Solidarity mission ventures off beaten path

With stopovers on both sides of the Green Line, several embattled neighborhoods and a busy emergency room, the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay is embarking on a very unusual solidarity mission to Israel.

These, however, are very unusual times.

"This is not a tourism or sightseeing trip. The truth is, most of us who are going to Israel at this point have been there before and done the tourist thing," said Ami Nahshon, the federation's executive vice president.

"The purpose of this trip is to meet and provide support to people who are off the beaten path, to get up close to some of the tough political and social issues."

Departing on Monday and returning next Friday, the 15-person East Bay delegation will travel to Wadi Ara and Emek Hefer — the seam along Israel's narrowest strip. In the region, Israeli cities and settlements virtually touch Palestinian villages, with almost no physical border.

"Regardless of where any of us might be on political issues — land for peace, more land, less land — it's important for those positions to be grounded in a realistic understanding of the situation," said Nahshon. "Listening to political debates or even looking at the map doesn't give you a full grasp of the incredible challenges of geography, particularly in the narrowest part of Israel."

After crisscrossing back and forth across the Green Line, the delegation will visit the Magen David Adom first-aid station in Jerusalem.

"Someone referred to these visits as almost making a condolence call; bikur cholim, a visit to a sick friend or relative," he said. "We're standing with someone who is suffering in order to help him. Another objective is to help ourselves; to recharge our batteries and gain a new understanding of what's going on in Israel and come back and help energize our own community."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.