Unpopular Opinion: I am Proud to Send My Daughter on Her Tour of Israel

My best friend, her parents, my parents, and some woman I talked to at a party last week are all against me sending my 16-year-old daughter on her teen tour to Israel. 

This tour is a capstone experience for those who attend my daughter’s URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Camp, GUCI. Kids who had grown up together at camp would spend one final month together before aging out of the camper experience (first joining Avodah as workers, and then as paid staff members).

This year, 47 kids will be on the combined URJ trips. The tour my daughter is taking has 12, and only three of them will be from my daughter’s camp. It is possible that if the GUCI campers attended the second session (kallah Bet), my daughter, who is a dedicated first session (kallah Aleph) camper, may not know them.   

This is a drastic change from the end of last summer when she and her cabinmates talked for hours about their trip, and over half of them had decided to attend. There were at least four additional cabins of boys and girls that could have joined in.  

I understand why parents would be unwilling to send their children on this summer’s trip, and kids might feel reticent to go on such a trip. I have listed those reasons in my head and out loud again and again:

The country is at war, and I don’t want to send my kid to a war zone. What is there to gain from sending my daughter to a country that has experienced the largest and most traumatic death of Jews (and systemized rape) since the Holocaust? 

The country will be healing from collective trauma; is sending her on the teen tour emotionally safe or fair to both my daughter and the folks who will host her? What if the war spills out beyond Israel and Gaza? 

Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is better trained and equipped than Hamas, has been firing missiles into northern Israel. And the Houthis–what the hell is up with them? What if they or another Iranian proxy attacks Israel or a US ship or base?  Then things will go from bad to terrible, and I don’t want my kid in the middle. 

With only three kids from her camp and far fewer kids in general, why even bother to send her?  Will she even have a normal teen tour if tourism is not back and security is at an all-time high? 

Maybe waiting another year will be safer. What if something unspeakable, unthinkable happens to her?  When I first agreed to sign my daughter up for the trip, on the first day of Hanukkah, almost two months after the attacks, I secretly hoped that it would be canceled. Then the Israeli government, the URJ, or The Man, would be to blame, and I wouldn’t have to be the heavy.   

But as of now, none of those things have happened, and I had until March 8, (it was Feb. 28 until the trip was postponed) to withdraw her from the program without any financial penalty. The program can, however, be canceled if the Israeli government, the URJ, or The Man sees fit between now and her departure. And at this point, that would be worse than my saying no in the first place.

My daughter is increasingly determined to go. Her original response when it seemed like the trip would be canceled was anger. She pointed out that the same group that had their bat mitzvah via Zoom and missed out on their parties was also having its teen tour canceled. It was like a teen chapter from When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

My daughter had been worrying about and planning for this trip for over a year, and she had been considering it since she became a camper at ten. Since that first year at camp, she has become a nationally ranked athlete and had to weigh the trade off between a sport she loves and a much anticipated trip. 

After much discussion, before and after the attacks, she concluded that she would not be active in this sport for the rest of her life; it won’t be her profession, but she will be a Jewish woman for the rest of her life. 

She needs to know about the American Jewish community’s relationship to Israel, and she needs to be able to talk about the culture and people of Israel as well as her relatives who have chosen to make Aliyah.  

With the rise of not just anti-Israel sentiment but its integral walking buddies, anti-zionism, and antisemitism, she needs to be even clearer when she understands and explains to others why she is a Jew, and how she believes and feels as a Jew.  She needs to be prepared intellectually and emotionally when she faces Jew hatred at college in a few years. I believe that it was in the best interest of Israel and the URJ, financially and marketing-wise, for the kids to be kept safe from any harm.

With this internal struggle met, my daughter, with my support, chose to give up national competition for what promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. She will be on a very different trip than I took or than her older friends have taken. 

It will be more intimate and perhaps more dangerous, but it will also be a time to bear witness to the strength and resilience of the Jewish people and to take part in the rebuilding, even if in a small way, the nation of Israel. 

And when my parents and friends call me to tell me they don’t want me to send her to Israel, I tell them the story of my grandmother, who was a professional worrier and selective recluse. The day before I was to leave on my teen tour almost four decades ago, my father told me that his mother could not sleep. She had been watching the news and was concerned about my safety in Israel. She wanted me to cancel my trip. I asked him with the brashness of a teenager, “If I let her fear talk me out of this trip, what else could I miss by caving into fear?” I am holding onto that teenager attitude; I can’t cave into fear (though the adult me has concerns) and I won’t encourage my daughter to cave into it either. There is too much here to gain.

Andrea Beck earned a Ph.D. in English Rhetoric.  She is particularly interested in the rhetorics of Jewish American Women in the later 20th century to the present. When she isn’t over-mothering her exceptional daughter, dogs, and husband, or working in the family business, Andrea carves out time to write. Her favorite meal is soft-boiled eggs with toast and tea.