Solidarity With a Country Suffering

So many stories to share. So many feelings bubbling up.

I’m beginning to write this on June 24 on my flight home from Israel after an emotional and inspiring Federation Solidarity Mission to Israel.

Truthfully, you cannot fully comprehend what has happened since the Hamas terrorist attack on October 7, 2023 without being in Israel, so I’m not going to attempt to share everything. Instead, here is just one story. The single person’s story formed a thread that traveled with us from the north to the south to central Israel.

In the north, our Federation has partnered with Karmiel and Misgav for almost 30 years. Over that period of time, thousands from Pittsburgh have been exposed to and connected with the residents of the region. I had never met Misgav residents Idit and Kobi Ohel on any of my previous trips, but we met them this time in the new immigrant Absorption Center in Karmiel.

On the morning of October 7, a group of 35 mostly younger people attending the Nova Dance Festival sought safety from the Hamas terrorists in a nearby bomb shelter. The terrorists threw grenades repeatedly into the shelter, and several of those inside tossed them back in an act of true bravery. Eventually, a grenade went off. People were killed and injured, and several were taken hostage. Many may know the name of Hersh Goldberg-Polin who was in that bomb shelter. Alon Ohel was also with him. Alon is Idit and Kobi’s son.

In southern Israel, the day before we met with Idit and Kobi, our Solidarity Mission visited the exact bomb shelter where this all took place. Idit and Kobi showed us the graphic video taken by the terrorists’ own GoPro’s. That made the story ever more real and personal for all of us on the mission.

Alon is a talented musician. His parents showed us videos of him playing the piano brilliantly. In central Israel, when we visited Hostage Square in Tel Aviv, we saw a piano to remember Alon with giant yellow letters on it that says “You are not Alone,” a play on Alon’s name.

It was so powerful to meet with Alon’s parents, visit the bomb shelter and see the piano in Hostage Square. Sadly, despite Alon’s parents’ inspiring resilience, his story is just one among the stories of approximately 120 hostages being held in Gaza. We must continue to speak up with our elected officials and anyone else with influence to secure their release.

Several of us on the mission told Alon’s parents that when he is released, we will all return to greet him and hear him play piano. Let’s make it happen. I hope you will join us too.

Shabbat Shalom.

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