August 14, 1997
Israel or Bust
The Federation had received only four cancellations -- a total of seven people who decided not to go because of the twin blasts -- according to Evy Lutin, mission co-chair. More than 350 people are signed up for the 10-day mission, which celebrates the kickoff of Israel's 50th-anniversary year. About 500 people are expected to make the trip.
"Life goes on, whether you live in the United States or the Middle East, whether you ride the subways in New York or there's a drive-by shooting in Inglewood," Lutin said.
She and her husband, Marty, the other co-chair, were in Atlanta for the Summer Olympics when a bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park. "We could have gotten killed or hurt," she said. "But did we say we'll never go to the Olympics again? Absolutely not!"
At recent recruiting meetings for the Israel mission, the terrorist bombings were hardly mentioned. "People want to know what clothes to wear in November or whether they'll have time to go shopping," Lutin said.
Bernie Bienstock, who is leading a small contingent from Kehillat Ma'arav, a Conservative congregation in Santa Monica, said that he and his wife, Jewish Journal columnist Beverly Gray, had anticipated that a violent incident might happen prior to departure, and said that only a war would stop them. "My personal opinion is we've got to go. Israel needs our support," Bienstock said.
Federation Executive Vice President John Fishel said that most people would recognize that random acts of violence are not the norm in Israel. "I've been going to Israel for 20 years on a very regular basis, and I have never felt less than safe," Fishel said. "I think a lot of people have a strong desire to show commitment to Israel as we begin the 50th-anniversary year."
Meanwhile, plans for the tour have continued apace, said the Federation's mission director, Freddi Rembaum. She recently met with the Israeli ticketing agent and leaders of the various synagogue and other groups to design specific itineraries for the trip, which will take place Nov. 1-10. Rembaum and her husband, Joel, senior rabbi at Temple Beth Am, who will lead a bus group from the synagogue, a married son who lives in Israel.
"I was so angry at the stupidity of these [suicide bombers]," she said. "But the peace process is going to go on.... Despite these headlines, the reservations for the mission are coming in, and the number of seats will be limited."
For more information or reservations, call (213) 852-7872.