From The Heart
by Charlie Kalech
Having become parents for the second time this past
year, my wife, Alexis, and I wanted to celebrate and
go out to dinner. My mom wanted to treat us and told
us to charge it on her credit card.
Here in Israel, the unfortunate reality is that it
is not unusual for us to be treated by our parents.
Many of our friends receive financial help from their
parents. With more than 10% of the Israeli workforce
unemployed and 20% of Israelis living below the poverty
line, the effects of the intifada on our economy are
devastating to us all. Some parents help on a monthly
basis, others give lump sums for major purchases. In
the current economic climate, it is very difficult to
get by on our own.
We hadn't gone out to eat for a while, so we weren't
sure where to go. Rungsit, a Japanese/Thai restaurant
across from the Inbal Hotel was our first stop. We got
there and saw some postal delivery notices taped to
the locked door. The inside was deserted and unkempt
another business closed. Back in the car, we
headed downtown to our second choice, the Mongolian
Bar-B-Que. The premises were absolutely empty. We finally
made our way to Yossi Peking Chinese food, a
long-time stable favorite. We were there for two hours
during which only two other tables were occupied. We
all enjoyed dinner, but the desolate atmosphere saddened
In Israel, everything I do helps the country. When
I shop, I buy products which were either imported or
manufactured by Israelis, delivered by Israelis and
sold by Israelis. When I work, I contribute to the economy.
If I go out to eat, I am supporting Israeli businesses
and in turn I am helping Israeli families who are going
through some very hard times right now.
There is no substitute to being here if we want to
support the Jewish State and people. Now is not a time
to come to Israel to take a vacation. Now is the time
to show your support for Israel by coming here. Even
if you come for less than a week, you help so many people
during your visit. We need you to come. We want to see
you. We need you to go to our restaurants, to shop in
our stores. We need to see you on our streets and we
want to welcome you in our homes. We want you to come
pray in our synagogues and celebrate our festivities.
Jerusalem is missing its tourists the sounds
of laughter and the expressions of new sites being discovered.
I think that Israelis are past the anger. We are past
the fear. We are also getting past the depression and
hopelessness. Now we are reaching towards acceptance.
We realize that this is not a crisis. This is a new
reality, for us in Israel, as well as for Americans
and Europeans. The terrorist threat stretches across
the globe. I feel the changes all around me and from
a distance American Jews seem to have responded to terrorism
by removing themselves and their children from experiencing
Those of us in Israel feel this. Not only are Americans
denying themselves the opportunities of experiencing
Israel, but, by removing themselves from the scene,
they leave Israelis without a partner for dialogue.
I no longer have the opportunity to welcome the scores
of friends and family members and American teens who
visited in Jerusalem every year. I no longer have the
insightful discussions during which we would exchange
viewpoints and meaningful discourse. It
saddens me that first-hand knowledge has been replaced
by ignorance, emotional ties with apathy, and dialogue
with assumptions. The experiences which created a lifetime
bond between Jewish American visitors and their historic
homeland have evaporated. A new generation is coming
of age without a personal connection to Israel or to
The damage goes deeper than the economy. As an American
I know the importance that these trips play in developing
an understanding of what it is to be a Jew. As an Israeli,
I feel the rift between American and Israeli Jews is
widening because there are fewer encounters between
In Israel we are grateful for all American Jewish support,
including launching an effort to buy "blue and
white" and to bring Israeli merchants to the United
States. But make no mistake
about it: material support is no substitute for being
here. As fewer American Jews come to Israel, their connection
to Israel lessens. The long-term consequences of this
are already taking effect.
Israelis' physical distance from our American brethren
has become more permanent and left us feeling more remote.
We are feeling alone and are aware of our deteriorating
relationship with our American brothers and sisters,
like the relative who is an outcast, always invited
but never visited.
Charlie Kalech, a founder of Tnuat AM, has been
living in Jerusalem for over twelve years. He owns and
operates a Website design company, J-Town
Productions Ltd. Along with his wife and two children,
Charlie is an active member of Kehilat Moreshet Avraham,
the Masorti synagogue in East Talpiot where his oldest
son attends the TALI nursery school. Charlie warmly
invites all our readers to visit them in Jerusalem.
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2003 main page