Last October, I was one of the lucky ones to book an Explorer Award ticket on American Airlines that consisted of 16 segments, 50,000 miles flown, all in business class. It was my crowning achievement as a points traveler because I got to fly the Dreamliner on JAL, business class over and over on the incomparable Cathay Pacific, sample British Air, enjoy the service of Malaysia Air, and find little value in the overhyped Qatar Airlines. While planning the trip that had more rules and regulations than a legal textbook, my goal was to maximize new cities visited and miles traveled. I planned it so I could leave for Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in December, return to the United States in January, and resume my travels to Europe this summer.
The routing for the rest of the trip was New York (JFK) to Helsinki (Hel) to Tel Aviv (TLV). I had always wanted to visit Tel Aviv after watching a great 60 Minutes segment on this enchanting city located on the Mediterranean Coast. Even with the escalation of violence over the past few weeks, I was determined to go especially after reading a Washington Post article dated July 9, 2014 reinforced what I learned from speaking to friends who had lived and traveled there. They all made the same point: life goes on uninterrupted even during times of war. To quote the Post, one local said, ““I was at the movies last night when the siren went off, and we did not even hear it,” None of the residents trivialize the real danger that is near their doorsteps, but as the article states, “This city’s defiantly blase attitude masked a hardened sense of risk acceptance among its residents,” A significant reason for this sense of security comes from the protective shield known as the The Iron Dome that defends Tel Aviv from enemy rockets.
Today, the U.S. State Department issued a specific travel warning for those with travel plans to Israel writing, “Long-range rockets launched from Gaza since July 8, 2014 have reached many locations in Israel – including Tel Aviv. . . While many rockets have been intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, there have been impacts that have caused damage and injury. In light of the ongoing rocket attacks, U.S. citizen visitors to and U.S. citizen residents of Israel and the West Bank should familiarize themselves with the location of the nearest bomb shelter or other hardened site, if available.”
I am still confident that even with all that is going on, Tel Aviv is relatively safe but I cancelled my trip there because it is superficial to worry about myself as a tourist when it is a daily matter of life and death for those on both sides of the conflict. This is not the time nor the place for talk of vacation and trivial matters when there are far more important issues that must be resolved.