Congregation Ahavath Torah Solidarity Mission
(Operation Protective Edge)
On last night’s 12 hour flight back to Englewood, New Jersey from an emotionally war ravaged Israel, I had time to reflect on our solidarity mission of these past five days. I won’t tell you where we went and what we did since that has been done by many of those in our group (I am happy to direct you to their posts).
Over the course of our trip there was something troubling me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. However, once I was on the plane with the mad dash from one activity to the next behind me, I was able to go through the five days in slow motion to try and figure out what it was.
It occurred to me that every place we went and every person we spoke to said the same thing to us that sounded something like this: “We cannot thank you enough for coming to Israel now! Most foreigners are afraid and have run away from Israel while YOU have done the opposite to show your support etc. etc.” When we went to the hospital to visit wounded soldiers, they thanked us. When we paid shiva calls to the families whose husbands, sons and brothers died, they thanked us. When we visited Emunah facilities, they thanked us. Store owners and cab drivers thanked us. I even noticed that one of our Hebron guides had tears in his eyes while he thanked us.
There is something askew here. Why should these people who LIVE in Israel and are forced to contend with rocket fire, disrupted sleep from sirens, drafts, lack of wages and most importantly, the deaths of their sons and brothers thank US? We only came to Israel for a few days in order to express our concern and solidarity, but we return to our comfortable houses outside of Israel with no worries of sirens waking us up or our sons being drafted only to never come home. Even if we are glued to our television sets waiting for the most recent Israel updates, we are still far removed from the reality of living through this war.
No, the people to thank are those who LIVE in Israel. Not only the soldiers who fight on the front lines. All the residents of our Jewish homeland are the real heroes and the ones to be thanked. We should be the ones with tears in our eyes when we thank them for creating and protecting our ultimate homeland, and for all their daily sacrifices large and small. Those of us who live in the diaspora are grateful and fortunate to have you citizens of Israel holding and preserving the fort until the day comes when we can all join you. Only then will we have earned the gracious thanks that you extended to us.
* Thank you DOES however go to Rabbi Shmuel Goldin (Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood) and Debbie Siman-Tov (Emunah of America) for their tremendous efforts in assuring the success of this emergency mission in only 4 days.