On July 14, two days before 18-year-old Noah Goldman was set to leave for a monthlong tour of Israel, the trip was postponed due to the escalating violence in that region.
Goldman, a senior at East Mecklenburg High School, had never been to Israel and had been excited at the opportunity to finally see the country that figures so prominently in his faith.
“My Jewish identity is important to me,” said Goldman, who worships at Charlotte’s Orthodox Temple, Temple Ohr Hatorah. Both his parents, Sandra and Yaron Goldman, have family in Israel, and his mother is president of the Hebrew Cemetery of Charlotte.
Goldman ultimately went on the trip, after he and his parents decided he would visit family in the south, where there was minimal danger, until the tour started.
Once he arrived, however, Goldman got word the tour had been canceled.
“I’m already in Israel,” Goldman said he thought at the time. “Now what am I going to do?”
He reached out to other groups already touring Israel, but they were full.
His parents also were seeking solutions. While attending a Hadassah convention in Las Vegas, his mother learned of a solidarity mission to Israel. She told organizers her son was in Israel and asked if he could join the mission, comprised of three men and three women – the youngest of whom was 51. They agreed to add Goldman to the roster.
Goldman met the mission members at the airport July 28, his 10th day in Israel, and traveled with them for the next three days, traveling on the first day to Haifa and the Baha’I Gardens.
“We had a beautiful view of a good portion of the city,” Goldman said.
The group also visited a youth village, and Goldman met kids his age and younger who had been transplanted during the fighting.
The second day offered firsthand accounts of what it is like to grow up in a war zone. At Beer Sheva, Goldman’s delegation spoke with the director of crisis services and the deputy mayor of the city about the thousands of rockets fired at them. The group also spoke with two mothers of sons in the military and went to a park with olive trees planted in the names of fallen soldiers.
“If I lived in Israel, I’d be in the military,” Goldman said. Military service is required for 18-year-olds in Israel.
“People my age are fighting and dying for their country,” he said.
Goldman also got within a half-mile of Gaza and saw a children’s play center surrounded by bomb shelters. “Kids shouldn’t have to deal with that in their childhood,” Goldman said.
The final day of the tour was spent in Jerusalem, where Goldman was able to meet with the mayor and the president of Israel. Goldman toured a Hadassah hospital, where injured soldiers and Gazan civilians received free medical care.
He also visited a military cemetery and saw newly dug graves. “It’s hard to believe that the newly buried people were alive just a few days ago,” Goldman said.
Goldman returned home in August with a much clearer understanding of what people in Israel deal with on a daily basis.
Goldman said he appreciates his life in Charlotte; he also said he appreciated that his original tour – one that would have included “rafting and camel rides and other fun stuff but nothing really substantive” – was canceled.
“Everything worked out much better in the end,” he said.