Pubs filled as regular customers gathered and pints of Guiness were poured in anticipation of the Tel-Aviv vs. Ireland World Cup soccer qualifying match on March 26. As the foam subsided, so did the spirits of the Irish because the match ended with a one-one tie. But the game turned out to be a win-win for twenty Israeli survivors of terrorist attacks thanks to the Jewish community of Dublin.
Chabad representatives, Rabbi and Mrs. Zalman Lent learned that planes chartered to fly jet set Irish soccer fans to Tel Aviv would be returning near-empty to the Emerald Isle. They found travel agents willing to sell them the open seats for a few Euros and the promise of a great good deed: offering survivors of terrorist bullets and bombs a Purim vacation in Ireland.
Dublin’s Jewish community banded together and raised enough money to sponsor 20 tickets. Over in Israel, the activity director of Chabad’s Victims of Terror Project, Rabbi Menachem Kuttner, had to choose among 2,000 survivors and victims’ family members to fill the plane. Unlike some trips for terror survivors, the Jews of Dublin wanted nothing more from the visitors than to offer them some respite from their anguish.
“For many of these families Purim is no longer a happy time – in fact just the opposite,” said Rabbi Lent. “Because of their pain and suffering they just stay indoors while everyone else rejoices outside. They wanted a chance to get away.”
The trip was the first time Avigail Levy skipped a day of visiting the grave of her daughter, Rachel, who was seventeen when she was murdered by a female teenage suicide bomber’s blast at a supermarket on March 29, 2002.
For Yaakov Kinarty, the visit to Ireland was his first journey out of Israel since he fought in the Yom Kippur War. He made the trip to accompany his ten-year-old son Dvir Kinarty, who survived terrorists’ bullets that hit him as he traveled by car from Jerusalem to Ma’aleh Efraim.
“For me it wasn’t easy to decide to go, but I understood this as sort of a mission,” said Ya’akov Kinarty. “It has given us a very warm feeling to meet them, and also to meet with these other Israelis. People in such agony need people to listen to them, especially other victims. I hope coming here gave people a rest, but also gave those living here a feeling for our lives. As Jews, they’re a part of the story too.”
Offering a warm welcome, a quality the Irish captured in Gaelic with the famous salutation “Cead Mile Failte,” one hundred thousand welcomes to you, took a special form because the Israelis visited on the holiday of Purim. The visitors were invited to take part and take center stage at the Purim Persian Feast, which attracted a capacity crowd of 200 – many in costume for the holiday. The next day, when the ten-year-old survivor of terrorist bullets, Dvir Kinarty got up to speak at the synagogue, many were moved to tears.
As soon as the Israelis arrived on Wednesday, March 23, they were whisked through top Dublin sites. At the Guiness factory free suds were gratefully imbibed by some of the weary travelers. At the lushly green Wicklow Mountains, the Israeli visitors got an eyeful of what a steady diet of rain could do to a landscape quite unlike the panoramas of their drought threatened homeland. They stopped off at the Dublin’s Jewish Museum, which was opened in 1985 by former Israeli President Chaim Herzog whose grandfather came from the area. Their tour continued with a Viking Splash tour that moved from Dublin streets to Dublin canals in one amphibious vehicle.
As the group boarded the planes on Sunday, many of Dublin’s 1,000 member Jewish community were left feeling so uplifted by the visit, they immediately made plans to host another group. Their next opportunity will come soon. Tel Aviv’s soccer team is scheduled to play a match against Ireland in June.