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Reflections from Our BDJ Members in Israel #3

01/10/2024 12:33:03 PM

Jan10

Mark Rosenbaum

The answer is “yes.” 

I spent the week of December 24 through 28 on a Jewish National Fund (“JNF”) solidarity mission to southern Israel.  We shared a hotel with refugees from Sderot, where children rode their bikes in the hallway, and attended a local school each day. We had the privilege to build sprinklers for kibbutznik Erez so that he could plant his next year’s crop.  We said the prayer for the deceased of Be’eri at their temporary graves in kibbutz Revivim (until they can be re-buried in Be’eri) with caretaker Dagan.  We helped farmer Gal harvest his dates, and at night we drank the wine we purchased from him as we reflected on the day’s events. 

We met the brave, dedicated and diverse medical staff of Soroka Hospital (a staff 60% Jewish and the balance Bedouin, Muslim and Christian Arabs).  When faced with the over 670 emergency room patients on October 7 alone (in one hour they received 83 patients – more than one per minute during that harrowing day) they did not fracture, rather unified in treating the injured, and they continue to do so. 

When we went to inspire soldiers on an army base with a BBQ, we were the ones who were inspired by their morale and commitment as they danced and sang into the night.  The next day we packed boxes of food on assembly line at another army base for soldiers in Gaza, where we met 20 people from an Israeli semi-conductor company who were volunteering to make cardboard boxes because that’s what needed to be done. 

We sat quietly, swallowing the lumps in our throats as Tal and Afek told their story of the Nova Festival, and we were stirred by their conviction that “we will dance again.” At the Nova exhibit in Tel Aviv, we were struck by the jarring-yet-familiar image of shoes, the shoes of those who ran and/or perished. At Adi Negev – a forty acre facility for severely mentally disabled children, Eli told us about the incredibly demanding and intense work of the teachers and staff, and we provided them with some support in their classrooms.  We visited hostage square in Tel-Aviv, where the feeling “it could have been one of us” was replaced with the feeling “it is one of us”.  Finally, we prayed at the Kotel. 

My overall feelings were that Israel is at war, a just and meritorious war that they believe in their hearts will and must win. But Israelis are also feeling isolated.  Over the course of the trip I asked Erez, Dagan, Gal, the staff at Soroka, the soldiers, Tal, Afek and Eli, “does it matter to Israelis if Americans come to Israel and help out?”  Their answer was not just “yes”, it was,  “yes, so that we know and feel that we are not alone.”

To learn more about the ongoing JNF missions, please go to: www.jnf.org/travel/tours/index/volunteer-in-israel-missions

                              

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784