There was a meme going around by new years that for the rest of the world it was New Year’s Eve and for us in Israel, it was October 85th. And to prove the point, at exactly midnight, instead of a ball dropping, we had a barrage of rockets all over Israel. Instead of waking up for champagne and confetti, we woke up, grabbed our kids and spent the next 10 minutes locked in a bomb shelter as we celebrated October 86th.
In Israel, we live like it’s Groundhog’s Day: we wake up, check the news – holding our collective breath to see if any chayalim were injured or died in battle, praying that if god forbid there was, it is not someone we know, from our city or have a connection to. Our days are still filled with news updates, air raid sirens going off disturbing the workday, commute, or our sleep – although now the sirens are less frequent, and doom scrolling on our phones before bed praying for victory and the safe return of our hostages and soldiers.
As Israel is stuck in a time warp, the rest of the world is moving along, and rightfully so. We cannot ask the world or expect Jews everywhere to be frozen in time. The amount of people who are using their vacation days and taking time off to come to Israel, volunteer, raise money, and bring bags of supplies is unprecedented. But we also need the Jews around the world, especially the Zionist organizations to understand where we are.
Over this past Shabbos, we heard stories from multiple teenagers who have applied to work and attend various camps and programs that they were being pressured to commit and sign a work contract within a week or they lose their spot. We heard from someone else, who has 2 siblings in active combat, that they missed the deadline during the height of the war and the camp won’t even consider them for their program this summer. While I understand they have businesses to run, for programs that have always included Israelis and prided themselves on having Israelis in their camps and programs, there should be an accommodation for them.
For teenagers, their end of year exam schedule is still not decided, there is currently only one airline flying direct to America, there is the potential for an outbreak of war in the north, many people have parents or siblings in the army, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.
The missions coming to Israel to help people affected by the war need to be more than a mission, it needs to become part of the fabric of Jewish organizations. Make accommodations for the Israeli kids so that they can have a summer that is energizing and recharging where they can feel a bit more “normal” and take their mind off the current situation. Block out spots to ensure that Israelis build a bond with the kids from around the world on the summer trips. Make space available for Israeli counselors so that they can help build bonds between Israelis and Americans.
It is important for Israeli teenagers and kids to know that when they see a video of Americans shouting Am Yisroel Chai, it is not just a statement but something that they can help shape by being in the camps and American programs. It is not enough to know that there is a war in Israel, but rather it is essential and the role of Jewish organizations in the US to ensure that everyone understands why our calendars are looking different today.