March 20, 2003
Eight Days in Exodus
The dedicated and intrepid to celebrate holiday in Israel.
ches, many Jewish families decide to celebrate by relegating the responsibilities of creating a kosher household to a trusted travel agency.
This season, you can break matzah on a beach in Cancun, enjoy fine wines side by side with bitter herbs in Puerto Rico or drink your four cups next to a golf course in Boca Raton. Several companies, based both out of the United States and Israel, will be offering kosher-for-Passover luxury holiday vacations in exotic locales worldwide -- from the tried and true Miami Beach, to the more exotic Ixtapa, Mexico; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Lido, Italy to name a few.
One wouldn't be hard-pressed to ferret out a Passover paradise in pretty much any global hot spot -- except Israel.
Israel was once a top destination for Passover. Whether it was to celebrate freedom in the Jewish State, visit Israeli cousins or tour the country in the fragrant springtime, for many, Israel was the number one choice for Passover travel. Now, after two years of terrorism and an impending war, only the incredibly dedicated and intrepid will celebrate the exodus to the Holy Land.
It's not the travel industry's fault. It is only following the will of clients.
"We encourage people to go Israel if they want to go to Israel -- that should be a first choice," said Leah Erblich of Afikoman Tours, which offers destinations to Scottsdale, Ariz., and Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. "But if they can't go for some reason, we offer luxury resorts closer to home."
Robert Frucher, managing director of Leisure Time Tours, affirmed that Miami Beach remains his New York agency's most sought-after Passover destination.
"There are plenty of hotels in Israel that [already] offer kosher-for-Passover accommodations," Frucher said.
Although kosher-centric agencies offer voyages to quite a few destinations, many of them appear to steer clear of the Holy Land, as Israeli reverie and relaxation take a backseat to safety concerns.
However, there are several solutions for sedulous vacationers who want a little historical validity alongside their seders.
Chen Tours, based in Bnei Brak, offers an assortment of Passover-friendly resort packages in upper-end hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as Dead Sea and Northern Israel destinations.
Tour Plus, another agency catering to travelers to Israel, offers hotels in the Dead Sea, Tiberias, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Hills, Haifa and Ramat Gan.
There are also local solidarity missions from synagogues and other organizations.
Rabbi Elazar Muskin, spiritual leader of Young Israel of Century City, will be taking a group to Israel for Pesach on April 17, which will include accommodations at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem. Muskin said that "lip-service Zionists" should take matters into their own hands.
"I am disappointed in the leadership of American Jewry," he said. "As Israel suffers, we're not doing much in terms of getting tourism to them. People always make excuses."
If you are interested in going on your own, eight-day packages in highly trafficked areas such as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv typically range from $1,800-$2,700 for a double room, whereas less populated locales can go for anywhere between $1,400-$2,600. Anywhere you go will stick you with an additional $450-$550 stipend for children.
Any of these resorts offer the typical amenities of a resort hotel: spas, saunas, Jacuzzis, health clubs and fitness centers. Many of them, however, offer private beaches (with separate-gender areas as a courtesy to Orthodox guests), children's activities with day-care centers, family entertainment and evenings of Chasidic songs, lectures and shiurim, as well as organized tours with professional guides.
So while your wallet might warm up to those rates, is fear holding you back?
Safety has become a primary concern for many travelers who have turned away the notion of an Israel-bound vacation this Passover season in favor of stateside retreat. Several Jews expressed either apathy or apprehension toward the notion of traveling to the Holy Land, one remarking how she would "much rather see her family remain home for this holiday."
Muskin, however, strongly believes in the obligation of Jewish tourists to give Israel priority to other exotic destinations.
"My concern is people say, 'Israel is good enough for the Israelis to live there under the gun, but not for me.' You have to make Israeli tourism a high concern."
For more information on Pesach trips to Israel, visit www.totallyjewishtravel.com. For information on Young Israel of Century City's Passover Solidarity Mission through Emunah of America, contact (800) 368-6440 ext. 321; firstname.lastname@example.org>