As Operation Protective Edge enters its 14th day, the past two weeks have taken their toll on my mind and my psyche. Constantly checking in with friends and family and keeping apprised of the latest news, one can’t feel anything other than helplessness. I have continued to suppress the urging of my heart to jump on the next plane to Ben Gurion, knowing that I can’t do much more from there then I am already doing here.
I was asked today; by a former Birthright participant I was a madricha for, what she can do to support Israel right now. That is when it occurred to me that there are so many people in the US and abroad that don’t know the many ways they can help, even from their own homes.
When Israel is under fire, countless organizations and charities spring up to help support troops and residents of the areas worst hit. There are three that I’d like to urge people to support:
- Yashar LaChayal’s “Gaza Operation Emergency Fund”: I first became involved with Yashar LaChayal when one of my closest friends from college volunteered for the IDF. Adam served as an infantry soldier in Nahal’s 50th Battalion, a unit that was severely underfunded. Adam began fundraising for his unit and many other infantry units throughout the IDF who needed basic supplies like shlukkerim (water backpacks), socks, winter wear, and basic base needs. They have done tremendous work helping those who literally are on the front lines of Israel’s defense. Currently, Yashar LaChayal is making sure that every soldier serving in Protective Edge has the materials they need, including toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, and soap (all being bought in the southern communities which have been economically devastated over the past few weeks due to the constant barrage of rocket attacks).
- Support IDF Soldiers and Israelis Under Fire: A close friend of mine from graduate school and proud resident of Tel Aviv, Brandon, has started a campaign to raise $18,000 to support wounded IDF soldiers and families, as well as the businesses that have suffered from the constant rocket attacks in the south. Supported by volunteers from Friend of Israel and the Argov Alumni Association, Brandon and Lior (his fundraising partner) will “use the funds to, among other things, purchase goods and services from businesses located in the south to donate to wounded IDF soldiers and affected families. [They] will also buy ready-made kits for soldiers in the field as well as care packages for the wounded.”
- Friends of the IDF’s “Israel’s Soldiers Rapid Response Fund”: FIDF has done absolutely amazing work to support the IDF, including those who have been wounded in combat, lone soldiers, and the families of those who have fallen. This current fund is being matched dollar-for-dollar.
There are also ways of supporting Israel and the IDF that don’t require donating money: Be active and read the news. Know what is out there, and be informed. Information is the best defense against ignorance. Or if you want to lend your voice, attend a pro-Israel rally. Many local JCC’s and Jewish organizations have been hosting rallies across the US.
Today as I write this, another 25* of our brothers have fallen in defense of our country. That’s 25 more names that we have to read on Yom Hazikaron. That’s 25 more families who won’t be able to hug their sons and fathers when they return home. That’s 25 too many.
No matter what your feelings are when it comes to the current situation in Israel and Gaza, support for the soldiers and the communities in the south has no political affiliation. These brave men and women are our brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, cousins, and friends. These communities are home to our families and our friends. They are our responsibility to take care of as we all pray for peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
ברוך ד׳ן האמת.
*Updated as of 7/21/14 19:30