Alum Spotlight: Rabbi Sara Cohen

By Rabbi Sara Cohen, Kibbutz Ketura

Immediately following the attacks on October 7th Kibbutz Ketura began to provide housing, food, and many other necessities for approximately 400 evacuees. This number does not include Year Course who came to stay in our Keren Kolot guest facility during the beginning of the war.

Due to a little help from our friends (contributions mainly from the U.S., as well as our own tzedakah funds) we were blessed to able to host the evacuees without charge. Presently we are hosting 30 evacuees.  School-aged children of these families are integrated into our regional schools, and we are providing part time pre-school care for the younger kids.

In the early days of the war many members of the kibbutz were active in spontaneous, grass roots volunteer projects such as providing mattresses, toys, psychological counseling, driving people who needed to get to funerals, food, clothing and a range of other needs for the evacuees in our area, Eilat and the nearby army bases. Many of the evacuees who were being housed in Eilat were did not only need to flee their homes, they were also dealing with the traumas of witnessing family members murdered , friends and family members being held hostage, and other traumatic events.

Many kibbutz members, residents, and children of members were immediately called into the army reserves and served for months in and around Gaza as well as on the northern border.  Some of these reserve soldiers are still away from home serving in their units. The kibbutz community rallied to provide support for the families of the reserve soldiers, many of them families with young children.  Presently there are also a number of kibbutz members who are actively supporting the families of the hostages in pushing to get their loved ones out of captivity, including attending weekly vigils in Eilat.  In addition, remarkably and heroically, the Arava Institute, an institute dedicated to peace building and environmental studies located on the kibbutz, was able to continue its program and activities, in spite of the war and despite of all of the technical and emotional difficulties involved in that effort.

Member of the Kibbutz doing an activity with children of evacuees in the library
Photo packing dates to send to soldiers and evacuees
Loading mattresses on a truck at Ketura to take to Eilat

Alumni Volunteer Trip: Tracie’s Reflection

By Tracie Basch, Participant on Alumni Trip to Israel, January 2024

On the morning of October 7th, I was the last in the family to wake up. Coming out of my room I remember my 17 year old, saying “Mom, you need a hug.” I looked at him strangely, still half asleep, and he repeated it. He hugged me and said, “There was an attack.” Life changed. When reality settled in, I had one thought – I needed to go to Israel. A few days later I shared this with my husband, who, with the wisdom of 19 years of marriage replied, “tell me what you’re going to do, and we can talk.” Within weeks, Young Judea organized an Israel trip. Details were light – circumstances change constantly during war. The what didn’t matter. Being there did. And so, at the end of January, I found myself at JFK waiting for my El Al flight to Israel.

Upon landing, the stress that permeated my body and soul since October 7th disappeared. I truly felt safe (experiencing a Red Alert later in the week didn’t change that). My introduction to the current Israel began in the airport. There was a large ‘Bring Them Home’ banner with dog tags of all sizes hanging. The way to immigration is lined with posters of hostages. Not the usual greeting, but a foreshadowing of the week ahead. A week Being of Service and Bearing Witness.

Being of Service
Two grassroots organizations, Achim Laneshek and Eran’s Angels field requests for items – food, clothing, diapers, formula, books – from displaced families. They receive no government funding. There’s something about packing items for a two-month-old that has known nothing but a hotel room that just breaks you.

For two days we were agricultural workers in the Hefer Valley’s Moshav Achituv, responsible for growing 80% of Israel’s cucumbers. Most workers are either serving or are Thai who returned home. We removed leaves so the cucumbers got nutrients and picked cucumbers. Helping the farmers and feeding a nation torn by war was one of the most impactful and meaningful things I have ever done. Knowing the work that it took to convert this malaria infested swampland into lush and fertile farms and that my hands in the dirt followed those that came before me, connected me to Israel as never before. I could have picked cucumbers for days.

