Day 121 of the War: The Comfort of Comradery

The order list from October 20th 2023 when we needed many volunteers at the restaurant. (courtesy)
The order list from October 20th 2023 when we needed many volunteers at the restaurant. (courtesy)

Today, Sunday, is the first weekday that I haven’t gone to the restaurant where I volunteered since the war started, and it feels like a good time to collect my impressions.. At the beginning, when we needed many volunteers at J17, because we were making almost three thousand meals a day, the contribution of volunteers from abroad, in addition to the Israelis, was essential. One of the volunteers. Michael from London was identified as the kind of person you can rely on to do anything at any given time. Almost every day, when  I arrived at the restaurant at about 9 am, he was already there, chopping vegetables or washing dishes, assisting the different chefs in preparing the food and then helping with the packing. We all liked Michael, and got used to his being there in the morning, and then suddenly he returned to his real life in London.

In the beginning of the war when everything in Israel stopped, we had volunteer chefs who took turns making giant pots of vegan dishes for the soldiers. One of them, Bat Hen, came to  the restaurant un Tel Aviv from Karmiel in the north, traveling several hours back and forth by train. Another volunteer chef, Osnat, cooked delicious Indian vegan food for us. And then there was Ariel the dedicated  sous chef who came from California to volunteer, and stayed with us for almost two months.  

Naturally as the war continued, with no end in sight, many of our regular volunteers resumed their work and duties, and we had fewer regular volunteers. But a few weeks ago, Andy, an older man from Philadelphia, started coming to J17 almost every day. He has been in Israel almost from the beginning of the war, initially working as a volunteer in army bases. Then he started working in the restaurant in the mornings and volunteering elsewhere in the afternoons; he has endless energy and goodwill. It was clear right away that Andy was someone you could trust: he anticipated every need and was willing to do everything and anything. 

Working together for such an important mission, our group of volunteers in J17 has become a community. Israel is going through a very difficult time, and this special comradery of people from different backgrounds and different ages, helped me to be more optimistic about the goodness in people and about the future of our country.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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