Israel: A Remarkable
Carved Out of the Desert
Beverly Cohn Editor-at-Large
sually when I'm invited on a press trip, my family and friends are very
excited for me. When my trip to Israel materialized, I eagerly
shared with everyone what for me what was great news. Their smiles suddenly
faded and were replaced with looks of deep concern. "Be careful."
"Be careful." "Be careful." I heard that over and
over again, with one email from a friend reading: Don't leave the
group. Don't eat in any outdoor cafes. Don't use the buses. Don't use
any underground parking
Have a good time! Don't. Don't. Don't.
That was the "bon voyage" sentiment that came at me from just
El Al Airlines has stringent security measures,
making it the safest airlines in the world. Courtesy
While I'm fully aware of the recent hostilities taking
place in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, not for
a split second did I have a single worry. After all, I was headed to
a country that probably has the best security in the world. No El
Al plane has ever been hijacked or shot down, which is due in large
part to the routine security measures at airports and the state-of-the-art
defense systems in place in that tiny country, no bigger than the state
of New Jersey. In addition, many of El Al's aircraft are
equipped with anti-missile technology.
After my United Airlines flight out of LAX
arrived at JFK in New York, I headed over to the El
Al ticket counter to pick up a boarding pass for the next leg of
my journey. A friendly Israeli gentleman greeted me and escorted
me to the check-in line, at which point a young woman interviewed me.
"Why are you going to Israel?" she
"I'm going on a press trip," I replied.
"What is the purpose?"
"The purpose is to write a feature on my experiences."
"Where exactly will you be going at which hotels
will you being staying?"
At this point, I took out my itinerary as prepared by
the Israel Ministry of Tourism, which outlined the destinations
we would be visiting. She read it carefully and then asked me some more
"Did anyone give you a parcel to take with you
"Did you ever leave your luggage unattended?"
I had already received a note from Israel Tourism
asking me to be patient and not take offense at any questions that might
be considered invasive, so I was fully prepared to even account for
my bra size, should I be asked that. After about ten minutes of questioning,
I was then escorted to the ticket counter where I was issued a boarding
pass and a special invitation to wait in the El Al Lounge for
my connecting flight, which would depart in about five hours. Not to
worry though, like most Jewish "homes," the food area
was overflowing with wonderful treats and before I knew it, the five
hours had flown by and the boarding of my flight to Israel commenced.
I queued up to get on the plane, and when I handed my
boarding pass to yet another security officer, he very politely said,
"Wait here." I have to admit that was the only moment
of concern, as I couldn't imagine why I was being detained. He addressed
another gentleman behind the counter who picked up the phone and spoke
in Hebrew. As I do not speak Hebrew, the only thing I
understood was "Beverly Cohn." The security guy came
back in short order and beckoned for me to proceed to the plane. I asked
if there was a problem and he smiled and said, "Not to worry."
Once on board, I was looking forward to the 10-½ hour
flight to the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, and I'm
pleased to tell you that delicious free food just kept on coming throughout
the duration of the flight.
Unlike some other performers, Lady Gaga refused
to cancel her appearance in
Tel Aviv. Courtesy Photo
I share this reassuring experience with you because
following the latest conflict, many people cancelled their booked tours
or business conventions, as did many well-known entertainers. Some of
the notable talent that backed out included Neil Young, America,
Backstreet Boys, and Kansas. One entertainer who did not
cancel was the amazing Lady Gaga, and I'll talk more about her
incredible performance in Part Two. Knee-jerk reactions to visiting
Israel are largely based on uninformed misperceptions about its
people, politics, and the realities of normal day-to-day life in that
Most people think Israelis live in constant fear
of the next rocket attack. Also, they have gotten much bad press with
many stories beginning with incendiary and provocative headlines like,
"Israel Kills Civilians" or "Israel Murders
Children." What is glaringly omitted is how many rockets were
fired into Israel and that they were acting in their own defense.
Despite the occasional hostilities, life goes on as usual. People wake
up in the morning, have their breakfast, which generally includes fresh
vegetables, eggs, and cheeses with coffee or tea, and then go off to
work or school. Life is active and the streets are alive day and night
with people enjoying themselves at lovely cafes. They attend the ballet,
opera, movies, as well as classical or rock concerts.
Stringent security measures at the Ben Gurion Airport
gives you assurances that your safety is their Number 1 concern. Courtesy
Whether you are a Christian, a Jew, or
a Muslim, or whatever your religious background you might be,
Israel is a magical place filled ancient religious and cultural
wonders and is a fascinating, fun destination for a family vacation.
You can be assured that one of Israel's primary concerns is the safety
and security of its visitors. To paraphrase Israel's old tourism slogan,
"Go To Israel. Stay with friends."
This sign greets you on arrival at the Ben Gurion
Airport setting the tone for the memorable vacation you are about to
experience. Photo: Beverly Cohn
Part Two is a detailed account of my exciting
adventures in Israel, which included visits to the Old City
of Jerusalem, the Western Wall, King David's Tomb,
the Room of the Last Supper, the Muslim Quarter, including
the Arab market, Capernaum, the ancient Jewish
fishing village where Jesus began his ministry, Masada,
Yad Vasahem the National Memorial and Museum of the Holocaust,
floating in the Dead Sea, and so much more.