This story collection is designed to deepen our connections with each other by sharing the stories of our loved ones currently in Israel. So many of us are feeling fear, grief, trauma, and isolation as we grapple with the realities of this war, and by sharing our stories and information with each other, perhaps we can provide a greater degree of connection between us and our cherished family and friends in Israel.
If you have a story you wish to share about a family, friend, or relative in Israel, please share it. If you want to share how you are coping, please share that. Send your stories to Lori Harrison at . She is collecting and editing stories for regular publication to the TBA membership. As necessary, please request permission to share your story.
My heart is ripped apart and weeping for the loss in our family, and particularly for my dear cousin Shiri Gavish Twito who got the worst news a parent could get today. ￼
Eyal/אייל fell in battle today in Gaza. As I told his mom, right now there is no consolation. Just grief. And an aching sadness. And crying. And perhaps the small beginnings of a kernel of pride, knowing that Eyal was, and always will be a ￼גבור ישראל/gibor yisrael, a hero of and in and for Israel. Eyal’s middle name was מבורך/M’vorach, which means “blessed.” And that he was, for being born into this exceedingly special and compassionate, and proudly Zionist family. And so was anyone who ever met him.
And so will his memory be forever.
My 22-year-old cousin, Ori Shani, was killed on the first day of the war. He was the baby of the family, an 8th generation Israeli. His Sabba and my Savta, my uncle Freddy and Aunt Stella, moved in 1968 as pioneers for Israel.
Ori’s parents, Shuli and Yehoshua, lived in Hebron and then as the family grew, moved outside of Hebron, to Kiryat Arbeh. When I would visit as a child, Yehoshua would do his IDF shimira at his front door, so naturally, their children followed in the footsteps of protecting our homeland.
Today, I’m praying for safely and healing for all of Israel and our community. I’m thinking of Ori, my family of 100+ cousins, my brothers, sister-in-Law and nieces and nephews, while struggling to not create a fear for my girls to visit our homeland. Hopefully we can make a safe trip soon!
Am Israel chai.
“The streets are quiet, and the mood is somber. There is no congregating in large groups because it isn’t deemed safe, but the markets are open, and some of the cafes and coffee shops are open too.
Our bomb shelter is our stairwell, and I am in it with my neighbors, often several times a night.
I’m doing okay, so are my kids, but one day last week I feared I could not get out of bed. I was that low. Still, I had a refrigerator full of fresh produce, and cooking makes me happy, so I got up and started cooking all of it. Then I invited three couples over for lunch, including (TBA members) Donna and Matt Chazanov, who happen to be spending time here right now. They stayed from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, and we had a great time!”
Am Yisrael Chai!
My brother-in-law, David Soltes, received a call from Israel last week about the fate of his good friends, Eviatar and Lilach Kipnis, from his time in Israel 44 years ago. They were missing as of October 7.
“The body of my friend Eviatar “Tari” Kipnis has been identified. He was murdered at his home, Kibbutz Be’eri. A husband, father, and brother to his two sisters. We met when I was 22 and last spoke just a few weeks ago. Tari was a good soul and talented artist with a wicked sense of humor. I will miss him. Pray for his family. יהיה זכרו ברוך”
The fate of his wife, Lilach Kipnes, is still unknown.
“There are many stories to share, some tragic, some more happy and inspiring. It’s a small country so everyone knows somebody that was hurt, killed, or captured.
My colleague at work was telling me how his old boss was on one of the kibbutzim on the Gaza border. He was trying to get somebody, anybody, to help them so he posted on the work slack channel that he was under fire from terrorists. He died a few minutes later.
My roommate was at the Rave music festival and as soon as he saw the rockets, he decided to immediately leave everything and head back. It turns out that that decision saved his life. Many people didn’t make it back. Yesterday I went to a Shiva for my friend’s brother who was at that festival and was unfortunately killed by the invading terrorists.
Those of us who aren’t in the reserves or weren’t called up are volunteering: packaging boxes of equipment and food for soldiers and displaced families.
There are many WhatsApp groups that are ready to respond immediately to supply shortages in every part of the country. We have created a vast volunteer and logistic network in a matter of days to deliver almost anything to where it is needed.
My roommates and I have also been trying to care for the volunteers themselves by making food for them so they can keep helping others.
The desire to volunteer outpaces demand and many places must turn away good-meaning people because there simply are too many volunteers for not enough jobs. Similarly with blood donations. Hospitals are turning away blood donors because there is no room to store the tremendous amount of blood that had been donated in the last two weeks. People are also turning to their work to distract them for a bit from the news and hopefully keep the Israeli economy from stalling too much.”
