When the Home Front Becomes the Front Line

“ZAKA. Ready for whatever tomorrow brings…Saving those who can be saved, honoring those who cannot” — Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, ZAKA Chairman and Founder.

Last week, here in Israel we experienced a national tragedy with the deaths of 10 teenagers; promising young lives cut short in a flash flood near the Dead Sea. As I lit my Shabbat candles, I added a yizkor candle and prayed for their soul’s aliyah and the strengthening of their families left behind. There is nothing to say in the shadow of such an occurrence, no answer that will bring any comfort to our unanswered questions. As my teaching supervisor told her class upon entering, this is the time where we are quiet, where whatever there is to fill the space left by those who have passed transpires naturally and we mourn.

Prior to this event, I was approved by TOI to write a blog about my eldest son’s Bar Mitzvah Campaign to raise much-needed money for ZAKA, the rescue and recovery volunteer organization. The event of late only highlighted more for me how vital and essential ZAKA and their challenging work is and how critical it is that their technological systems, their essential aid, are updated in a timely manner.

After suggesting numerous potential chesed projects to my son for his  bar mitzvah, he happened upon a news article wherein he read a plea for donations from ZAKA so that they could purchase new cellphones with walkie-talkie capabilities as the older system is phasing out by the end of 2018. Being interested in technology, from buying separate parts for building our new computer to reading up on current trends and new modalities realized in the field, this cause spoke to him.
Additionally, Dov commutes across town an hour daily to his middle school. Taking buses and trains, he is aware of his surroundings (notices extra police or army personnel out and about) and held up if there’s a chefetz chashud (an ownerless lone bag which is blown up). Knowing that ZAKA exists, eases his anxieties especially in times of heated relations.

It is our hope that this campaign will go viral and we will raise the $45,000 that ZAKA currently needs for 300 new cell phones. Help us achieve this goal. Please share with your family and friends near and far. ZAKA is the first and last on the scene, their work allowing for proper burials, giving the families affected a chance to say goodbye, have closure and a marked grave to go to when they need to connect to their lost loved one. This chesed reaches the depths of those suffering while honoring the depths of those that have passed.
Our family made aliyah almost six years ago (this July). Our first Fall, we lived in a yishuv in the South and our soft landing consisted of frequent sirens during Operation Pillar of Defense. We came right in and experienced Israel in jeopardy.

With that, we also saw the soul of the Israeli people shining in times of the unknown. From the lay man to the commander, we were all in it together, waiting for the moment when we could breathe with ease once again. This left a real mark, the reality of living in Israel, of the all too heavy cost we pay to be here. But, it also brought home that living here, becoming Israeli, we are a part of a family, a people and at times, yes we are dysfunctional but when all is said and done, we are one. ZAKA and all volunteers in the rescue emergency services, are an integral part as to how we can live and die here, in our home.

About the Author
Cheryl Nayowitz grew up in White Plains, NY. She lived on the Lower East Side for 9 years before making aliyah. She is a baalat teshuva. Her education is in mind/body integration, movement therapy from NYU & Pratt Institute. She teaches vinyasa yoga and pilates. Cheryl is currently in a govt program called Morim Olim to become a high school English teacher for Misrad Hachinuch by receiving a Teudat Horaah from David Yellin.
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