I just returned from a nine-day trip to Israel (my first time in Israel ever) where 14 of us from our Synagogue in the United States worked to feed soldiers on three bases, worked a farm, and spoke to the people. We let them know that we are with them. All the way. To say it was life changing is the most understated emotion I can think of. Processing this is still quite a challenge. It is very raw emotionally. It was an honor, pure and simple, to be a part, a very small part, of an effort to help Israel, help those in the fight, those trying to survive. A small group can make a difference – the members of the IDF were more than grateful for us being there- people who were in awe of their commitment, resilience, passion. And for the farmers…while we only got to one farm that provides vegetables to the IDF bases in the area, we did put a small dent in what’s left of the harvest, even though not nearly enough. The harvest in Israel was three months’ ago. Most of the crops are lost. The war has caused horrific economic damage as well. This is a plea to anyone willing to listen.
I served in Vietnam and remember too well what it was like to feel alone. I cannot forget the bad… but being among these brave men and women reminded me of the good. I watched a small patrol return to their company to bear hugs all around; those waiting were so grateful for their return. It showed me just how together they are. I connected with each and every one of them. Just for a minute. So can you. They are focused and know what’s at stake. One of the many pictures we took told the whole story for me. A reservist in Hebron, one of the 160% that heard the call to muster, sitting that night with his command group watching Ishay Ribo. He sat there, holding his young daughter in his arms, his son (probably 7 or 8) hugging him on his left, while on his right shoulder hung his rifle. A stark reality of what this is really about. Our Israel and our children. A Sargent Major who was with us and part of this command operations group reminding us more than once that evening that this is our home. I never felt that about Israel before. I do now. But this is not a war for land, it is a war for existence. If the Jewish people do not have Israel, how long do you think it will be before they come for us here? Do you think the US is immune to what is going on in Israel? Think again. Just look at the rise in antisemitism in this country. No, my friends, we must make this stand right now and it needs you to be a part of this.
Now, it is not enough to just report this to you. I’m not sure what enough is, or will be for me, ever again. I understand that doing what we did is not for everyone, for a host of reasons. If you can, I urge you to take the step for the next time the opportunity arises to go. Be a part of the Israeli fight for all of us who are Jewish. If you can’t make a trip, I ask that you find a way where your heart can feel the beat of the people in Israel. You must be a part of the community. The Mishpocha. The family. We Jews here in America must all be in this fight. The fight there, the fight here in America. Many young soldiers I spoke with believe Americans are against them because of what they see on American broadcasts. We loudly told them that was not true. They were surprised that we were there. How do we just let that pass? We must ensure that they know they have our support.
The war is real, it is not a media sound bite. We felt it, saw it, breathed it, feared it in our closeness to Gaza, and in the West Bank. We walked through the devastation of Kfar Aza and spoke with a survivor. The pictures we collectively took throughout our 9-day mission are really a dichotomy – those showing the scars of a warring country and those which show the almost unspeakable beauty of our heritage through history, through architecture and living life, in a place where the beginnings of our faith and maybe our souls, can call home.
Am Y’srael Chai!
Davie, FL USA