Our son, Adam Bodenstein (age 40), wrote the following in 2019 for Pressman Academy Alumni of Temple Beth Am. It is upbeat and gives you a feel for the boy Adam was and the man he has become.
His current situation and our feelings follow.
“In 2004 I made Aliyah to Israel, married my Israeli sweetheart I met at Ramah, Ojai, and now have five wonderful bilingual children. Looking back at my years at the Library Minyan at Temple Beth Am, my education through the Pressman Religious School, and my teen experiences at TBA USY, I can honestly say that I have many reasons to say “todah rabah”.
There are many adults who gave me a spiritual “boost” in prayer experiences at the Library Minyan. My neshama was nurtured by the weekly classes and special activities (i.e., grandparent and me art day) led by such dedicated former staff as Religious School Director, Betty Bratsky, now Betty Brasky Tochner. And I learned organizational skills and love of singing Hebrew songs from former USY Director, Alyssa Ellis, and all of my peers in the TBA USY chapter.
I am now living and working in the Tzfat area of northern Israel. I continued my love of Judaism and love of my new country and completed the rigorous coursework for a license to be an Israeli tour guide. If you would like to listen to me share my knowledge about Israel, come join me on a tour or let’s take a hike together! You can reach me at: www.uncoverisrael.net and .”
As you might gather from the above, Adam is a real mensch. Both of us are tremendously proud of him. He is also a marvelous father, great cook, and a dedicated gardener.
On October 7, Adam was called up to the reserves and made his way to his base in the north as an army truck driver. His wife and family left Tzfat to live at this time with his wife’s family in a lovely dati yishuv near Kibbutz Lavi and the Golani junction.
Kol ha’kavod to our machatunim, Savta Ayelet and Saba Yossi who are taking care of all five kids ages five through 16 (four boys and one girl). Our lovely daughter in law still drives back to her work as a midwife at Ziv Hospital in Tzfat three nights a week. Babies still get born, war or no war. Everyone is “hanging in there,” hoping for calm in the north.
We get semi-regular updates from all members of the Israeli family. But watching the news tends to make us somewhat crazy and keeps us up at night.
We try to keep busy and protect ourselves by regular prayer, sticking to routines, and taking walks. I (Dale) belong to a “Mothers of Olim” a zoom group through the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism so I can share with other women in similar situations; I am often in touch fellow Mothers of Olim and TBA, Library Minyan member, Diane Roosth who has two married sons and grandchildren living in Israel.
All Mark and I can say is “so far, so good.”
Sending wishes for peace,
Dale and Mark Bodenstein
Evyatar Hogeg woke up to rocket sirens in Tel Aviv at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 7. Soon, he was seeing television reports and social media posts that Hamas terrorists from Gaza had infiltrated Israel.
But then came a message on his family’s WhatsApp from his younger sister Ellay Golan that she, her husband Ariel Golan, and their 18-month-old daughter Yael were in the saferoom in their Kfar Aza home and hearing gunshots outside.
At Kfar Aza, a kibbutz of around 765 residents located 5 kilometers (3 miles) east of northern Gaza, the entire civil defense team was killed. More than 70 kibbutz members were murdered by the terrorists.
The Golans survived the onslaught. However, they were critically injured and evacuated by helicopter to the National Burns Center at Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv. The terrorists had set fire to their home with them inside.
As of October 18, Ellay was still sedated and intubated. Ariel was breathing on his own and slightly improved. Pediatric ICU physician Dr. Reut Kassif told The TOI that Yael came in with second and third-degree burns on 30 percent of her body. She was critically ill and was sedated and intubated, but now she is improving and awake,” Kassif said. She, along with another 12 of the most critical pediatric patients, were transferred on October 9 to an underground hospital area at Sheba.
At this point, her parents are faring less well.
-This family is TBA member, Frida Greenberg’s, cousins
Since October 7th I have received messages from friends and extended family by phone and WhatsApp telling me they are praying for my family’s safety in Israel. I received many messages while my husband and I were away on a planned vacation overseas. I felt supported physically and spiritually. I also was in contact with my kids and grandkids, and this was helpful. My stomach and sleep disruptions told me I was upset, concerned, and fearful, while I tried to keep up my energy to participate in planned tours and my stretching routine. My kids knew I was on vacation and would have been upset if I did not make the effort to enjoy it. I sent the kids pictures of nature, architecture, flowers, and merry-go-rounds from our travels.
I am grateful to be able to text or talk or see my son who is in the reserves when he can be in communication. I am also grateful to the volunteers who are helping. His unit has received a volunteer Pilates instructor, and physiotherapist, freshly cooked food, khaki-colored sun hats with brims, and places to shower before and stay for Shabbat.