Bearing Witness
There isn’t anyone in Israel who hasn’t been personally impacted by October 7th. We were honored to meet some who not only shared their experiences but want the world to hear what happened. Here are some of their stories.

Noam, a 45-year-old single father of three survived Nova. He described the festival’s atmosphere as being “like a heart above us”. People were happy, free, alive. Until 6:30am. There was disbelief because this was “not the place where people were going to butcher you.” He rescued 15 people that day.

We met Gili Adar’s parents at her grave. Just 24 when she was murdered at Nova. By all accounts, she wasn’t just a ray of light – she was the sun itself.

Adele Raemer shared not only her survival story on Kibbutz Nirim, but that of her son-in-law and grandchildren also living there. The kibbutz is now relocated to Be’er Sheva and interestingly for a collective community, nobody discusses whether they will return. For the record, she will.

Timor is an Ashkelon police officer living in Sderot. He usually works a desk, but he answered the call that morning and, knew that his job was to delay the terrorists from entering Ashkelon. Shot in the arm, he applied a tourniquet and continued his mission, saving an untold number of lives. He has already undergone three surgeries.

Ramo Salmn El-Hazayil, a Bedouin police officer, took a security job at Nova. When leaving home that morning, something made him take a third magazine. Armed with just a 9mm and two magazines (he gave the third away), he single-handedly rescued over 200 teenagers – driving back and forth along the road to a greenhouse. Regardless of the experience and the person, there are consistent themes – nobody discussed politics, but ALL feel betrayed and let down by the government; all are heroes but don’t think that – they believe they did what needed to be done and what anyone would have done; they admit to still being IN trauma, in fact the entire country is IN trauma; the main goal is to bring the hostages home – everything else is secondary; it’s hard to envision a tomorrow, when today is October 7th the XXX (fill in for today), but there’s confidence that tomorrow WILL COME.

The People
A lot can be said of Israelis. I liken them to a sabra fruit – hard and prickly on the outside, but once you crack that outer skin, it is soft and sweet. The shell is there out of necessity. How else can over 130,000 people be displaced from their homes, moved into hotels and yet still smile and laugh?

The hotels are full with displaced people. Refugees in their own country. The common areas are gathering places. The lobby bar – where kids do homework. The corridor – home to a knitting circle. It is noisy and boisterous. As life should be.

At Aroma Café, a mile from Gaza, we met soldiers eating. They kept refusing our offer to buy lunch – because what about the others? Only when assured that the others were taken care of, could we pay. Gaza is a stone’s throw away, and these soldiers thanked us and told us we were brave for coming, that our presence gave them strength to complete the mission. They kept asking how things were in the US. Chayalim are a breed unto themselves.

There are images forever seared in my brain. The soldier in Har Herzl at her boyfriend’s grave meticulously cleaning it, kissing the headstone, laying a rose, unable to leave. The man sitting between the graves of two brothers, born years apart, both dying October 7th. The group from Women Wage Peace who come to Hostage Square to keep attention on the hostages. The orthodox woman in Machne Yehuda in a feminine long flowing skirt and blouse, on her back a machine gun.

This is just the surface – I didn’t touch on the experts we heard from or our visit to Hadassah or what we heard from the head of the Rape & Sexual Assault Center Tel Aviv. I didn’t go into the details of each person’s story – trust me, each one is a harrowing tale of survival and how decisions made in a flash mean all the difference. To do all of this, would easily fill a novel.

If you can, go to Israel. Be there. It doesn’t matter if you can pack boxes, pick produce, make sandwiches – just be present. In addition to helping an economy devastated by war, our presence gives strength to the soldiers and the people. Am Yisrael Chai.

Alumni Volunteer Trip: Hila’s Reflection

By Hila Beckerman, Participant on YJ Alum Volunteer Trip in Israel, January 2024

“So…how was it????” they ask with a smile on their face
In anticipation of fun stories from the Holy Land place,
The place where religions and cultures all melt,
The place where the bible landed its belt.

