Saturday, December 08, 2001

Israel trip emotional ride for area Jews

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They prayed while overlooking Jerusalem, the city ravaged by recent suicide bombings and terrorist attacks.

Rabbi Irvin W. Wise hugs his daughter Shalva after returning Friday from a five-day trip to Israel.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        They talked to residents who called them heroes, and in exchangewere touched by the Israelis' determination to continue life in the war-torn country known as the Jewish homeland.

        On Friday, these Cincinnati-area Jews returned from Israel, sharing these poignant memories. The sights and sounds of Israel had strengthened their ties to each other, their families and fellow Jews around the world.

        “Israel is not alone and it shall not be abandoned,” Rabbi Michael Zedek, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, said at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. “We return having experienced moments of hope and healing, for we saw firsthand the determination and courage of our brothers and sisters in Israel. Simply put, they will not be outdone by the forces of darkness and evil.

        “Israel and America are the two great symbols for freedom in the world. That's why we've always been — and always will be — targeted by those who fear what freedom can bring.”

        About 60 federation members left for Israel on Sunday, hours after they learned of two suicide bombers detonating deadly nail-studded explosives in an outdoor mall in Jerusalem.

        They later discovered the explosives killed 10 young people and injured a Cincinnati high school graduate, Temima Spetner, 19. The 2000 graduate of the Regional Institute for Torah and Secular

        Studies in Golf Manor is expected to make a full recovery. She will leave the hospital next week.

        A third of the mission group returned Friday. The rest chose to stay through the weekend so they could be in Israel for the Sabbath.

        Those returning spoke of the gracious welcome they received.

        Israelis called them heroes and thanked them for their support. Every place they went, they were reminded of how Israelis continue to shop, mingle and go to school while living with terrorism on a daily basis.

        “Terrorism is terrorism. Fanaticism is fanaticism. It always leads to pain, fear and death. These Israelis, every day, ... continue to affirm life,” said Rabbi Irvin Wise of Adath Israel Congregation in Amberley Village, speaking at the airport.

        Steve Shifman, who also made the trip, said he never was concerned about his safety. He only became anxious when he called his wife, Julie, and sensed her concern.

        She never asked him to cancel the trip. If she had, he doesn't know what he would have done.

        “There are 13 million Jews in the world and 5 million are in Israel,” the Amberley Village resident said. “It's an extremely important place for Jews everywhere. We give our time. We give our money. It's yet another thing to give your presence.”

        Carol Herman, an elderly woman from Montgomery, was the first to meet reporters at the airport. Originally from Germany, she lost her family in the Holocaust. She has visited seven times since 1941, when she arrived in the United Sates.

        “It was wonderful. It was heart-wrenching. It was worth it. I'm ready to go back next week,” she said. “I just can't get over the spirit of the people. What they have to live with day in and day out ...”


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