One friend, a Thai Buddhist, told me she prayed that my family was safe. She read in the Thai/English press about the support the Israeli Government gives the Thai Farm Workers, “the working hands,” both in the north and south of Israel. She told me how much the Thai people love Israel, because of the opportunity to work and send money home, and because of the benefits they receive in Israel, including shelter, food, and healthcare.
The Times of Israel had a recent article on Thai Workers. Israel had some 30,000 Thai farmhands employed in Israel until the war with Hamas began. Approximately 5,000 of them worked in communities near the Gaza Strip, where most of Israel’s vegetables are grown. She told me that the deaths among the farm workers would have been much worse had the IDF not protected them. Supposedly the Thai Military is helping to bring Thai workers home who wish to leave. She almost cried when she told me how Israel coordinated with the Thai military to send home some 15 caskets of Thai workers killed on the Kibbutzim. She said this image and the coordinated efforts between the IDF and Thai military give her increased gratitude to Israel and the Jewish people for respecting Thai people and their faiths, including Buddhist, Christian, and Catholic.
How am I coping? The best I can. Trying to stay positive has been a challenge, but not insurmountable. I feel increasing gratitude for every story I hear. For the sake of my children and grandchildren, I need to stay strong. For the sake of safety and privacy, I am not providing the names of my family but those who know them know. I am avoiding images on the internet that would impact my mental health more than it already is, and recommend friends with children take them off X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram to reduce their risk of PTSD from the images posted. I will continue to talk to friends privately who reach out. I will participate in our community events, services, and activities, where I feel like I am protected by a tent of peace – Sukkot Shlome Cha.
Subject: Re: What it means to be in Israel now
Dear Family and Friends,
Your wonderful calls to check on us in the wake of the horrific events of Shabbat/Simchat Torah are heartening. We so appreciate your concern. Yet it has been so difficult to answer your questions—are you ok? How are you? When will this end? –with a simple answer. I want to say more because I want you to know more, and because all of us here need to bear witness. I won’t go into the atrocities that all the news stories have been describing, but I want to bear witness to what it means to be in Israel now.
The recent Torah readings of Bereshit have reminded me that I carry two creation stories very close to my soul. One is the Torah’s description of the wondrous creation of the world, and the stories that follow of Avraham and Sarah through all the mamas and all the papas that made us a Jewish people. I don’t believe the stories as truth, but they give me my DNA. They are the first links in the chain that I share and that I pass along to my children and grandchildren. When years ago Becky learned that she was a carrier of something called Middle East Fever, I celebrated. You see, we came from here! And here, the Land of Israel is also part of that Torah story. Ultimately the Torah brings us to the Promised Land, which was always my personal prayer as well (and, it turned out, it was also Marshall’s prayer).
The other creation story that I keep close is the story of the birth of the State of Israel. Fulfilling the dream of the Jewish people for millennia, offering sanctuary to the survivors of the Shoah, draining the swamps, and making the desert bloom—all of it fed my imagination, nurtured my identity, and colored my otherwise ordinary childhood with a sense of exceptionalism. In the Mars family, there were cousins in Milwaukee who—it was said—actually knew Golda!
As the years went on and my relationship to Israel deepened, I learned more about the complexity of our story and the nuances of truth. I learned that there were mistakes–some profound, some fixable, and some tragic that have implications up to our present day. But the critical role of Israel as protector of and sanctuary for the Jewish people trumped any other sympathies. That role and the potential of the Start-Up Nation led us to our late-in-life Aliyah, and our desire to participate in the great Zionist project.
How quickly that belief in the safety and protection of Israel disappeared on October 7. Listening to mothers begging for rescue from their safe rooms and watching the triumphant Hamas videos of their well-executed plans to kill as many Jews as possible did not make me think of Israel as a sanctuary. Rather it made me think of the Kishinev pogrom and Babi Yar and the Einsatzgruppen, when Jews were slaughtered mercilessly. It made me feel as vulnerable and threatened and endangered as Jews had always felt before there was an Israel. Although I have read a great deal about that feeling in the Shoah, in the early years of the Yishuv, in 1948, in 1967, and again in 1973, I had never before known that feeling. Our world turned upside down.
As the stories of the gruesome killing spree of Hamas emerged, my fear increased. I was not affected by the several rockets and sirens we experienced in Jerusalem; what made me shake was a fear of this horrific enemy intruding into our Jewish bubble. My worry about Becky and her family became more intense, and I was relieved when they arrived on Sunday night to escape the many rockets that fell on Beersheva. The children were rattled and frightened every time there was a siren and it broke my heart to see their childhood “invaded” by these very real monsters.
