It’s All Unthinkable and Yet, I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

I am sharing some brief vignettes and reflections from the past week I spent in Israel.


“Bring Them Home NOW”

Signs with these words are everywhere I traveled around Israel, from Jerusalem to the Gaza Envelope to the North. You can see them on the side of highways, on buildings, pasted on bus stops, in Ben Gurion airport – basically everywhere. At one meeting, Rachel Goldberg-Polin instructed us to do all we can to Bring Them Home, including her son Hersh. The IDF Spokesperson we see constantly on national and international media, Daniel Hagari, was asked what success of the IDF military operation would look like. Without hesitation, he answered that all the hostages come home. We must continue to remind the world and push for the release of all the hostages. BRING THEM HOME NOW!

Nova Dance Festival/Reim

You may remember that I flew to Israel in the first week of November as part of a national Federation solidarity mission. As I shared with many, I was a changed person following that experience. Because rocket fire from Gaza was still constant back in November and because Israel was still moving troops into Gaza, we were unable to bear witness of the barbarism of Hamas in the areas closest to the Gaza Strip.

This time, we did.

Nothing can prepare a normal person adequately to see the posters of each of the 364 young people spread all over the site where they were slaughtered during the Nova music festival. Not only were 364 murdered, others were taken hostage and some number of women were raped. These were young people. They were having fun. It’s all unthinkable and yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

Before reboarding our bus, we paused and recited the traditional Kaddish as mourners. These 364 were b’nei Yisrael (Children of Israel), all part of our extended Jewish family. Their memories will always be a blessing.

Kibbutz Nir Oz

We visited Kibbutz Nir Oz. It sits right on the border of the Gaza Strip. With only 400 residents, 77 were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7th and 37 still remain in captivity today. Forty Nir Oz residents were slaughtered. You can do the math to see how this one small community is so deeply impacted. The immensity of the destruction of homes and property, lives lost and other lives put on hold is unbelievable. One of the Nir Oz residents, Oded Lifshitz, still waiting for word about his father who is one of the hostages, educated us about a tactic of Hamas to destroy the Israeli agricultural infrastructure. Terrorists stole or tried to steal heavy equipment like tractors from the region. While successfully stealing some, others we shot by IDF helicopters on their way back to Gaza. The terrorists damaged the computer-controlled irrigation equipment used on the farms. Between the equipment and the lives lost, the impact on the economic security of these kibbutzim in the south which produce the majority of fruits and vegetables for Israel is at risk. There are plans being worked on to address this large scale issue by government and nonprofits, including the Federations. And it’s timely because of the urgency when planting and harvesting must take place.

Women in Israel

Part of my time was spent with the Jewish Federations of North America Israel Emergency Allocations committee on which I proudly serve. We were both planning for future needs including the possibility of a large-scale Hezbollah attack from the north and about how to address the enormous mental health needs in the country. It was highly strategic as the needs are immense and we want to have maximum impact.

One of our committee’s panel discussions focused specifically on Israeli women. We heard from three spectacular organizations: The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), an umbrella organization for nine regional RCCs whose main aim is to combat sexual violence; HaOgen, which has established a comprehensive volunteer-based support system for families of reserve soldiers; and the Israel Midwives Association which provides critical support and midwifery services to widows of the fallen. Each presentation was disturbing because of the complex issues they are addressing.

Zooming into one of the above programs, the Israel Midwife Association is caring for 26 widowed women whose husbands were lost in the attacks of 10/7 (3 of whom have already given birth). The Director told us that some of these moms have children who are trying to deal with their grief, while the mom is trying to handle her own grief, all while preparing to give birth to a fatherless child. Their Director emphatically declared to us that “no woman will be alone during pregnancy, birth, or postpartum time.”

I am, once again, a changed person. My heart and my head ache and I will channel the emotion to do as much as we can to support the people of Israel with direct financial support and through our advocacy. Join me and others to travel to Israel on our Solidarity Mission from June 18-23 to learn more about the situation and more importantly, to show solidarity.

Shabbat Shalom.

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