April 2018 I went to Ethiopia alone with the kids. We visited Gondar, the historic center of Ethiopian Jewry. As it is, Gondar is pretty remote, but we then went on a 3-hour trip in a four wheel drive to take a hike known as the “Roof of Africa”. It is truly spectacular. I marveled at the fact that there were no railings such as those that would surely be mandated in the US. While walking on the edge of the “roof” I started feeling sick. Really sick! It was sudden and intense. I thought I was going to fall off the cliff. I sat on a rock and told Meron who at 16 had just finished a medics course “call the guide I feel like I may die”. I then passed out. It was really quite dramatic of me. I was thankfully fine two days later. However it created lots of discussion including what not to say to your kids when you are alone with them in the middle of nowhere. The kids had 2 passports and I had 4 citizenships. It turned into a game we still play of geopolitics! Which embassy do you contact for a hostage situation vs stranded in a mountain or sick in a remote location? We discuss facts based on which country we are located. They also know call Abba - dad - the embassy, and the closest Chabad House.
We can entertain our Shabbat guests with many war stories from our travels. The travel we do off the beaten path is not always easy. It’s meaningful! We don’t go to zoos and theme parks. Instead we checkout places with historical significance, stay in local villages and engage in volunteer activities. We travel with the locals and try to understand their way of life.
When the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years as they prepared to emerge from slavery to freedom, Moses repeatedly addressed the parents of the Children of Israel. We learn that real freedom is when our children are educated. Our children need to understand oppression, appreciate the miracles, and learn that the journey of life comes with both rights and responsibilities.
When we travel and have these challenging conversations with our children, we can relate this back to our story as a Jewish people. It’s not just on the Seder night that we share stories. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z'l teaches “The world we build tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today.”
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach