Ten Things You Can Actually Do to Help (w/ Links)

The horrific attacks in Israel the past few days have been described as “Israel’s 9/11,” a modern book of Lamentations (Eichah), and a modern-day pogrom. We feel helpless. We ask, “What can we do?” not expecting a response but as a primitive howl. We are filled with sadness and anger. Each new report brings more questions and the process begins again. Over time the question, “What can we do?” transforms from a bewildered utterance to an action item: Is there actually something we can do? Here are ten things that we can do. Some of them may seem obvious, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but can give some ideas – and maybe some motivation and solace as well. Most of us can’t do them all, but all of us can do some of them:

  1. Serve in the IDF. If you are of age, you can consider joining the IDF. This is a war, and we need brave and heroic soldiers. Additionally, many people are being called up from the Reserves. If you want to enlist for the first time, you can use the link at the end of this description. May your duties be discharged swiftly, safely, and securely. Link:
  2. Write your politicians. Make sure they know you support Israel and condemn Hamas, and that you believe Israel – like any sovereign nation – has the absolute and unequivocal right to defend herself and bring her attackers to justice. AIPAC has one option on how to do that, and it takes less than a minute to do:
  3. Give charity, in both money and supplies. In a war situation, cash isn’t necessarily king, since Israel is a tiny country and there is a risk of shortages. You can donate to the military operation or for civilians. Some recommendations, and this is hardly an exhaustive list, are soap, underwear, and knee pads. Remember the things they need most might be the least obvious, so it’s important to ask. Also, you must do your research; Hamas is setting up portals to “donate” (where the money would be funneled to them), and there are other scammers as well. Please also remember that some legitimate organizations take a certain percentage for themselves to cover their overhead (this is legitimate but different organizations take different amounts, and different people feel differently about this). Here are some sites that to the best of my knowledge are legitimate (again this is not an exhaustive list, but please share other resources and let me know if any of these are found to be illegitimate):
      • FIDF:
      • Donate for equipment shortages:
      • A link where units/soldiers can complete to request equipment:
  1. Check in with friends and loved ones in Israel. Tell them you love them and are thinking of them. Ask what you can do. A simple text message or email can help. In general, most people I’ve reached out to have responded quickly. But it’s also important to tell them that they don’t need to feel pressured to answer, and that you will be there when they need you. Also, the answer to “What do you need?” isn’t always obvious, but they know better than we do what they need, so even if it seems strange or silly, listen to what they need, not what you think they need. Obviously, if something horrible has happened, then be there for them: grieve with them, mourn with them, and console them. But remember that the process of comforting mourners and supporting people in times of trauma is complicated. Jewish law states that someone coming to console a mourner should not speak until the mourner speaks; in other words, we have to follow their lead based on where they are emotionally – and that is true whether in person or through technology. The friends of Job (Iyov) were criticized for trying to rationalize the unthinkable.
  2. Advocate for Israel effectively outside of your immediate circle. It is very likely that your immediate circle is moderately to extremely pro-Israel. They don’t need convincing. But there are people who aren’t. They may be co-workers, extended family, etc. They may be truly naive (due to poor media coverage or other reasons) and ask you what happened. They may be moderately or even severely hostile, which is an opportunity to help reframe. You probably already know if you are good at changing people’s minds or not. Remember, advocacy isn’t the same thing as yelling, cursing, or name-calling. Even if we feel angry, righteous outrage often comes across not as noble but as unhinged. Advocacy is about using the other person’s assumptions as a starting point for the conversation. If you aren’t good in this area, there is no better time to learn. AIPAC has some good resources about Israel advocacy in general (, as do other sites, but I haven’t found anything yet on how to advocate for Israel in response to this war. Please feel free to respond back with some if you do. This is going to become crucial in terms of pro-Palestinian rallies, media bias (explicit and furtive), and day-to-day interactions with real people. A few points you can make:
      • You can explain that this is the bloodiest day for Jews since the Holocaust.
