In March 2004 I asked Kim to marry me. She said, 'yes.' Naturally we were both very excited about getting married, but a dilemma had begun to fester in our minds. Should we have the wedding in England or in Israel? Everyone had an opinion.
Many of our family and friends thought it was best to get married in England.
"It's not fair to make us fly to Israel. Don't you think you're being a little selfish?"
"It's just too dangerous, Sorry, we just cannot come."
"What if some terror attack happened? You'd have this on your conscience for life."
You might as well be getting married in Iraq.
My wife's family is based in South Africa -- a country that is plagued with daily violence and statistically one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Yet we heard similar words about visiting Israel.
"It's too dangerous. I'm scared."
"You might as well be getting married in Iraq."
Due to the media, people have a perception, that in Israel the chances of getting killed or wounded are much greater than anywhere else. But the facts show otherwise. Los Angeles, with a population of 3.6 million, averages about 750 murders annually, or 21 per 100,000. By contrast, during the height of Palestinian violence (2002-03), Israel's population of 5 million experienced 930 murders (810 from terror), or 7 in 100,000.
Additionally, 96 percent of the violence has taken place in the West Bank and Gaza where only 5 percent of the Israeli population lives.
Front-page news creates a perception of more violence in Israel than there actually is. CNN's ammunition comes in 20-second sound bites and two-minute video highlights of skirmishes and killings in the Mideast.
Yet how many know that over one million people have been killed in Sudan over the last decade?
The Right Thing
Kim and I knew that we were dealing with "CNN-BBC irrationality," yet we still gave serious consideration to having the wedding in England. After all, we wanted to make our families happy.
However, after many sleepless nights and long discussions, we decided to get married in Israel. The cost of making the wedding would be within our budget, and we would enjoy the great spiritual benefit of being married in the Holy Land.
We would enjoy the great spiritual benefit of being married in the Holy Land.
Thankfully, our families supported the decision, and on June 13, 2004 we had a truly amazing wedding in the historic Old City of Jerusalem.
Throughout the wedding planning, Kim and I always wanted to do the right thing. So in order to minimize the pain of those who could not (or would not) come to Israel, we flew back to England a few days after our wedding so that friends and family could join us in the traditional Sheva Brachot celebration. Our largest Sheva Bracha took place at Aish UK in Hendon on June 17. The setting was beautiful, and we had a lovely, spirited evening.
The next evening, that same Aish UK building was firebombed. The offices were gutted, the rest of the building was damaged by smoke, and two Torah scrolls were desecrated. Damage exceeded $400,000. I cannot fully grasp the pain of trawling through a burnt out building, coming across a Torah scroll in tatters. And I do not know what kind of new beginning the rabbis are planning, but I do know that Aish UK will recover and grow stronger.
This is the real story, but to every deep story there is a sub-plot, too. God runs the world with an intricate web of events, which have one message for one person, and a completely different meaning for another. For us, I couldn't help but wonder at the irony of all those who said, "Sorry I can't come to your wedding, Israel is too dangerous."
Our family and friends who travelled to "dangerous" Israel found it both beautiful and safe. Those who stayed behind in the supposedly "safe" UK were within 24 hours of being serious injured or killed in what appears to be a terror attack.
Reality and perception are two very different things. Perhaps, rather than relying on the BBC or CNN, we should consider the reality that the Almighty runs the world… no matter where we may be.