The place where the people want peace which won’t come,
Where humans are walking around like they’re numb,
Still in disbelief, horror, in shock and in pain,
From a dream exploded in torrential rain.

Coming into reality no one wanted to face,
Where a music festival turned into a race,
For survival, for escape, for a flight from the hell
That Noam, the survivor, will tell of his tale
Of sheer luck, sheer fate, and the guilt of survival,
The trauma on his face, his sign of arrival.

“How was it!?” I’ll reply, holding back tears
It was an awfully painful realization of fears.
The world marches on, people laugh, and they quip
But my mind is in Israel on the Young Judaea trip.
My body is home trying to get back to tomorrow,
But my mind is a sad heavy sponge full of sorrow.

For the world that didn’t have to suffer this way,
For Gili’s parents who sit and watch the sunset each day,
Without their beautiful girl with a smile you can’t miss
For all the families whose loved ones they’ll no longer kiss.

Yet despite all the sadness, anger, and hate,
We also bore witness to a power so great,
So unexpected, so strong, that it left me in awe –
The power of people that even so raw,
So damaged, so hurt, each stepped in where they could
Because staying at home was not something they would
Do at a time when their people were hurting,
Hotels full of families relocated, diverting,
Shouting at protests, demanding a change,
Coming up with solutions for problems that range
From toys for the children displaced from their homes
To food for the soldiers, shaving kits, and combs.

One little country, a home for the Jews
Saved from the slaughter by the kindness of Druze.
Working together, heroes arose
All fighting, united, against common foes.

And that is the light at the end of their tunnel
The light that will focus us all like a funnel,
Concentrating the power the people possess
The love and the beauty of a land which is blessed.
They – from within, and us from a distance,
Endlessly, lovingly offer assistance,
No task is too great, no objective too tall
To help our dear country up when it falls.
There is no doubt we will all dance again,
In peace and in safety, we’ll all sing Amen.

For more participant reflections click here

Alumni Volunteer Trip: Vivian’s Reflection

By Vivian Genn-Pittman, Participant on Alumni Trip to Israel, January 2024

Like so many, I have been horrified by the senseless, barbaric atrocities committed by terrorists against Israelis since October 7th.

I have been heartbroken over the loss of life, by the hatred and evil, and for those who have lost and are still missing loved ones. I have been worried for the safety and well being of so many Israelis including dear friends and family, and for the wholeness of Israeli society and Jewish communities around the globe.

Although I have been moving forward and supporting Israel and the Jewish community in a multitude of ways, I have felt an emptiness in my heart and have wanted to do more.

 Once I heard about the Young Judaea Volunteer Mission to Israel, I knew I needed to be a part of it, to go to Israel. I felt an obligation to bear witness, to listen and learn, and to share the stories. I needed to be in Israel, to see my son Sam who is currently on Year Course, to hug my cousins and friends, and to be with this community of like-minded people supporting Israel and Israeli society during this great time of need.

 I was nervous and also excited to go to Israel during this uncertain time.
Once in Israel, my heart was both broken and full. I was emotional, and grateful to be there.

I was inspired to be in Israel, to be in our beautiful country, our Jewish homeland, and to see people coming together to help, repair and move forward with strength. 

In Israel, I laughed with family and friends, and cried at the devastating loss and ongoing challenges. I learned from soldiers within and close to my family about the unbelievable situations they face daily, and spoke with people who have lost loved ones or are waiting for loved ones to return home. I listened to one cousin decide which funeral to attend as she had two in one day, another explain the great measures the IDF takes to preserve all civilian life, and yet another explain how she and other psychologists are completely overwhelmed by the enormous and seemingly never-ending needs of a traumatized society.  

Our group questioned the senseless hatred, took selfies, ate delicious food, navigated quick shopping sprees, volunteered, heard testimonies, hugged, and cried. We learned from Israelis about history, culture, climate, handling terrorism at home and coming together. We wondered how we got here, to this unbelievably difficult moment in time, why the world has so much hatred towards Jews time and time again, and how we will move forward. We listened in horror as survivors of the Nova festival and of Kibbutz attacks shared their nightmares. We heard healthcare providers and policemen describe gruesome, unimaginable scenes yet somehow muster up the courage and strength to press on and save lives. We listened to Arab Israelis who rescued teens and who continue to support women and children in need, to counselors for victims of rape and trauma, and to community leaders who stand up to those trying to demonize Israel though propaganda and lies. 

My heart was full as I spent time with enthusiastic Year Course participants I know and love, and with the dedicated Young Judaea staff caring for our kids while managing their own complicated lives. I felt pride as I volunteered at Eran’s Angels under the management of my son Sam, whose internship includes helping to orient, manage and organize volunteers as belongings are packed for citizens displaced by terror attacks. I prayed hard at the Kotel, and spent time with friends at Machane Yehudah. Our group pruned cucumber vines and picked cucumbers to help farmers in need, visited cemeteries to pay respect to lives lost, and met with parents of a young YJ alumni killed at the Nova Music Festival. 

We visited Kikar Ha Chatufim, Hostage Square, one of the most heartbreaking places on earth, filled with gut wrenching posters, heartfelt tributes, mournful artwork, meaningful memorials.

We heard sirens, which both save and interrupt life, and were further reminded of the senseless hatred and terrorism that Israelis have lived with for decades. We also learned that it’s ok to laugh and love even during heartbreaking times. 

We concluded our intense week at the beautiful and serene Young Judaea Kibbutz Ketura in the middle of the desert with introspection, reflections and Havdalah. We sang Ani Ve’ata and Hatikvah through tears, and said our goodbyes. We wondered how in the world we would process and share all that we had seen, heard and experienced, and transition back to our everyday lives. It is difficult.  

While beginning to process, a few points are clear to me:

Israel is hurting so much. There is continued physical and psychological trauma in Israel everyday. Injuries, deaths, funerals, grief, uncertainty, instability. People are working extra hard to stay afloat. Life is difficult and will never be the same. It will take time and great effort to move forward. 

We need to share the stories of survival, of heroism, of strength and of horror. There are many and they are all important. Learn facts and educate others. 

Showing up matters. 

Support, listen, learn, help, build and contribute to organizations which support and educate our youth.

Go to Israel if you can; it helps to repair and is deeply appreciated. 

I am thankful for Young Judaea, a movement which has helped shape who I am today by instilling Jewish values, pride and a love of Israel since I was a child, one which continues to educate our youth and build a better tomorrow.

Be proud to be a Jew. We have survived and we will continue to do so. 

Israel lives in a tough neighborhood, surrounded by hatred. The Israeli Defense Force is in place out of necessity, to defend against those who hate and want to destroy us. Israel has a right to defend herself, always.

 Israel has lost the war on social media, and it’s disappointing and sometimes frightening. However, Israelis continue to function with a moral compass to protect all civilians and rid the world of terrorism. 

The hostages need to be released. Where is the world, speaking up against such organized evil? 

Israelis are demonstrating care, unity and great resilience each day, despite the trauma and uncertainty. 

There is so much work to be done.  

Praying we can move forward with strength, health, safety, kindness, truth, understanding, resilience, love and peace. 

We will dance again.
Am Yisrael Chai.

For more participant reflections click here

Beyachad Nenatzeach – Together we will prevail

By Adina Frydman, Young Judaea CEO, after traveling to Israel on an Alumni Volunteer trip in January 2024

I am on a plane on my way home from leading a Young Judaea alumni trip to Israel, where we spent 6 days volunteering, bearing witness by hearing stories from survivors, victims, and heroes, and seeing firsthand the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll of this war. The alumni spanned from ages 35 to 75 and represented a range of Young Judaea experiences from our summer camps to our gap year, to our year-round youth programming. What united us was the single-minded mission we were on: to listen, to learn and to help.

