A Lil Piece of Positive on Israel’s War for Peace. It was my last Friday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My annual summertime visit to my hometown had come to end, and I was soon returning to my homeland of Israel, where I’ve lived for almost 4 years. I had enough bagels, blueberries, and dirty martinis to somewhat satisfy my yearlong cravings. I enjoyed time with family and friends, and finally got to cross Las Vegas off my bucket list. There was just one thing. While physically I was in America, my heart and soul remained in Israel, filled with heartbreak given the current state of our precious Jewish State. No amount of reasonably priced American retail therapy could change that.
My biggest fear is that no one will ever know the truth about Israel.
The fact is that the entire population of 8 million people is in danger, and over 90% of the country is under fire. Hamas terrorists, and their children’s children, are born and bred with one evil goal – to murder the Jewish people – and will stop at nothing, including deliberately killing their own, to ensure this mission is achieved. In a rational world, this would be considered extreme terrorism and would not be tolerated. However, media outlets worldwide choose to wrongfully portray almost every single incident that occurs between Israel and (insert anything here). A ludicrous double standard has been placed on Israel, a country who offers so much to humankind on a daily basis, and all the world seems to be able to say is nothing.
I fear no one will realize that the people of Israel overflow with the utmost amount of dignity and respect for all forms of human life. I fear no one will understand that Israel values the life of innocent people, all Palestinian civilians included. I fear no one will care about the daily struggle Israelis go through – literally surrounded by the big bad Arab wolves waiting to blow our only house down. I fear the abundance of inaccurate information portrayed by the media will lead to further isolation, silence, and unwarranted hate crimes against the Jewish people. I fear the thought that human beings are actually indifferent to the existence of the most repulsive, barbaric, and hateful hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, #HitlerWasRight.
My fears are 100% valid. Except, that I’m also very wrong.
Last Friday night, I experienced a scene which provided an emotional jolt to my soul and gave me a strong sense of pride and reassurance which I never felt before, as an American Israeli Jew living in the Holy Land.
It all started at Friday Night Dinner. The one meal of the week where Jews across the world gather to keep tradition alive, to celebrate a peaceful start to the weekend, and to munch on Ma’s roasted chicken and potatoes. Whether super Jew or super secular, the Friday Night Dinner ritual is a reason to join family and friends around one table, and is ultimately about togetherness and community.
On July 18, Chabad at the Shore*, an inspiring community open to Jews of any flavor, hosted an event at their synagogue – a Friday Night Dinner to honor the Israel Defense Forces. But wait for it. Program Coordinator and Master Chef, Ella Rapoport, said the dinner theme had been chosen months ahead of time in May. However, being the chosen people has its perks, and sometimes, the right things happen at just the right time.
As discussion brewed about a ground operation in Gaza, Ella began receiving call after call. Just a few days before the event, 60 guests suddenly turned into over 120. Like our IDF troops jumped into action to protect our people, the American Jews of the Jersey Shore did the same, in the only way they knew how. Though their battle consisted of resisting endless bowls of hummus, as opposed to endless terror from Hamas, the ultimate purpose of Friday Night Dinner became crystal clear – to honor Israel and our soldiers for dedicating themselves to forever protecting the Jewish people.
On the 18th day of July, our brave troops entered Gaza to defend our homeland, and our meaningful meal took place. Something truly powerful happens when a group of Jews gather around one table in support of one common goal. The evening was immediately elevated when we saw that 18 IDF soldiers were in attendance, with a serving span starting from 1948 to 2013. The amazing spectrum of soldiers in house was impressive and humbling – from a Holocaust survivor who spoke of his fight in the 1948 War of Independence, to the courageous men who fought the daily fight, to a group of recently released and passionate Chabad Rabbis who brought the positive energy level up about 613%.
With tables full of homemade Israeli food, the evening began with a heartfelt welcome from Rabbi Avroham Rapoport, followed by a burst of Israeli songs and vodka shots in true Friday Night Dinner form. Each soldier got a shout out, accompanied by a warm round of applause and acknowledgement from the gracious crowd. Without all those who fought and served in the past, our land of milk and honey would simply not be as sweet.