For the few days that Becky and family were here, I was wonderfully distracted by shopping –grocery stores were open—cooking, playing with the kids, and cleaning (a lot of cleaning)! But our little two-bedroom apartment was small for seven people. At first, Yoavy didn’t want to leave to go downstairs to the park—he was so afraid that a siren would sound, and we would be away from our safe room. By day two he relented, and having the park next to our building was a godsend. The outside doors of our apartment building were kept open, in case someone nearby should need to get inside a stairwell for safety. After a few days, Becky and Shie decided to return home–to their house with a shelter outside, to their community of friends who hadn’t left, to their own beds. It turned out, however, that they ended up sleeping across the street at a neighbor’s home that had a safe room inside. So much for sleeping in their own beds.
There is also no school or gan for the boys, and Becky’s work is on hold. Shie has been at work part-time, and TG is home with family some of the time. We were thrilled that they came for Shabbat at the end of the harrowing week and will stay for a couple of nights. Rockets are still falling in the south and middle of the country, including Beersheva.
For all the profound sense of betrayal we felt by our country’s leadership, we were awestruck by another phenomenon – 150% of reserve soldiers showed up immediately, despite the threats during the long months of demonstrations and protests that they would not. The rapid organization of many thousands of volunteers was breathtaking; food banks, collection centers for soldiers’ needs, hotels opening to house refugees from the affected communities in the south, collections of clothing and toiletries to provide the refugee families with their needs—these sprung up overnight using networks that were created by the grassroots leaders of the political demonstrations, by synagogues, by neighbors. Our phones were busy nonstop with opportunities to help and with notifications about where not to go because the need was already met.
We shopped for items for a unit of soldiers that a father we knew would be delivering near Beersheva; I baked cookies to send as well. We hung out at a game room for families at the Fuchsberg Center, which invited families from Ashkelon and other communities suffering from the intensity and frequency of rockets to have a few days of relief.
We played with the kids, but also had conversations with the parents, who needed to talk. They showed me photographs of the destruction of buildings close by and shared the stories of terror and close calls in their community so close to Gaza. They were grateful for the quiet of Jerusalem, and interested to know more about Conservative Judaism and the institution that was sheltering them.
My generous cousins Rick and Alison Mars and Gary and Ariela Mars asked me to let them know what projects might need funding. When I told them about these families who hoped for a few more days of shelter, they stepped in to fund it. We helped a young mom whose husband was called up to serve by providing a meal train. We paid attention to friends who were left alone and delivered gift bags to all of the families (15) in our shul community who have spouses or children in active service now.
On Friday, Becky and her family arrived. Yoavy baked cookies for soldiers, so we went in search of a place to deliver them. The Michael Levin Base for lone soldiers was mostly empty, but thankfully one soldier who was recently released from service was there to accept this gift. When I noticed the wonderful aroma of freshly baked challah in my hallway, I learned that my neighbor had baked 180 challah rolls to bring to soldiers for Shabbat. A few hours later she showed up at our door with two beautiful loaves for us. I just cried at her kindness. Another neighbor brought us a watermelon purchased in a local parking lot from farmers who drove in from the Gaza area. We read that our soldiers were treated to so many meals by great restaurants and celebrity chefs that they complained a bit about the regular army fare!
Mothers who are nursing babies pump extra milk for the babies whose mothers were killed in the Gaza pogrom or held hostage. People show up to milk the cows of the farms where there is no one else left to do it. These few examples of what’s going on here and how we have spent our days offer just a small glimpse of what seems to us like the People’s Army. It is inspiring and uplifting and it is as much a portrait of what this country is about than anything else you might read. This is the Jewish people being our best selves, and this is the Israel I always loved and believed in.
Marshall and I are okay. We are deeply shaken by what we now know, by what this country has endured. We are very worried about what will happen next, about what our leaders are planning.
We are very worried about the hostages, and we are brokenhearted when we think of them—especially the children—in Gaza, somewhere. But as for what’s next, we wait, along with everyone else. My sense of connection to the Jewish people has never been stronger, especially as I read about all the haters around the world. Noey and Shuli in LA keep us fortified with their vigilant postings and responses on social media. And Becky has been an eloquent blogger, capturing her reality in this difficult time. We are proud of them.
Thank you for everything you are doing in the US—the demonstrations for Israel and against Hamas, sending much-needed supplies to soldiers, fundraising, and donating. If you are looking for places to donate, we have a few to recommend.