This is the first trip to Israel I have led since October 7th, and I had assumptions of what Israel might be like at this time, but what I could not have been prepared for was the atmosphere/the avira of unfolding trauma in Israel. It is very hard to process or move on when it is not yet over. Everyone has a personal connection, someone lost, someone missing, someone serving in or near Gaza or on the Lebanon border. What you feel when talking to people is that there has been a rupture. Not only because of the profound losses but also because of many of the things that Israelis held to be true are now in question.

One thing that is certain is the tremendous resiliency that is emerging in the form of volunteerism, and it is a great unifier. Israelis are a living example of “kol Israel areyvim ze ba zeh” – one caring for the other. Everywhere you look there are acts of hesed/kindness. Families setting up pop up restaurants in gas stations to serve food to soldiers, massive collection and distribution sites led by volunteers to provide essentials to displaced families, individuals taking time off of work to help farmers with their farms, so their harvests are not spoiled, and hundreds more examples of a civil society being built from the grass roots up.

 

Most Israelis have a clear sense of what needs to be done now, bringing the hostages home, versus what will need to be done when the war is over. They are still very much in it, and clear about the unity that should prevail at this time. As I look around, I see that people are tired, disillusioned, and conflicted. This is the most honest and vulnerable I have seen Israel in my lifetime. Perhaps it is from this authentic and raw place that we will figure out what tomorrow will look like.

As we wrapped up our trip, we wondered how we would bring home what we learned.

There is no simple answer to the question, “how was it?” but we are each bringing back the stories of individuals, the stories that reveal the pain of the loss and the pride of the heroism, the agony of the waiting, and the joy that persists in everyday living. Weddings are still taking place, babies are still being born, and life goes on – it is the ultimate act of resistance. We have a responsibility to share their stories, to show them they are not alone and that we are with them. Everywhere we turned people thanked us, thanked us? Can you believe it? Having given the ultimate sacrifice, it was us who should be thanking them. But the truth is that they feel incredibly isolated, alone, and tired. If each of us took the time in the coming months to go to Israel and to do our small part by listening, hugging, and volunteering, it would help us collectively heal and find the inner strength to figure out what’s next and how we can move together towards that future. No one has the answers now but it is clear that there is no going back to where we were, and it is not yet clear where we need to go.

As the CEO of Young Judaea, one of the oldest Zionist youth movements in North America I spend a lot of time thinking about today’s Jewish youth and their connection to Israel. I am very concerned. This moment has revealed some deep cracks in our approach to Israel education. While this moment has pulled some closer to Israel, it has pushed many further away. We cannot ignore the North American context within which we live that gives preference to universal values over particular/nationalistic ones. We cannot ignore that a large segment of our Jewish youth got the memo about caring about humanity, and although this is a great thing, somehow it creates a blind spot when it comes to Israel because it doesn’t fit neatly in the narrative for us to be the oppressed. We cannot ignore that even Israelis have found a way to love and to criticize Israel but that somehow for North Americans, Israel has become so precious, the narrative so polished that we created an impossible ideal, one built mostly on hasbara/advocacy, that is sure to disappoint.

Our teens, college students and young adults are lost at this moment. We have not prepared them, and we have only fed into the binaries of left and right and pro or anti that are driving them out instead of keeping them connected.

At Young Judaea, we talk about a Zionist big tent, a safe space for youth to learn about, engage with, and think critically about Israel. Underlying is a deep and unwavering Ahavat Israel, not a love specifically of Israeli government or military policies of any given moment, but an abiding love for the Israel that ought to be. The Israel of our Zionist dreams and the one that we commit to work towards. Alongside that love of Zionism is a commitment to tikkun olam, to repairing the broader world. A commitment to both our particular and universal ideals. We don’t have to choose; they can stand side by side. We marched for civil rights for African Americans AND for freeing of our soviet Jewry, we advocate for humanitarian aid for Gazans AND condemn the horrific massacre against our people enacted by Hamas. We can proclaim that “all people matter” AND that we have a unique responsibility to our Jewish community.

