We've been talking about this for years: me meeting him and his family, in Israel on Passover.
The reason he e-mailed me to tell me about his spontaneous trip to the holy land was not to invite me, however, but to ask when he could fax me a copy of his will.
Nice times we live in.
Now I find myself torn.
Do I squish a last-minute trip to Israel this month, or do I stay home safe and sound in ... hmm ... ummm ... Manhattan??!
I've never been to Israel, yet I've always felt love for Israel. As much as I'm an American, my sentimental side has always considered Israel to be my promised land.
I know I've romanticized this country to some sort of ridiculousness, but then that's part of the purpose of Israel, to give us a place to feel so sentimental about that nothing makes sense and sense doesn't matter.
As a child of a Yiddish mama who never tired of talking about the Holocaust, I remember feeling even at a very young age, that Israel might be the only place to run to if America should one day rise up and try to exterminate my people as the Nazis had done.
"Remember, Shana Madelah, Germany was considered to be as wonderful to the German Jews then as America is to the American Jews now," my mother warned me -- part of her way of ensuring that I would grow up to be as paranoid as she was.
Nice thoughts for a six-year-old, but my mother felt that the only way to keep the Holocaust from happening again was to keep talking about it. I don't know. Maybe she's right.
For my bas mitzvah, I was given a lifetime membership to Hadassah. Now I regularly receive newsletters about the state of things in Israel, interspersed with advertising about relief for constipation.
Jews have always been obsessed with regularity; don't ask me why. Too much matzoh meal perhaps. That stuff can clog up an elephant.
When the violence between Palestinians and Israelis started again, I felt confused and uneducated. I hated the Palestinians for their cowardly, cruel suicide attacks on innocent lives, yet I wondered what made them so angry. How can they be helped? What pushed them to such extremes?
September 11th certainly brought Israel to the front lines. It also gave us as Americans a taste of what Israel has been going through all these years. After watching the towers burn and collapse, how could we ever feel so disconnected to suicide bombing again?
We weren't virgins anymore.
I spoke with my friend Dror about his job doing security for an Israeli airline.
"Your life must be very stressful since September 11th," I said innocently.
"For us, it's the same," he answered giggling at my naivete. "Israel has always had to be on the defensive. Americans are just starting to do what we've done all along. Now they come to us for advice."
I feel confused and torn when I talk about Israel.
As a Jew, I know Israel is the only place in the world that really is my holy land if there is such a thing as holy land. I think there is, but then, I'm not very holy. When the recent violence started up again I felt ashamed that I had not make my first pilgrimage to Israel.
The newsletter from Hadassah said that Israel has been saddened by the demise of its American tourist support. But how do you visit Israel and not go to Jerusalem, and how do you go to Jerusalem without feeling immense fear?
I feel like a coward. I feel ashamed. I am a Jew, and I have never been to Israel.
I am a humanitarian before all else. I need to understand how to support and preserve and adore this special place and still find a place in my heart to try to understand where the Palestinians are coming from. What is right? What is wrong?
I do not feel qualified to express my opinion in peace among these two peoples, except to say that there must be peace. I need to go to Israel to understand something about right and wrong. I need to stop hearing the Holocaust stories in my head to be more open-minded.
I must admit that I have not been very open-minded when it comes to Israel. I do not want this place that I have never been to taken away from me.
Will I do as my brother has done -- leave my will with someone I love and join my family in Israel? I don't know. Maybe. There's the little matter of who the hell will run my business while I run off on this spontaneous pilgrimage. I think perhaps I've used up my vacation days for this off-season, but this does not feel like a vacation.
Part of me feels this pang of fear that if I don't go now, I never will, that either the Israel I have grown to love without ever really knowing will change in my absence, or I will.
I'll keep you posted.