A 58hr Journey of Solidarity in Israel’s Heartache

Kfar Azza - members of the IDF continue to comb through this active military zone.
Kfar Azza - members of the IDF continue to comb through the debris and secure the area. Photo taken by Randall Fried

In a span of just 58 hours, a mission with the World Jewish Congress, in collaboration with the IDF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, brought me face-to-face with the resilience of Israel, the raw pain of a nation, and the undeniable bond that connects Jews across the globe. This first blog post seeks to encapsulate that journey, a pilgrimage of solidarity to a place where the unimaginable has become reality.

On October 7th, in the early hours of Shabbat (Saturday) morning, Israel was attacked which would become the deadliest single day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. A day that would see over 2,000 Hamas terrorists flood into Israel and brutally torture, rape, and murder over 1,400 people and kidnap 240 men, women, children and elderly. One example of this horrific day is Kfar Azza, a community once brimming with life, fell victim to a brutal massacre that claimed 58 lives and saw the kidnapping of 18 individuals, including young Avigail Idan. This three-year-old girl’s story is a harrowing testament to the day’s horrors. Her father, Roye Idan, attempted to capture the first signs of the incursion, only to return to a personal nightmare. In the ensuing chaos, as Roye succumbed to his injuries, his children were torn apart by fate. Michael and Amalya, hidden in a closet, awaited salvation for 14 hours, while Avigail’s refuge in a neighbor’s safe room led to her disappearance, her fate an unsolved agony that persists.

The resilience of Israel, an enduring theme amidst these tragedies, was exemplified by Kibbutz Shfaim. This community rose as a beacon of hope, providing sanctuary to the survivors from Kfar Azza. They offered more than just shelter; they provided a comprehensive bastion of care, tending to physical and emotional wounds, and committed to supporting these individuals for up to a year. Their open arms and hearts embody the Israeli spirit—a spirit of collective responsibility and profound compassion.

The Jewish people, dispersed across continents, have felt the pain of Kfar Azza’s losses as acutely as their own. Despite religious, political, and cultural differences, the global Jewish community has united in solidarity, a profound expression of our shared heritage and unbreakable bonds. This unity is our strength, a force that starkly contrasts the hate that sought to divide us.

As I stood on the soil of Kfar Azza, clad in a ceramic vest against the backdrop of an ongoing conflict, Gadi Ezra’s words resonated within me: “If the walls could speak, they would scream.” And scream they do, telling stories of lives cut short, dreams unfulfilled, and a peaceful Shabbat morning turned into a tableau of terror.

Rabbi Leder’s words became a beacon during my visit: “Though my presence changed nothing, it meant everything.” My presence there—bearing witness to the aftermath, to the strength of survivors, and to the enduring spirit of a nation under siege—underscored the importance of standing together in the face of adversity.

Returning home brought a tumult of emotions. The comfort of being reunited with my family was juxtaposed with a poignant reluctance to leave Israel—a land that, despite its scars, had displayed remarkable strength and unity. This internal conflict is a microcosm of the Jewish diaspora’s connection to Israel. We may live far from its borders, but our hearts beat in unison with those who defend it.

The assault on Kfar Azza and the unspeakable acts across the region have sent ripples of trauma across the globe. Yet, in this tapestry of pain, the beauty of our unity and the determination to overcome shines through. When one of us suffers, we all feel the aftershocks, and we all rise to meet the challenge.

In subsequent posts, I will delve deeper into the personal stories of hope amid despair, the voices that refuse to be silenced, and the unshakable belief in the possibility of peace. This series will be a beacon of truth, illuminating the darkest corners of human experience while charting a path toward healing and unity.

This journey has reinforced my commitment to stand with Israel, to share its tales of sorrow and resilience, and to join hands with Jews around the world in the unending quest for a future free from such tragedies. This is our story—a narrative woven through generations, a testament to a people who, time and again, rise from the ashes to light the way forward.

About the Author
Randy is the Director of Philanthropic Engagement & Communication at Tzedek America. For the past twenty years, Randy has also been engaged in Jewish education as an educator for teens and adults, specifically spending the past 15 years teaching Holocaust history and the Jewish history of Poland. Randy is a member of the World Jewish Congress Jewish Diplomatic Corps and Speakers Bureau. Through Randy's communal work, he has also become involved in local politics and community outreach and has advocated for both communal and Jewish interests at the City and State level.
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