I went recently on a cruise to Alaska. Instead of eagerly anticipating the trip I fussed and fretted ahead of time: I'll be seasick, I'll be claustrophobic, I don't want to go.
Luckily my husband ignored my kvetching. And even luckier, the Almighty spared me the anticipated agony. And it was one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. I felt like I had traveled to the end of the earth. The mountains, the water, the ice, the sunsets...it was authentically "awesome".
But there was another experience on the cruise that had little to do with the regular ship activities, and nothing at all to do with the ever-present buffet!
One night, mid-week, all the kosher passengers joined together in an expression of love and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisrael. We recited Psalms. We spoke of the situation and of opportunities to help. And we sang Hatikvah and Ani Maamim -- songs of optimism and hope for the future.
At that moment, any individual differences in philosophy were forgotten. At that moment any clashes of personality were irrelevant. At that moment we were one.
The unity was one of the most moving experiences of the week. (Although the world the Almighty created in the North is so striking that we were constantly moved). Beyond that emotion of the moment lay the constant sense of connection. Although most of us were strangers to each other, that evening we were brothers.
It was a brief glimpse of the power of the Jewish people, a people who never forget who we are and what our responsibilities to each other are. No matter how far away we travel...
As the news bemoans the fate of the Lebanese refugees, we ask in confusion, "What about all the Jewish refugees? Where is their air time?" And although the reasons for keeping them off the front page are varied and complex, perhaps the world understands, in some dim and confused way, that we will take care of them; that while it's a tragic experience of overwhelming magnitude, we won't let our brethren down.
As Dennis Prager suggests in "Why the Jews?" the rest of the world complains that "Jews only take care of their own." The more accurate assessment if that "Only Jews take care of their own."
I know we'll be generous with our hearts and our pockets. Because even if you travel to the end of the world, even if civilization seems completely left behind, even as we raft down a bald eagle preserve in the most remote location, we remain Jews. And we remain connected. And we remain believers. And we remain hopeful.