Community Solidarity Mission to Israel

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Jack E. Rahmey 

 

 

Ten community members, including Rabbi David Ozeri and Rabbi David Sutton, headed to Israel last month to demonstrate support for our brothers and sisters in Israel during this critical time. 

 

First, we visited several leading rabbis in Yerushalayim to provide hizuk (encouragement) and to deliver financial assistance for their yeshivot. These yeshivot play a crucial role in safeguarding the country and the entire Jewish nation through Torah study. While the IDF employs military force against our enemies, we believe that learning Torah and praying to Hashem are potent weapons, as well. Unity as a nation ensures the presence of Hashem and guarantees our survival. 

 

Chessed V’Rachamim 

 

The following morning, we joined the vatikin minyan at the Kotel as the sun was rising. Afterwards we were joined by Shai Graucher, founder of Chessed V’Rachamim, a hesed organization that initiated a special campaign, Standing Together, to provide essentials for our heroes in the IDF and families stricken by terror. Chessed V’Rachamim helps with a vast array of critical needs, such as clothing and food, and sends volunteers to visit and offer financial support to families of victims as well as providing hospital visits to wounded soldiers and citizens. This initiative reflects the commitment of the Jewish people to support those in distress during this challenging time.  

 

Shai Graucher went with us to the soldiers’ memorial, where we paid tribute to those who died defending our land. We lit a flame, placed a wreath at the memorial, and sang and prayed for the neshamot of the fallen soldiers. We then visited a pop-up warehouse, set up by Shai (as part of Chessed V’Rachamim’s Standing Together project) to provide merchandise for displaced victims of the war. After sharing lunch with a group of soldiers, we headed to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan to visit injured soldiers and victims of the devastating attack. Lipa Schmeltzer’s beautiful and inspiring performance uplifted the patients’ spirits, creating a deeply emotional experience for all. 

 

During our visit, I shared drawings and notes from my grandchildren, which clearly moved the soldiers. Despite their gratitude, I found myself thinking that I should be thanking them for their dedication to defending the Land of Israel. 

 

Up to the North 

 

Our group then headed up north to a barbecue where we danced with the brave soldiers stationed there. While up north, we were privileged to visit the kever of Rav Shimon bar Yochai in Meron. We paid a visit to the Ozeri family, whose son had fallen recently in battle. The day ended with an inspirational Koby Peretz concert with Israeli soldiers. 

 

South to Kfar Azza Kibbutz and an Air Force Base 

 

On Tuesday, we prayed at the Kotel, then traveled south to the Kfar Azza Kibbutz near the Gaza border. There we witnessed the devastating aftermath of the terrorist attack. We met with soldiers who experienced the events firsthand and learned about their efforts to combat terrorism.  

 

Witnessing the charred residences of the kibbutz members, who believed they were simply beginning a Shabbat/Simchat Torah morning, was heart-wrenching. The devastation was overwhelming. Despite remnants of food on tables and laundry in washing machines, most homes had been ravaged, primarily by fire. 

 

We met with a ZAKA volunteer, who shared his experiences entering the kibbutz a few days after the attack and told us of the profound impact it had on his entire team. We saw the pain in his eyes, which he saw reflected in ours, as elaborated on the meticulous tasks required to clean up and purify the aftermath of this tragedy. He emphasized how he willingly put his life on hold to volunteer for this challenging and emotionally draining task.  

 

We later visited an Air Force base to learn about the operations and precision of the Israeli Air Force. We heard about the precise techniques that enable them to target a specific floor in a building identified by intelligence as occupied by terrorists.  

 

We observed the takeoff of jets as we joined some of the pilots for a barbecue lunch.  

 

Meeting with Families of the Hostages 

 

Back at the Kotel, we attended a ceremony that included the lighting of 1,500 memorial candles for the victims of the October 7th massacre. The day concluded with a dinner at Entracote restaurant with the families of hostages. Rabbi David Ozeri spoke emotionally, urging the families not to give up hope. We provided much-needed tzedakah for them. A band uplifted our spirits, fostering hope for the war’s end and for the safe return of all of the hostages. It was a beautiful and heartwarming experience. 

 

Contrasts: Visiting Sderot and Bnai Brak 

 

Wednesday began with praying vatikin at the Kotel, followed by a visit to a yeshivah overlooking the Kotel where we gave financial assistance to the avreichim. We then traveled south to Sderot to witness the destruction there.  

 

We saw the demolished remnants of the police station, which had been overtaken by Hamas terrorists and subsequently was destroyed by the IDF. We visited the Chabad house, repurposed into a facility for packaging meals and distributing essential items to the town’s residents. 

 

On our journey back, we encountered the stark reality of the aftermath, passing by numerous burned out cars that had carried victims of the massacre. Due to the potential presence of human remains in those vehicles, they had to be buried according to halacha. Additionally, we made a brief stop to observe the Iron Dome from a distance. 

 

Our last day in Bnei Brak involved meeting gedolim, providing hizuk, and offering financial support for their yeshivot.  

 

Conclusion 

 

Our emotionally and physically exhausting trip has profoundly impacted us. Our responsibility now is to share our experiences with our families, friends, and community to encourage standing in solidarity with Israel after the devastating attack on October 7th. We must recognize that Israel is the true homeland of the Jewish people, and as Jews living in the Diaspora, we must recognize that we are only visitors in our adopted countries. We must appreciate and support those living on the front lines for the sake of our precious Jewish homeland in the Middle East. 

 

May we soon witness the arrival of Mashiah!