A blessing was recited for the soldiers of today, of right now – in Gaza, in uniform, in war – for all those who are protecting our people and our future. Something awakens within when over 120 voices recite the same exact words of prayer with strength, sincerity, and passion. And so we said: “May He bless the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces, who stand guard over our land and the cities of our G-d from the border of Lebanon to the desert of Egypt…on the land, in the air, and on the sea…” AMEN. And we stood in solidarity – over 120 American Jews became one community, who steadily honor and support Israel, the IDF, and the existence of a Jewish state.
You could slice the dedication to the Jewish people with a challah knife, and oh what a fabulous feeling. Having felt alone, filled with worry and frustration with the way Israel is unjustly depicted by American media time and time again, I was genuinely surprised and touched at the energy and affection towards Israel and its soldiers. And I realized that I wasn’t alone. Every single person in that room felt what I felt, and had their own connection to Israel – a mother with 2 sons in Gaza, a brother who lives in Sderot, an aunt who sends a waiting family hourly updates from a bomb shelter, and the list goes on and on. Who knew so many Jews at the Jersey Shore actually care? It was an eye opening experience for all, and especially heart opening for me to see firsthand that Jews from afar feel what we feel in Israel, suffer with us, and stand with us.
Something stirring happens within when you realize you are not alone. When you realize others understand your heartbreak, and pray for peace. When you realize others feel for the way Israelis carry on, and stand solid in the land that rightfully belongs to all Jews. When you realize that no one supports extremism and the death of the innocent, on any side. When you realize others stand up and speak out against the unbalanced and unfair media portrayal that the world has been tricked into believing and mistakenly supports. When you realize we are our own force of energy and light, especially in these disturbing moments of darkness against the Jewish community worldwide.
The dinner lasted for hours, and ended on an inspiring note from the wise and wonderful Rebbitzin, Tova Rapoport. She compared the Jewish community to a rope – “if you tug on one end, there’s bound to be movement on the other end.” In other words, “when you do a mitzvah in Margate, it provides protection to those who need it most in our land of Israel.”
It’s time for each of us to start shaking the rope. We may not be on the front line of the battlefield, but we can create our own version of ‘Operation Protective Edge.’ It’s time for us to stand up as one Jewish community and take action to create positive energy and impact for Israel and for the world.
What can you do to join? Make sure your mezuzahs are kosher and kissed. Light the Shabbat candles this Friday night. Give a few coins to tzedekeh. Host a Friday Night Dinner. Put on tefillen. Reach out to a lone soldier, or any soldier. No matter what side of the religious spectrum you fall under, help keep the spirit of Jewish tradition alive.
Most importantly, speak up. Educate others who are being tricked into unnecessary hatred for a people who just want to live in peace. Share the truth.
With every mitzvah you do, dedicate it to a soldier. Do good deeds daily in the spirit of our soldiers and of our country. Shine your light on those who are fighting for our protection as a Jewish people, and who need your protection more than ever themselves.
SO what do the Jews of the Jersey Shore and the IDF have in common? Both are dedicated to the preservation of the Jewish people and our Jewish State. While there is no doubt the IDF are the OG’s of proper protection, at this stage in our War for Peace, it’s just as crucial for the community of Jews across the world to carry out our own ‘Operation Protective Edge’ – one full of light, love, and fierce support.
And to that I say, L’CHAIM.
*Chabad at the Shore runs The Ventnor Shul in Ventnor, New Jersey and is blessed with the leadership of Rabbi Avroham Rapoport, who offers genuine warmth and inspiration to anyone who walks through the doors. The synagogue is known as a home away from home for any Jew who wants to connect with a welcoming community by the South Jersey shore. The doors are open for Jews of any flavor and affiliation for prayer services, Shabbat dinners, various types of fun and spiritual classes, and an atmosphere filled with the spirit and joy of your own Jewish family by the shore.
Get a soldier, do a mitzvah: http://shmiraproject.com/
See numerous ways to help soldiers firsthand, posted by the one and only, Secret Tel Aviv: http://eepurl.com/ZmB4j