Alan Edelstein

Help! I need someone

A good number of friends and acquaintances have commented on how brave we are.  We are not.  We are just living life.  We are at a bit of a loss, feeling helpless, hopeless, and somewhat depressed. We are terribly worried about the kids of our friends who have been called up, and about all of the young people who are fighting this war. We wish we could do more to help.

We wish there were no war.  We wish our neighbors would have built a state and would want to live in peace with us.  We do not want to destroy them.  We wish they, or their leaders, did not want to destroy us.

If I were to recommend one piece on the feeling in Israel today, it would be this one by David Horovitz, the editor of The Times of Israel.   Horovitz is a centrist.  He supports a two-state solution but worries, as most of us do, about our security if we were to give up land.  That worry has taken on new meaning in the last few weeks.

We think we heard a couple of Tzeva Adoms (Red Alerts) here in Jerusalem today, but we weren’t even sure.  Because we are on the route to two busy hospitals, and because our apartment is between the Prime Minister and the President’s houses, we hear a lot of sirens.  Plus, I’ve discovered that the start of an electric saw, which we hear a lot of because of remodeling and building in the area, sounds amazingly similar to a Tzeva Adom.

So, when the Tzeva Adom/siren/electric saw went off earlier today, it was a very ambiguous state of concern/unpanic we went through.  It does help that Israel’s ambulances and other emergency vehicles recently switched from the American-style siren to the European siren so as to reduce confusion. Unfortunately for me, being that I’m a bit of a WWII history aficionado, every time I now hear an ambulance, I’m thinking London blitz.

When we reached the tentative conclusion that it was a Tzeva Adom, we didn’t do much in any event.  Firstly, we have great confidence in the Iron Dome.  Secondly, there is not a whole lot we can do.

We live in an old building.  No safe room.  No shelter.  My wife Dana reminds me that in such cases, the authorities advise taking shelter in the stairwell because it is the least exposed part of the building.  I have pointed out to her on numerous occasions that our stairwell was built in the 1950’s and appears to be held together by glue.

Once we did acknowledge what we thought was an alarm, Dana did spend about 20 seconds half-way out our open door and half-way in the staircase.  I was out on the balcony still trying to figure out what we were hearing.  We talked through our apartment, which is small.

Our community center (yes, we have them here; we just do not need to put the “J” on at the beginning) put out word that they are collecting items for the soldiers down South.  Amongst the items in demand: new underwear.

So, Dana went out and bought some underwear.  She bought medium and large, no extra-large, apparently forgetting that a lot of the guys are reservists who may not have been working out all that much in recent years.  She also apparently forgot that, even in wartime, young men have egos, especially around other young men.

I drove the underwear over to the community center.  This morning I also emptied out our overflowing Tzedeka (charity/justice) box.  Why was I motivated to do that today?  It’s been full for months.  But something compelled me to do it today.  So, I piled the change into a plastic bag and brought that with me.

The center director, a young woman, gratefully accepted the new, clean underwear without noticing the sizes.  She said she had no way to handle the change.  However, she said that she had asked her brothers what soldiers want most when out in the field.  The answer, at least the answer they gave their sister:  Bamba, Israel’s quintessential junk food, and other junk food to go with it.

So off we went to the nearby small market with my bagful of change (supplemented by a few bills I threw in).  The director put the bag on the counter and said we wanted to buy stuff with it.  The young man behind the counter responded that he had no way of counting and handling so many small coins.  The director said that it was for junk food for the soldiers.  The clerk’s response:  we’ll weigh it.

I have no idea how the weight of money translates into the quantity of junk food one gets from a small store.  I had to run to my next stop, so I left it to the director and the clerk to figure that one out.  I am sure they came to a fair resolution of the weight of coins-junk food question, an equation sure to take its place along with other scientific theorems and equations:  Newton’s Law, E=mc2, CW (coin weight)=____JF (junk food).

However it turned out, I hope that our soldiers enjoy it.

I’ve previously written about our family’s experiences at the beginning of the war   and at the beginning of the ground war

As I feared,  because Hamas has created an extensive underground infrastructure of tunnels and launching fields, all designed to terrorize us and to maximize the Gazan civilians in the line of fire, this has become a horrible, bloody war.  Hundreds of their civilians have been killed and displaced.  We’ve lost at least 13 young men, with many more injured.