The most vulnerable among us at this moment are those who closely align with social justice causes and communities yet feel deeply connected yet conflicted about Israel. They have been shunned by their fellow social justice advocates simply because they are Jewish, and anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments are now co-mingled, yet they feel conflicted about an a purely pro-Israel approach. These young Jews are literally in no-man’s land, and we are at risk of losing them. How can we create a place in our tents for them? They represent the “troubled committed,” as Donniel Hartman would say.

Can we model the vulnerability and honesty of Israelis at this moment, acknowledging both the resolve and support while engaging in deep heshbon hanefesh, soul searching for what we want this nation-state of ours to become?  What is our role in that? How can we, as North American Zionist organizations model the unity that is so desperately needed to help us emerge triumphant in this moment.

Gil Troy, historian and scholar of Zionism, and Young Judaea alum, said it this way during the closing talk of our trip. Everywhere in Israel we see the words, “B’yachad N’natzeach”. But N’natzeach is not necessarily only about a military victory, it is about the fact that together, only in unity, will we triumph, rebuilding our individual and collective spirit, our inter and intra community relationships, our civil society, enacting our historic and renewed Zionist ideals. Although alone we may feel defeated, together, we will prevail.

I was struck with the group traveling how connected we felt at the end of the trip, yes, we had experienced something transformational and been vulnerable together, but more than that, it was the experience of this trip that reignited our Young Judaean ideals. Deep down within each of us is that optimistic child, who, fueled by their idealism and encouraged by their group of friends, can work toward a better tomorrow. That is the ageless power of being part of this movement.

 

For more participant reflections click here

Reflections from the Alumni Israel Volunteer Trip

Several months following the October 7th attacks on Israel, 30 Young Judaea Alumni embarked on a transformative volunteer trip in Israel. The group spent time volunteering with various organizations, heard stories from survivors and heroes of the war, attended a panel of YJ Alum living in Israel, spent an evening with Year Course and had Shabbat at Kibbutz Ketura.

Below are excerpts from journals and reflections of the participants:

Talia Goldin

✈ How was it? I’m asked, as I think back to sharing a hotel with over 150 displaced families, who can’t go home because their communities have been destroyed.

🏡 How was it? I’m asked, as I recall our conversations with Nova Festival survivors, first responders, and kibbutzniks, who have been through hell and back – seeing atrocities nobody should ever have to witness, who lost loved ones violently in front of their eyes.

💔 How was it? I’m asked, as I think about the farm that supplies 80% of the country’s cucumbers, desperately appreciative we had come to volunteer, because they should have 35 workers and now they only have 2.

🧺 How was it? I’m asked, as I remember the faces of 130+ hostages, still in Hamas captivity, plastered on every wall, every building, every walkway.

🏢 How was it? I’m asked, as I think back to 10 days in my beloved country, a place whose people are crying and broken. Who are begging for the world to stand with them, but are being met by more hate.

Things will never be the same in Israel, but I will always be there for you, especially when you need me. To learn, to help, to hug, to listen. I stand with you forever and always.

💙 Am Yisrael Chai 💙

Rachel Plafker Esrig

Each resident that we met was quick to tell us their individual October 7th story. The entire country was, analogously, like the United States on September 12, 2001. Speaking slowly, with precise diction and obvious emotion, we witnessed Israelis in some yet unspecified stage of shock, but needing to share their experience as a step in their eventual healing. We had meals with many friends and acquaintances during our week. They had all lost count of the many shivas they had attended.  And again, each one needed to share in order to process. They needed us to know about their trauma: their murdered or kidnapped relatives, their newfound lack of trust given that they had believed relations with Gazan had rested on something akin to mutual respect and personal interactions.

The other prevailing message was one of gratitude.  By just stepping on Israeli soil, we had already helped.   They could not believe that middle aged, “comfortable” Americans had taken time out of their daily lives and jobs to pick their weeds, irrigate fields, clean their childrens’ toys, but most of all:  to listen.  They felt seen, heard and understood, to the best of our insufficient abilities.  We felt like human sponges, soaking all their sadness.

