atzmaut, pretty much every teenager in Tel Aviv had stayed up all night partying, many of them on the beaches. That's where I headed on my sunrise walk. From the hotel I walked north along the Promenade. Evidence of the previous night's revelry littered the sands and walkways: liquor bottles, fast-food refuse (picked over by the crows) and the kids themselves clustered in sleeping packs. City sanitation workers wearing yellow vests had already swooped in to begin cleaning up the mess. As I walked I saw a group of teens standing in a circle. They surrounded one of their mates, a boy, maybe 17, sprawled on the ground, dead. Or so he seemed. Passed out to the point where he sure seemed dead. Alcohol poisoning can kill, so no matter what, I knew this boy was in medical trouble. But his friends were themselves so drunk they didn't realize what was happening, and they kept slapping him, yelling at him to wake up. I looked up the street and saw the flashing blue lights of a police car 1,000 yards away. I ran to the car and in broken Hebrew tried to explain to the officers what I had seen. They stopped me, said they spoke English, and heard me out. In a second they raced off to save the boy. As I walked away, I started crying, not only from the stress of saving someone's life. I imagined this kid was a year or two away from army service, where his life would once again be on the line, at risk from an enemy he could not control. At least now, in his own juvenile way, he endangered himself on his own terms: with his friends, on his country's defiant independence day. No excuses: he was a dumb teenager engaged in high-risk behavior. But he was just being an independent Israeli. That night, with the sun going down, the Israel@60 mission gathered at the amazing cliffside home of entrepreneur Zaki Rabib and his wife Vivien, in Herzliya. At $24 million, it is the single most expensive home in all of Israel, and it showed. Built by an Austrian Jewish mogul, it was all glass, teak and Jerusalem stone, with a sloping lawn reaching to a cliff overlooking the beach, the Mediterranean and the sky. Farewell dinner Missionites mingle at the farewell dinner hosted by Zaki and Vivien Rakib. Photo by Jack Adler This was our farewell dinner, and joining us was Assam Ibrahim, the Egyptian ambassador to Israel. In a week of miraculous incongruities, perhaps none topped this one: the ambassador of Egypt -- a nation once utterly committed to Israel's destruction -- mingling with a group of San Francisco Jews in a town named for a pioneer of modern Zionism. We ate and drank and toasted each other as the sun went down. For many of us it was our last Israeli sunset for a while. Soon after, we boarded the bus and drove through the dark to the airport and our long flight home. But it was a great source of comfort to know tomorrow the sun would again rise over the sands of Tel Aviv, over this beautiful land of ours. -- Blog b'Omer (Dan Pine)

Categories: Israel


May 10, 2008


The Federation