Welcome Back to Israel, Elana Lipkin

On Wednesday  December 6, 2017  U.S. President  Donald  Trump made a momentous  announcement, from the White House  keeping a 2016 campaign promise.  He acknowledged Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish nation of Israel expressing the possibility of an ultimate movement of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This despite the President signing a waiver under the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 delaying such a move.

The Arab and even Western world and media reacted with scorn about abandoning a 70 year US policy of seeking peace between Arabs and Jews and fixing boundaries of Palestine and Israel.    Protests by Palestinians arose in Ramallah and Bethlehem, sirens wailed in Southern Israel a portent of threatened rocket attacks and intifada from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Was this the time for a young American Jewish woman and college student to arrive in Israel? Meet my second oldest of four granddaughters, Elana Lipkin.  Her cousin Amanda Gordon had a similar experience when she was in Israel during the 2014 50 day IDF Operation Protective Edge. Older sister Arielle Gordon, a Northwestern University graduate in the Class of 2017 had returned from a Tagblit Birth Right Trip this past July.

Elana Lipkin is scheduled to leave for Israel from Amsterdam tomorrow where she has been spending her junior year semester abroad. She is a Presidential Scholarship holder at American University in Washington, D.C. She had spent time in Israel during the summer of her junior year in high school in the Mid Hudson Community of Highland Mills when she entered and won an essay contest sponsored by  a local Jewish Federation.   She was raised in a committed Jewish family by her parents, my elder daughter Illisa and son-in-law Rob Lipkin. They are active members of a  local Reform Synagogue in nearby Monroe, New York  where  Elana  was Bat Mitzvah, becoming an accomplished torah reader and assistant to the cantor.  Her younger sister Lindsay is equally accomplished in her own efforts.

The Federation Scholarship enabled Elana to go on a National Federation of Temple Youth group tour to Europe to visit the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech Republic, the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. That was followed by her spending a month in Israel that included  time at a GADNA pre-military training camp becoming familiarized with pre-T’zahal training.  She had written a poem about the experience of climbing up the snake path to the top of Masada wearing her mother’s work boots used in a similar visit three decades earlier.  See: “Kolot – Passing the Torch”, Connecticut Jewish Ledger, August 6, 2013.

A year later in 2014 during T’zahal Operation Protective Edge, Elana wrote me of her concerns about Israel’s survival and portrayal in the media.  Her email and my response were published in “A Saba answers his granddaughter’s concerns about the threats to Israel.”  See: Dr. Rich Swier Magazine, July 11, 2014.

Elana wrote:

Hi Saba!

I know it’s fairly early there, but I’m sure you’re up already. The situation in Israel these past few days has really been worrying me. I care about Israel so deeply and it pains me to see it in danger. I am also bothered by the lies the media spreads and the ignorance of those around me regarding what’s actually occurring. I was wondering if you could do two things for me, first of all, I’d love any information you could give to me on the Operation going on right now. Second of all, do you know of anything I could possibly do to help Israel right now?
Thank you so much!

I love you very much and miss you lots, I hope you’re doing well.


In my conclusion I wrote her:

Your commitment to Israel as a young Zionist is both heartfelt and refreshing among your generation of young American Jews.  You can act as a spokesperson in your community to provide the EMET- the truth about what Israel is facing.  Tonight at Kabbalat Shabbat services pray for the safety of Israel and its  young men and women of the IDF on the frontlines defending this Jewish nation. You met them during your GADNA training last summer in Israel.

Months before Elana’s departure for her Junior seminar abroad in Amsterdam she had booked air travel to include a side trip to Israel before returning to the US. She has aspirations of spending a gap year following graduation in 2019 in Israel before going on to law school.  We put her in contact with a Jewish Agency Shaliah who had spent a similar gap year here in a Pensacola Federation sponsored program following T’zahal service. She is now matriculating at Tel Aviv University Law School. We also reached out to a daughter of fellow congregants at B’nai Israel Synagogue who is living and working in Jerusalem.

When concern was expressed about Elana’s safety while she is in Israel given the reaction to President Trump’s announcement, we reached out to Seth J. Frantzman, opinion editor at the Jerusalem Post for his assessment. Frantzman responded,”Everything will be fine here, safer here than in most major urban areas in the world.”

Elena’s reaction to what has occurred in the last 24 hours:  “I’m a little nervous, but I don’t want to miss the chance to go.”

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of Elana Lipkin was taken at American University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands in December 2017.

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