      • This attack was carried out as a coordinated effort on a festival day, at an early morning hour, when they knew Jews would have their guard down or be asleep, and since it was a festival day, that Orthodox Jews would not have immediate access to their phones/computers, because the use of electronics is forbidden unless it is an emergency.
      • Hamas intentionally targeted, kidnapped, and killed civilians, families, children, and the elderly. Infants and young women were taken hostage; according to some reports, children are being held in animal cages, and some women were stripped naked before being taken captive. These women and children weren’t collateral damage; in many cases they were the actual targets.
      • Hilltop conflicts in Judea and Samaria do not in the slightest justify Hamas’ attack, which can be considered nothing but a war crime.
      • Yes there might have been a failure of Israeli intelligence, but there is no moral equivalence between that tragic error and actual Hamas terrorism. One is a mistake, the other is pure evil. Any other spin is victim-blaming.
  3. Stay updated, but not too much. The situation will be changing quickly, so it’s important to know what’s going on. At the same time, we could spend our whole day reading stories of horror and heroism. It is important to find the line between staying informed, including the military, political, and human interest aspects, on the one hand, and between allowing these stories to consume us. I’ve already gotten some “business as usual” communications from people in Israel, because they can somehow compartmentalize. And if they can do it, so can we.
  4. Don’t trust everything you read online. The fog of war is real, and legitimate attempts to accurately report the truth are often incorrect, sometimes on minor points, and occasionally even on major events. Additionally, there are people who will intentionally fabricate or disseminate misinformation. We are feeling anger and sympathy now – often at the same time. In such circumstances, our guard is down and we are more likely to believe or share things that turn out to be incorrect. Even in the nineteenth century, there was the adage that “A lie is halfway around the world before the truth can put on its shoes.” In our age, which is more prone to the spread of misinformation, an added dose of restraint and skepticism is certainly advisable.
  5. Prayer is a defining characteristic of the Jewish people, and for some, prayer is our instinctual response. If you are one of those lucky souls, please make sure you – like our forefather Jacob – make real-world provisions before praying, since God counts not just on our words but also our deeds. (You will notice that prayer is further down on the list because I truly believe – though others may disagree – that we should exhaust our action-based avenues ourselves, so we can tell God we’ve done our part, before asking God to do His.) If prayer is difficult for you (in general or in the face of catastrophe), know that you are not alone. But do what you can, in a formalized prayer setting, an emergency vigil, or even in quiet isolation.
  6. Do other acts of self-care and creativity. It’s OK to take time for yourself. Reach out to a spiritual mentor or therapist, meditate, exercise, read for pleasure, watch TV, do artwork, write down your thoughts to organize them or just put them down as a stream of consciousness. Unless you are a soldier on the front lines or providing immediate life-and-death support, make sure to take breaks to recharge your batteries.
  7. Live your life. The purpose of terrorism is to destabilize society. So we mourn; we honor and bury our dead, we bring our captives home, we heal the physically injured, and we tend to the emotionally traumatized. We will be doing this for years. But we cannot feel guilty for wanting to live our lives and return to normal. What happened, and continues to happen, is beyond comprehension, and as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, we respond not with “why” but “what” – not “why did this happen?” but “what can we do to respond?” Part of that response is to live our lives – be present with our friends and loved ones; raise our families; do our jobs and meet our professional responsibilities; build communities, schools, and synagogues. For Americans old enough to remember 9/11, we had this discussion – when was it OK to go back to life as normal, on a societal basis? on a personal basis? For some it might take years, for others it might be sooner. If we stop our lives forever then we let the terrorists win. Jews have endured and rebuilt in hardship. And while it is heartbreaking we will, God willing, rebuild again. Am Yisrael Chai.
About the Author
Alec Goldstein received his rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and his B.A. in French Language and Literature from Yeshiva University. He is the founder of Kodesh Press (
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