They have tried to hammer us with missiles, which have caused havoc and fear but not, thanks to the Iron Dome system, death and destruction.  Now they are using sophisticated tunnels, built at great expense over several years, to infiltrate our border towns and villages.

One can only imagine what the Gazans could have built if all of the resources and energy and knowledge that went into building the tunnel system had gone into building institutions, schools, and libraries.

And, of course, the news media, in its appetite for ghoulish graphics and its love for simplistic story lines, loves showing the pictures of carnage in Gaza and loves comparing the death totals as if they are baseball scores.  No explanation needed.

We will endure, and we will prevail.  As I wrote in a prior post, we are not going anywhere.

But it will come at an awful cost.  To them and to us.  And for what purpose?

If I were to recommend two pieces on how we got here and why, it would be   and

As I said at the outset, we are not brave.  While life is somewhat unsettling and, at times, depressing, thanks to the terrible aim of Hamas and thanks to the Iron Dome system, injuries and death outside of the South are amazingly virtually zero.

Statistics would show that, other than in the South, and perhaps even there, one is safer in Israel today than in any major American city, on any major freeway system, in American shopping malls, theaters, and sadly, in American schools and university campuses.

Which leads me to this, in addition to telling us that we are brave, many friends and acquaintances ask us what they can do.  Here’s the answer:

No. 1: Come to Israel.  Tourism has dropped precipitously.  Shopkeepers, restaurants, hotels are hurting.  Our economy is taking a terrible hit.  Equally important, we often feel alone and unsupported.  We need you NOW.

Despite the war, there is still a large part of Israel that can be visited safely and easily and that one can have a lot of fun in.  Birthright is still coming.  Christian groups are still coming.  We’re heading up to the northern Galilee with friends for a couple of days starting tomorrow.  We will be safely hiking, drinking, eating, swimming, and just plain relaxing.

Israel needs you, your presence as well as your good wishes.  And it needs your money.  NOW.  If you come, I guarantee you an incredible feeling of welcome, appreciation, and solidarity.

If you cannot come today or tomorrow, plan to come as soon as you can.  Don’t come once, or even twice.  Come often.  Learn the ins and outs of this country.  Be a part of this country. You will be greatly rewarded.

No. 2:  Speak out and speak up.  Strongly and confidently.  In the workplace, on the Internet, in the local paper, at community meetings, at rallies.

No. 3:  Join and support AIPAC and other organizations.  Contrary to the assertions made by some, AIPAC is not a “rightwing” organization.  In fact, several of its recent presidents have been national fundraisers for the Democratic Party or President Obama.

AIPAC supports Israel and a strong Israel-U.S. relationship.  It respects the policy decisions of the democratically elected leaders of Israel, and it does not presume to dictate what is best for Israelis. Those would be the Israelis who are enduring the missile fire and the attempted tunnel infiltrations, and whose sons, brothers, fathers, sisters, daughters, and wives are now on the front lines defending the country.

AIPAC is largely responsible for the overwhelming Congressional support of Israel’s current actions as well as for the funding for the Iron Dome and other essential military equipment.

No. 4. Join and support CUFI, Christians United for Israel.  CUFI is a Christian organization whose exclusive mission is the support of Israel.  In fact, at this moment thousands of CUFI members are meeting in Washington, D.C. to show their support for Israel.

While many of its members may have views on other issues that differ from many American Jews, CUFI strictly adheres to its only purpose:  to support Israel.  American Jews work with and accept the support of many groups on many issues even though they may disagree on other issues.

For example, American Jews often work with the Catholic Church on issues relating to justice and poverty, while disagreeing vehemently with the Church’s position on gay rights, abortion, and church and state.  There is no reason under the sun for not working with and expressing appreciation to CUFI simply because its members may hold differing views on other issues not related to Israel.

No. 5.  Don’t go away. Given the upside down world we are living in, the diplomatic fall-out from this war is going to be very difficult.  The efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel are going to increase.  Organizations like AIPAC and CUFI, who are in it for the long haul, are going to be essential.  The active support and involvement of Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, who care about Israel is going to be critical.

No. 6.  Did I mention?  Come to Israel.

About the Author
Alan Edelstein made Aliyah in 2011 and lives in Jerusalem. He was the founding partner of a well-respected California government affairs firm and was involved in California government and politics as a lobbyist and consultant for 30 years. He blogs at He can be reached at