Days after the Operation Swords of Iron began, many Israeli businesses remained closed due to the safety issues and the unknown about the unfolding war. Jews are currently enduring levels of hate, antisemitism and violence not seen since the Holocaust. Our spirit may be bent but it is not broken. Israeli business owners quickly mobilized to support the war effort, addressing multiple aspects of the crisis including supplementing the needs of the army and providing support to the refugees from the northern and southern parts of the country.
Hadas Manor, a fashion designer with a bridal studio in Jerusalem is a graduate of Bezalel Academy. She gathered a group of over 100 past and present students to volunteer to help create specialized gear for the army. Due to the large scale of this war, and the unprecedented number of reservists called to duty, supplemental supplies are needed. The alumnae of Betzalel stepped in to fill that need. Manor heads to the campus to volunteer in the morning and spends the afternoons sewing bridal dresses with her team. “Many couples have postponed their weddings, and some are carrying through with their original wedding dates, with the actual event being reimagined with a smaller crowd, and in a different location than originally planned! In the end the most important thing about a wedding is the couple.” Hadas, like many Israeli families, has family in the army, and she is calm yet simultaneously, anxieties are running high. “Most of my friends and I sleep for a maximum of four hours at night if at all. In the morning we go to work, volunteer in the afternoon, and then go home and care for our families and do it all over again the next day- this is the Israeli people- not stopping when there are people who need us.”
When Yaron Jospe, founder of Black Iron steakhouse, closed his restaurant for two nights a week, due to fewer restaurant goers because of the war, he utilized those evenings to drive out to bases and treat the soldiers to a grand barbecue. He gathered some friends, employees and volunteers to pack up their cars with barbeque accouterments and grill for crowds of over 250 hungry soldiers- no small feat! Many have been away from their wives and children since the start of the war. Jospe shared that during COVID, he reimagined his restaurant to include a fast casual eatery which is helping to support his restaurant- located in Shuk Machne Yehuda- during a lull in fine dining. When traveling to bases, Jospe sets out an elaborate buffet with meats, chicken, salads, pita and beverages all to show appreciation to the soldiers for their selfless service in the army. After everyone has eaten the soldiers sing and dance and strengthen one another. They are also acknowledging and celebrating the wedding date of a soldier in their unit who is postponing his wedding due to the war. When duty calls, nothing gets in the way of the Israeli people caring for one another.
With war and chaos pervading the typically serene Jerusalem air, Jeffery Mark and his team at J.Mark Interiors couldn’t sit still. They were searching for a way to help and got in contact with an organization that facilitated a connection with a group of sixty evacuees from a Moshav in the South. Serendipitously, the group was staying at a hotel a stone’s throw from his storefront on King David Street in Jerusalem. Mark, along with his wife and team members sprang into action by hosting nightly children’s activities followed by lavish dinners. Additionally, they began fundraising via Instagram to help cover the cost of Shabbat meals at the hotel as well as a portion of the hotel stay. Each night, for three weeks the interior design studio transformed into a dining hall. Wallpaper swatch books, home accessories and carpet samples were all set aside to make way for tables and chairs. The homestyle food served was nourishing and plentiful; the mood cheerful and upbeat despite the current reality. On some evenings, musicians stopped by to lift the spirits of those enduring the difficult time away from their homes. The nightly gatherings served as a reprieve from the crushing stress of being traumatically severed from their usual rhythm of life- a moment for residents to bask in the camaraderie and comfort of having each other. “I was embarrassed how much they thanked and blessed me, what I experienced in that two and a half, three weeks. I will never forget it,” said Mark, “ I find us to be the lucky ones”.