Read the Full Blog Here

 

Ann Baker Ronn

We visited the Bedouin village of Rahat and heard an unbelievable story of Bedouin Police Officer Ramo who saved over 200 lives at the Nova Music Festival. He arrived around 6 AM for his shift (a way to make extra money for his family) and soon after he arrived hundreds of rockets started. He and a colleague took a photo in front of the festival tent saying if they survived the photo would be a memory of their morning.

When the Hamas Terrorists arrived, he witnessed 26 other officers killed, leaving only 10 police officers to assist the 3500 attendees. His regular job is a homicide detective. His car was hit by a RPG so he searched for a car that had gas and keys in it. Once he located a car with keys and gas he drove frantically to gather young people into the car.  He drove them to safety in nearby greenhouses.

Read the Full Blog Here

Rabbi Neal I Borovitz

From the military cemetery on Mount Herzl we proceeded to Hadassah Hospital where we fulfilled the Mitzvah of Bikur Holit , visiting the sick, including a police officer who was wounded in Sderot on October 7th by the Hamas terrorists who invaded Israel. We also met with a Haddassah nurse who had just returned from active duty in Gaza. In addition to describing for us the emotional experience of delivering  a Palestinian baby under fire in Gaza, he described for us  the  experience of  rescuing wounded soldiers from battle in an “ open Humvee”. This nurse’s description of both saving soldiers and delivering a Palestinian child, while under fire in Gaza, coupled  with the story I heard from a friend that night regarding her son in law’s experience in riding along as the” protection “ on one of these rescue vehicles, I have come to a new level of realization of how ingrained in the psyche and souls of Israelis is the Talmudic teaching of the ultimate value of every single human life, Jew or Non Jew.

Read the Full Blog Here

 

Adina Frydman

There is no simple answer to the question, “how was it?” but we are each bringing back the stories of individuals, the stories that reveal the pain of the loss and the pride of the heroism, the agony of the waiting, and the joy that persists in everyday living. Weddings are still taking place, babies are still being born, and life goes on – it is the ultimate act of resistance. We have a responsibility to share their stories, to show them they are not alone and that we are with them. Everywhere we turned people thanked us, thanked us? Can you believe it? Having given the ultimate sacrifice, it was us who should be thanking them. But the truth is that they feel incredibly isolated, alone, and tired. If each of us took the time in the coming months to go to Israel and to do our small part by listening, hugging, and volunteering, it would help us collectively heal and find the inner strength to figure out what’s next and how we can move together towards that future. No one has the answers now but it is clear that there is no going back to where we were, and it is not yet clear where we need to go.

Read the Full Blog Here


Chuck Fox

Read Chuck’s detailed recount of stories from survivors and heroes of the war, as told to the group in Israel.

Vivian Genn-Pittman

I was nervous and also excited to go to Israel during this uncertain time.

Once in Israel, my heart was both broken and full. I was emotional, and grateful to be there.

I was inspired to be in Israel, to be in our beautiful country, our Jewish homeland, and to see people coming together to help, repair and move forward with strength.

In Israel, I laughed with family and friends, and cried at the devastating loss and ongoing challenges. I learned from soldiers within and close to my family about the unbelievable situations they face daily, and spoke with people who have lost loved ones or are waiting for loved ones to return home. I listened to one cousin decide which funeral to attend as she had two in one day, another explain the great measures the IDF takes to preserve all civilian life, and yet another explain how she and other psychologists are completely overwhelmed by the enormous and seemingly never-ending needs of a traumatized society.

Read the Full Blog Here

 

Tracie Basch

A lot can be said of Israelis. I liken them to a sabra fruit – hard and prickly on the outside, but once you crack that outer skin, it is soft and sweet. The shell is there out of necessity. How else can over 130,000 people be displaced from their homes, moved into hotels and yet still smile and laugh?

Read the Full Blog Here