‘Guardian of the Walls’, the most recent war between Israel and Hamas, was underway.
Reports began to surface many Israelis were full of anxiety, and frequently overwhelmed by the 90 second run from their house to a bomb-shelter.
How do they do it, I wondered? How do moms and dads defend their little ones as rockets fly overhead? I started to get nervous at the thought. In my minds-eye I could see the frothing enemy. I could hear those psychotic-sounding air-raid siren. My mind began spinning at the reality Israelis live with. Then I remembered. I’m in Toronto. I’m safe. My only siren is the red bird singing outside my window. I’m safe.
Throughout the war, I would regularly Facetime my sister and her husband, and their five girls who live in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. My niece, Tsipora, is a Breslov Chasid. This means she and her family follow the teachings of Rav Nachman of Breslov, an eighteenth-century ascetic Chasidic leader and teacher who encouraged the pursuit of God through happiness and solitude and straightforwardness, uncluttered by philosophy and theology.
Tsipora has moxy and is highly motivated to help others. She is busy. Her parenting responsibility is all encompassing, and she owns and operates a wedding-video company. Tsipora’s home was not far from where Hamas rockets were landing so she and her five children moved into my sister’s house.
Tsip and I would talk. I’d share with her my social media postings encouraging Jews to play a role in fighting anti-Semitism and sticking up for Israel.
“Uncle Avrum”, Tsip instructed. “If you really want to help, you need to figure out how to get some scared Israeli families out of the line of fire.”
Tsipora was right. It was time to do something ‘tachlis’, tangible. “Okay Tsip”, I responded. “Here’s the deal. You get me the families and I’ll get the money.”
Tsip smiled that ebullient smile the family is known for. She agreed.
I set about finding the cash. I placed messages on social media challenging ‘friends’ to help in the way they had said they wanted to. Tsip, hit the charedi-ground running. Her grapevine was fired up and phone calls were abuzz within her community. Soon enough, she nailed it.
“Uncle,”, Tsipora said. “I found two families.”
“Great,” I answered.
“The first has eleven children. The second has twelve, “Tsipora said without any timidity in her voice.
I started to laugh. I found it hysterical that my niece thought nothing of a family having twelve children, and mostly, that she wanted our team to move all of them northward to safety. But I loved her even more for her accomplishment. Her job was to secure two families. She did, and that was it.
Tsipora then said, “But here’s the thing. They will only be taking about five children each. The others are out of the house and okay.”
Woo, I was relieved. Only ten children. We can do that.
“What about the money, Uncle? Can we get it?”, she asked?
I had received a handful of responses on social media. One humble fellow said he was only able to donate $75. He wished he could do more. Other than that, my social media came up empty. I was disappointed. An opportunity to help Jews on the frontline, fell on the deaf Diaspora ears of those wining about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel protestors. Complacency shined. No doubt, their ancestors were the malcontents Jews in the dessert, those who consistently reprimanding Moses and questioned the Almighty’s authority.
‘Where’s the water?’ ‘Where’s the manna?’ Oh, God!
But all was not lost. Finally, a hot message appeared from a Jew originally from Southern Ontario, who had made Aliyah a few years ago. He agreed to underwrite the entire venture. What ever Tsip and I needed, he would pay for. I reminded him (we’ll call him Stewy), “Stewy, you realize we need transportation?”
“Yup,” he replied
“You know we need hotel stays for a few days?”
“I do”, he retorted.
“There are ten of kids”, I said.
“Great,” Stewy responded.
Stewy was generous of spirit. His motivation was to help a fellow Jew. I was elated. Hopeful. Tsip was over the top.
I shared all the logistical information with Stewy, including the family’s expected time of departure, the car rental place, names of the hotels and the family’s length of stay. Stewy set about calling all the necessary places and sharing his VISA number with them. No hesitancy.
Soon enough, the families were north bound. We received word they all arrived safely at their respective hotels and began to settle in. Then we received messages and pictures from them. They were smiling. They were swimming in the hotel pool. They told us, “We can breathe”.
I was deeply proud of our team. Our accomplishment was not huge, but it was significant. Our little group had focused on two families, both of whom we did not know. We brought them some m’nucha (Hebrew for rest). I felt like we had moved the world ever so slightly toward a point of goodness and love.
The war ended. The sirens were muted. The families returned home. Our day-to-day communication with Stewy stopped. Once it did, I realized neither he or Tsippy every expected accolades, or a plaque for all to see for their work. Simply put, there was a need, we responded, and it was good.
Soon enough, Tsipora went about booking photography gigs at charedi weddings once again. I continued to look for stories to write about. Stewy? No doubt we will be in touch with him again. The needs never end.
It is clear, while suffering was abundant during Guardian of the Walls, so was the potential to do good. So, we did. That is the nature of the Jew. Am Yisrael chai!