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Why Visiting Israel Now Matters: A Conversation with Melinda Strauss

Tel Aviv

Last week at Kosherpalooza, I had the privilege of chatting with Melinda Strauss, known for her insightful and passionate posts about living a Jewish orthodox life, on TikTok and Instagram (@therealmelindastrauss). Our conversation delved into a topic close to us both: why visiting Israel now is so important, regardless of how much time you have.

Here’s a distilled version of her thoughts from our conversation, which profoundly highlight the impact and significance of every visit to Israel. Published here with permission.

Dani from YeahThatsKosher with Jewish Influencer, Melinda Strauss

Economic Impact

“Even if you can only go for a few days, your visit makes a big difference,” Melinda emphasized. She explained that spending money in Israel helps boost the economy significantly. Tour guides, stores, and local businesses, many of which are struggling, benefit greatly from tourism revenue. “These tour guides aren’t working as much as they used to,” she said. “When you hire them, tip them, and recommend them to others, you’re changing their lives. Stores are half empty or mostly empty. Your presence and spending help keep them afloat.”

Personal Transformation

Melinda believes that visiting Israel is a transformative experience. “You can’t understand Israel fully from the outside,” she said. “By being there, seeing the people, and experiencing their way of life, you end up changing yourself. It’s about seeing their resilience and understanding their struggles firsthand.”

Support for Locals

According to Melinda, engaging with local tour guides, shopping in stores, and participating in activities provide essential support to the livelihoods of many Israelis. “Every interaction, every purchase helps,” she noted. “You’re supporting people who might otherwise not have work.” The recent war with Hamas has taken a huge economic toll on everyday Israelis, and bringing in our tourism dollars from overseas is immensely helpful.

Volunteering Opportunities

Melinda also highlighted the importance of volunteering. “Go pick strawberries or tomatoes,” she urged. “These fields are operating at a quarter capacity. Or pack beef jerky for soldiers. They’re living on canned tuna and peas unless someone steps in to help. Your volunteer work makes a real difference.”

There are many volunteering opportunities, some that we highlighted over the last few months.

Emotional Connection

One of the most profound points Melinda made was about the emotional connection visitors can form with Israel. “Everywhere you go, people want to share their stories,” she said. “They’ll talk about their kids, grandkids, and what life is like now. People are trauma dumping because they need to talk. Seeing us come from America (annd elsewhere) and care about their stories makes a huge difference to them.”

Solidarity with Soldiers

Melinda spoke passionately about supporting Israeli soldiers. “America sends food aid to Gaza, but who’s sending aid to our soldiers?” she asked. “They’re eating tuna and peas in a can. If you can barbecue for them, do it. They’re hungry, and your support shows them they’re not forgotten.”

Melinda’s insights were an important remind to me that any visit to Israel, regardless of its length, is valuable and impactful. It’s about making a difference economically, connecting emotionally, and showing solidarity. So, if you have the opportunity to visit Israel, even for a short time, take it. As Melinda says, “You’re changing Israel by going, and in the process, you might find that Israel changes you too.”

Resuming Flights to Israel

El Al has been the only US airline to fly daily between Israel and North America, but now two US airlines are resuming their flights to TLV, hopefully lowering the cost of travel to Israel in the process.

About the author

Dani Klein

Dani Klein founded YeahThatsKosher in 2008 as a global kosher restaurant & travel resource for the Jewish community.

He is passionate about traveling the world, good kosher food / restaurants, social media & the web, technology, hiking, strategy games, and spending time with his friends & family.