Dont rule out travel to Israel

It's understandable that recent bombings in Israel would strike fear in the hearts of potential travelers to Israel.

With the blast outside Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, terrorism moved to a new, more random level. It moved beyond the buses, which can easily be avoided, to the streets and shopping areas, which cannot.

The 2,000 cancellations reported by Israel's Ministry of Tourism last week are evidence of the anxiety sparked by that shift.

While there's no way the fear can be alleviated totally, it's important to maintain perspective.

Yes, terrorism in Israel has stepped up in recent months. But the chances of being a victim of that terrorism remain slim –slimmer, certainly, than the odds of being attacked in some neighborhoods of San Francisco or Oakland.

Such odds may be little comfort to those who are debating whether to hop a plane to the Jewish state, but they are nonetheless useful to keep in mind.

It's also important to remember that Israel, at its hour of greatest need, needs backing from Jews around the world. While support can be expressed through disaster relief funds, condolences and memorial services, Israel also needs to see diaspora Jews stepping on its soil.

Itamar Rabinovich, Israel's ambassador to the United States, made that point while speaking on the national computer service America Online last week. In fact, when asked what American Jews can do to help Israel now, going to the Jewish state was the first suggestion he made.

"It's important that friends of Israel show support to us, and [show] faith that the government of Israel will protect its citizens and visitors," he said.

While there is no way Israel can halt all terrorism attacks, the country is pulling out all the stops to increase its security. Police are working long shifts and are visible everywhere. And Israel has mounted a massive crackdown on the terrorist group Hamas in the territories.

Such steps may not totally calm our fears, but it helps to know Israel is doing everything it can to ensure the safety of its residents — and its visitors.