Reflections on a Trip to Israel
By Howard Maier
Late last night, I returned from the unity trip to Israel with Governor Cuomo and the New York legislative leaders, and have a few thoughts I would like to share.
First, my gratitude to my brother-in-law, Andrew for inviting me to join the delegation. I was truly humbled and honored to have been part of this important mission. All members of the delegation recognized the importance of the trip to each Israeli we met, including the employees of El Al, the people of Israel-on the streets of Jerusalem and workers on the kibbutz—and the political leaders and IDF soldiers we met. Consul General Ido Aharoni was with us the entire time.
Highlights of this 28 hour trip included meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Rivlin, and Defense Minister Ya’alon, visits to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Western Wall, a briefing about the Iron Dome system on site near the city of Ashdod by Lt. Colonel Peter Lerner, and going into a terrorist tunnel on Kibbutz Ein Ha-Shlosha, about one mile from Gaza. Joining us at the tunnel site was former President Simon Peres.
Each leader thanked Governor Cuomo, the people of New York and the United States for supporting Israel during this crisis, and recognizing Israel’s right to defend its people. Governor Cuomo expressed New Yorker’s support at every stop, which was greatly appreciated. Israelis all recognize how one-sided the world media has been about it’s negative coverage of Israel during this time. Yet, the reality we saw was quite the opposite. The Defense Minister showed us videos of terrorists emerging from tunnels in Israel’s kibbutzes, rockets fired from mosques and playgrounds of kindergarten and schools, ambulances driving terrorists from location to location, hospitals and mosques having large quantities of ammunition and rockets, mosques being used as entry points for tunnels, etc. We were stunned that this information doesn’t get out better to people, because we are shown the end result of Israel attempting to eradicate these realities.
The length and sophistication of the tunnel we saw was also shocking. We expected a small hand dug tunnel; instead this tunnel ran approximately two miles from Gaza at least one mile into the middle of the kibbutz corn field, was about five feet high and three feet across, framed in concrete ,with electrical and communications wiring and obviously dug by machine. The tunnel was twenty-five yards below the ground surface.
We also felt the frustration of the Israelis who have had 3,500 rockets fired at them. Fortunately, Israel now has the Iron Dome system which has stopped 90-percent of those fired. Nonetheless, Israelis are constantly forced to live in bomb shelters.
During the trip, I often reflected how this is a continuing struggle. As we approached the hills of Jerusalem, I commented to Senate Speaker Silver who was sitting next to me that we were at the site of the major battles during the war of Independence right after World War II. Later, I thought of these battles with historical perspective. The sophistication of the weapons has changed, but the battle continues. #