“It will bem when you come the land which I have given to you . . . a land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 27:3)

Is it dangerous to go to Israel? Perhaps not as dangerous as not going.

What is the danger of going? Something may happen. Likely? No. Possible? Like anything else in life.

What is the danger of not going? Well, nothing. Nothing will happen. Nothing noticeable, nothing remarkable, nothing tangible. Only a subtle, nearly imperceptible shift will happen. Subtle can be profound.

Abraham Twerski tells of the guy who finished a night of partying and came home to his twentieth-floor Manhattan apartment. He flopped into bed and kicked off a shoe. As he was about to kick off his other shoe, he remembered that someone was sleeping in bed on the nineteenth floor; he carefully took off his other shoe and placed it on the floor. Ten minutes later, there was furious knocking on the door. It was the guy from downstairs, “Would you throw down the other shoe already!” he shrieked.

Waiting for the other shoe to fall is nerve-racking. Once the chips fall, though, you know where they are; they fall, they hit, they break, and then they sit quietly.

A lot has been said about the ghetto Jew; most of it is pejorative, and undeservedly so. Ghettoes had walls, outside of which Jews could neither live nor be found after nightfall. Edicts barred Jews from most jobs, landed them with Jew-taxes and branded them with yellow stars and hats. Death was not the exception.

Ghetto Jews knew the price the outside exacted from them for being a Jew. Ghetto Jews paid the price and got on with being Jewish. For them, being Jewish meant spiritual grandeur, intellectual profundity, timeless legacy, optimistic future: how lucky to be a Jew. As Jonathan Sacks says, while much for the ghetto Jew was problematic, Jewish identity was not.

Not so for the converso Jew, the less-spoken-of side of the medieval coin. He, afraid of being rendered a penniless wanderer on a leaky boat, allowed the village priest to sprinkle him with water. He attended church; he adapted as best he could all the manners the outside demanded of his faithless conversion.

But the outside was now in him, and the converso Jew lived his life looking over his shoulder. When will they find him out? When will the shoe drop? What will be the ultimate price of being a Jew? While much for the converso Jew was not problematic (above all, finance and bodily safety), Jewish identity was.

In the end, the converso could not remain as a Jew. While a celebrated few died a martyr’s death, most melted into Catholicism. That was his price. Not being a Jew. The Jew who chose the ghetto paid his price. His Jewish grandchildren tell his story.

Whether one should go to Israel at this time or not has a personal component; possibly what is appropriate for one is not for another. But there is a component that must be addressed. Going has a price. Not going has a price.

When I was in Morocco with ten yeshivah friends, we learned how to walk the streets. Don’t walk on sidewalks, where you can get too close to someone looking for trouble. Walk in the middle of the street, like you own it. Walk near parked cars; cars are a status symbol, and they’ll hesitate before throwing a rock if they might hit a car. Don’t walk the streets when the bars let out; a drunk coward is a stupid danger. And if you’re ever hit, hit back twice as hard, fast, and—because within moments you’ll be outnumbered 300 to 1—get lost quick. But don’t ever run.

With all the caution, one of us was hit with a rock in the eye. A well-meaning American, a visiting representative of a Jewish fundraising organization happened to come to Casablanca then. He had heard of our friend who was hit. Why don’t you guys cover your yarmulkes with caps, he suggested. We answered him with polite, noncommittal noises. Go explain it to him.

But if he’s listening, here is the best I can offer—some 26 years later:

If you want to run, you can—but you can’t just run a mile. You have to run a hundred miles. If you hide who you are, then you’re never yourself. Your kids will never know who you once were—or who they now are. If you hide your yarmulke, then you’ll hide your mezuzah necklace, and even hide your name. If you hide, you may be safe. If you’re safe, you’ll be all the more scared to not be safe. You’ll be scared to be you.

If you don’t hide, you may be hit; if you’re hit, you may be hurt. You may die: many Jews have died for no other reason than who they were. Is it worth it, to die for who you are? That’s not even the question. The real question is: is it worth it to live for who you are? If who you are is worth living for, then there is nothing to fear.

That trip to Israel you’ve been pushing off? It is safe to go, dangerous not to go. The other shoe has dropped. Enjoy the trip!