Nov. 19, 2012
After having been in Israel twice the last four weeks before the GA, I was not expecting a third trip to Israel so soon. Our new leadership, Michael Siegal, Dede Feinberg, Steve Silverman and Susie Stern made the decision to initiate a solidarity mission to Israel on Thursday of last week.
On Saturday night 16 people flew to Israel from various cities, among them Boston, Birmingham, Cleveland, Chicago, Miami and New York. Missions already on the ground in Israel, from Los Angeles, Greater MetroWest NJ and Montreal, joined up with us. Our goal, as Michael Siegal suggested, was solidarity with Israel, and for us to continue to take our words to action, when we say C'lal Yisrael. We also went to understand how best we as system can immediately support our agencies to deliver our mission.
We have been briefed by government leaders, have visited families sitting Shiva, we have seen children and mothers running to bomb shelters. We too experienced the sound of sirens and the need to rush for cover. We have visited new Ethiopian olim, visited senior centers and an indoor playground in Sderot, and heard from our young people from OTZMA, as well as leaders of the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements in Israel.
I don't know what is going to happen. What is clear is that there are serious needs that must be addressed immediately.
Meeting with Israelis during mission to Southern Israel
There are issues with children being stuck in shelters for up to seven to 10 days: children who are anxious and traumatized by these events. The senior population and those with disabilities are terribly vulnerable. How do they get to shelters? How do they get their meals, which are served at centers? The call for trauma counseling to all populations is significant.
After spending a day in the South, rushing to shelters and sprawling on the ground during six “Code Red” missile alerts, I have a much better understanding of what our Israeli brothers and sisters have been experiencing, day in and day out, for months and years.
One thing that is clear: the appreciation and the emotion for our being there was truly humbling. The Israeli people in the South didn't realize that they had family in America that cared so deeply. Yet we are all privileged to be here as shlichim (emissaries) for all of our Federations.
Thank you for this privilege.