Simchat Torah brought with it layer upon layer of tragedy and heartache. War. Hostages. Loss. During those first few days of panic and uncertainty, an additional imminent crisis needed to be addressed. With the southern and northern Israeli borders being barraged by rocket fire, many cities and towns needed to be evacuated. An estimated 200,000 people were displaced, refugees in their own land.
Scattered about the country in hotels, hostels, or private apartments were families, children, and the elderly. They were left with no choice but to temporarily settle in cities and neighborhoods that were completely new to them. As southern families streamed into Jerusalem, it was apparent that immediate help would be vital. There was a huge demand for funding, manpower, and coordination.
Women of Har Nof Mobilize
But Am Yisrael is like no other. People opened their hearts, their wallets, and their homes to their brothers and sisters. One neighborhood that rose to the occasion with unusual efficiency and heart was the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof. Three women realized the need and rose to the challenge. They started what became known as the Chamal of Har Nof (chamal standing for the words Cheder Milchama, or “War Room”).
With hours of coordination and networking, they created a thorough and systematic plan that would effectively take care of every displaced family that came to Har Nof. Local women were handpicked to adopt different families. These women were responsible to arrange that their specific family’s needs were met. To help these women provide for the families, volunteers were streamlined through a series of comprehensive chats. Separate groups were created with people who were able to volunteer their time in ways that worked for them. There were lists of drivers, women who would do laundry, teenagers who were available for babysitting, meal trains, and the list goes on.
Most of these families from the South were low-income and, taking into account the fact that their sources of livelihood were cut off, arrangements were made to provide financial assistance so they could purchase, at the very least, basic groceries. The children needed clothing and toys. Jerusalem is much colder than the dislocated families’ native towns and these families needed proper winter provisions.
Syrian Community Members Step Up to Contribute
Donations came from all over the world, but particularly from our very own Syrian community in New York. So much credit is due to those who donated their merchandise and had it sent to Israel, with a large portion being earmarked for the Har Nof displaced families. Private donations were sent to help cover grocery bills and other needs.
The Ahava Baby organization connected with another community member living in Har Nof and together they generously sent beautiful care packages to new mothers and their newborns. The care packages included everything, often even strollers, for the new baby and mommy. Community members also arranged for dozens of suitcases full of children’s clothing and toys to be sent with community members vising Israel. The Sister to Sister Syrian women’s solidarity trip connected with a local organization and the Chamal of Har Nof to sponsor an amazing carnival for families of the South. The Aram Soba Synagogue, under the leadership of Rabbi Max Sutton, hosted an exciting Hanukah party for the children of the shul and for all the Southern children residing in Har Nof, giving them an evening of entertainment and enjoyment.
Much appreciation goes to the Chamal of Har Nof for their tireless efforts on behalf of Am Yisrael by bringing relief and comfort to our brothers and sisters in need. We thank them for including us in their holy work.
May we be zoche to see yeshuot, and may Hashem bless us with a speedy and safe end to this war.