Despite recent violence, local physician and son head to Israel

By Joe Tash


A local physician and his 18-year-old son planned to board their flight for a trip to Israel Tuesday, in spite of violence occurring in the south of the country in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack near the resort town of Eilat last week.

“Those of us with strong connections to Israel go with the flow. It’s not going to deter us. It’s not going to deter our friends and relatives in Israel… it’s an unfortunate part of life,” David Feifel, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at UCSD and a practicing physician, said in an interview Monday.

Feifel, 48, will meet with professional colleagues and give a talk in Jerusalem during his week-long stay, along with visiting his brother, Marty, who lives in Eilat with his family. Feifel’s son will stay in Israel for a year to study in a seminary, before beginning college.

Eight Israelis died in Thursday’s attacks on civilian buses and a car near Eilat. The Israeli military then launched attacks against suspected terrorists in Gaza, and rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. Feifel said his family and friends were not hurt in the attacks, but the violence does take a psychological toll.

The New York Times reported Monday that a fragile cease-fire appeared to be taking hold between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.

“Like all Israelis, it’s a jarring experience psychologically. But like all Israelis, they know terrorism is a way of life and the threat is always there. While it jars them, they are determined to live normal lives. They go about their business. Thankfully, no close friends or relatives got injured in the attack, (but) it makes them think,” Feifel said of last week’s attacks and the subsequent rocket fire.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Feifel was born in Canada. After World War II, his parents helped establish the state of Israel, and later immigrated, after their first child, Feifel’s older brother, was born. Feifel has lived locally since 1992, and is married with three children.

Feifel said he has been to Israel many times and feels it is generally a safe place, although he is also aware of the volatility of the region and the threat of terrorism.

Last summer, Feifel said, his daughter was in Israel in August when a rocket was fired in the Red Sea near where she was participating in a youth program. The program had to cancel some of the activities it had planned that day.

The recent violence does give pause to the couple as their son prepares to spend a year in Israel, Feifel said. “There’s always a risk this incident will be the beginning of something bigger,” he said.

But the family is convinced the spiritual benefits of the experience will outweigh the risks.

“It’s always such an incredibly positive experience for the youth, we wouldn’t dream of denying him this opportunity,” he said.