Kiryat Shmona attacks hinder participation in mission

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

An El Al jet departed from New York Sunday with a few less Bay Area-based passengers aboard than expected.

In celebration of Jerusalem 3000, the United Jewish Appeal sponsored a 10-day mission to Israel. When first advertised, the mission attracted more than 300 would-be travelers, many of whom were associated with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Federation of Greater San Jose.

At one point, 53 from San Jose planned to participate and 27 from San Francisco signed up. Terrorist suicide bombings in Israel spanning several weeks in February and March did not deter participants.

But something else did: more recent missile attacks by Hezbollah against San Francisco's Israeli sister city, Kiryat Shmona.

"I don't think it's so much that people were afraid, but that they received pressure from their families and friends," said Janet Berg, assistant executive director of the San Jose federation. "It's a shame. In deference to their families, many did cancel."

At final count, 15 from San Francisco and 12 from San Jose undertook the mission, which drew some 300 people nationwide.

"We can't guarantee people's safety on the streets of San Jose. So we certainly can't in Israel either," Berg said. "The UJA missions put so much care into security. You can say all the right words, but ultimately each person has to make their individual, private decision."

Leaders of both federations were disappointed in the lower enrollment. But all are looking forward to the first time when representatives of the two groups will travel together on a bus from Jerusalem to Kiryat Shmona.

"This is a wonderful time for us to get to know one another," Berg said.

Cindy Rogoway, associate campaign director of the S.F.-based federation, was also eager to go.

In addition to celebrating Jerusalem's birthday, "We'll be the first community to visit Kiryat Shmona since [Operation] Grapes of Wrath and show our support," Rogoway said.