The warning from the U.S. State Department to Americans is clear: Avoid unnecessary travel to Southern Israel and to Gaza.
The U.S. has praised Israel's decision to loosen some of the rules for the Gaza blockade that escalated last month, but still issued the following caution, according to Fox News:
"The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to remain mindful of security factors when planning travel to Israel and the West Bank and to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. U.S. citizens are cautioned that a greater danger may exist around restaurants, businesses, and other places associated with U.S. interests and/or located near U.S. official buildings."
Last month, nine people ended up dead after a flotilla of ships bringing aid to Gaza attempted to break the blockade.
Israel took worldwide heat for the incident and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since said the country will ease its blockade that many say causes those in Hamas-run Gaza to live in poverty. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, and the European Union.
They say they will not allow weapons through, which was the reason for the blockade in the first place, and yet U.S. citizens are still cautioned.
I am watching all of these events closely because I am about to embark on a two-week trip to Israel in a few months.
It will be the first time I have left my children for any extended period of time and I was nervous enough about the trip without this extra layer. I am saddened by these events. It seems the situation has become so complicated; there truly is no hope of peace. I hope I am wrong. And I hope there is a solution that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to have homes.
To be sure, the issue is divisive. I have recently had to cut someone out of my life (who I should have blocked long ago) who could not discuss the situation without resorting to blatant anti-Semitism.
My relationship to Israel is complicated and is far from unilaterally supportive of every move it makes. But I believe in its right to exist and I believe in its right to defend itself. And I will not tolerate the hatred and thinly veiled bigotry that populates conversations about the Middle East.
Do I have a solution? No. I am not sure anyone does right now. But I do hope there will be one in the future and, until then, I have to be able to feel safe to travel to a place where so many members of my family live -- and call home.
What do you feel about these issues?
Image via MmMmMmMatt/Flickr