One thing about which there is much agreement in the endless talk shows, podcasts, and commentary: Israel will never be the same. This is very hard to contemplate. The renowned Israeli author David Grossman just wrote a piece about what we will be like after the war in which he expresses “a fundamental doubt that we might ever be able to lead a normal, free life, unfettered by threats and anxieties. A stable, secure life. A life that is home.”
In many ways, we are already there. Despite the hope of the Abraham Accords and the potential of a bridge to Europe, we are surrounded by neighbors who want us dead. The intensity of their hatred makes it challenging to imagine a time of real peace. Yet we are the keepers of Hope. One of the most poignant moments for us on the third night after the murders in Gaza was when we gathered on our balconies around the country at 9:00 p.m. to sing Hatikva. We can’t seem to give up on it.
I have a lot of friends and some family who are in Israel. The one story that I think about daily, that I cannot get out of my head, is the story of the Israel Fellow I became very close with as she worked with me at Hillel 818 when I was the Interim Director.
She was here from the Jewish Agency and shared her love of Israel with our students. She was a true sabra. She had served in the IDF and there was no question that she would return to Israel after the year. Her name was Lital. She represented to me all that is wonderful about Israel.
My eldest daughter, Liora, was in Jerusalem for Junior Year Abroad, and feeling a bit isolated at times, Lital connected Liora to her family at a moshav outside of Jerusalem. They adopted Liora that year and we also went to visit them. Lital had many siblings, including her younger brother Dekel. He was a cute, vivacious 13-year-old and Liora went to his Bar Mitzvah.
On October 9th, I found out he was part of the Golani Brigade, and he was killed on the first day of this war. He was a hero to his men and saved many but he didn’t make it himself.
My heart is broken, and no words can truly give comfort to his family. His story is just one of so many stories we read daily now, but I wanted to share Dekel with all of you.
None of that matters now.
Not the holiday lunch we ended up having cold, nor the flags the kids made for the dancing
Not the toothbrush I once again forgot to take home, nor the drive I planned Saturday evening
Not the post I was planning for my first day at work, nor the fridge I keep putting off cleaning
None of that matters now.
I look at the pictures from the trip I just took, and it seems like a lifetime ago
That smiling girl just doesn’t feel like me, and that fearlessness is gone, I suppose
But none of that matters since everything’s changed, all those petty little plans I had made
And some things are still pending, like that flight I’d been planning, a vacation I’m not sure I should take
‘Cause reality’s hit, and opened our eyes, to see anti-Semitism once again on the rise
And it no longer matters how much I wanted to go, or the fact that the flight has been paid
Because I am a Jew, whose world has now shifted, and to tell you the truth, I’m afraid
But none of that matters now.
My friends are in uniform, my country at war, while the world confuses lies with the truth
And I try to excuse it, to say ‘they don’t hate me, this is simply the ignorance of youth’
But the excuses wear thin, and I can no longer stay blind
To the flashbacks of horrors, the past I thought we’d left behind
Calling us pigs, waving swastikas high
Beheading our babies, cheering at our demise
So you see, nothing else matters.
How can it right now? With our fate in the balance, I stand tall, I won’t bow
‘Never again’ you promised, now make good on that vow
Whew, where do I begin? I have been having such a battle keeping myself together during this trying time, suffering anxiety and having to restrict my time on social media as I am finding it way too overwhelming.
When you asked to send photos of family or friends in Israel I immediately went to my computer to do so. But I couldn’t… I have close to 100 friends and close family in Israel so how to choose who gets this honor?
My brother Graham and his wife Raveetal spent two days with me here from Boston for Thanksgiving and so I am attaching the photo of my closest relatives – their two daughters, my nieces, who live in Tel Aviv… Aviv and Na’ama Celine. I was telling Raveetal, who is also the Executive Director of a synagogue in Lexinton, the story of Beth Am adopting Nahal Oz, and we both cried as she reminded me that her 87-year-old Aunt is from Nahal Oz. I have attached her photo as well – Yael Shavit.
Yael was evacuated to a kibbutz further north. She had to share a bed for four weeks with another woman in her 80s, and now she shares a room with her. They were only permitted to leave with one suitcase each of clothing or personal items. Raveetal spoke to Yael yesterday, and she expressed how very grateful she is for what Beth Am is doing for them all. This ‘adoption’ is of course more poignant and close to home for me as I learned I have family there!
I pray every day, for the hostages, the victim’s families, the brave IDF soldiers (many of my relatives and friend’s kids are on the frontlines now), and of course all our friends and family enduring this nightmare.
Thank you for all you are doing, Rabbi Kligfeld, in keeping us all informed and involved as much as we can.
Our Stay in Israel
The sirens sounded around 7 a.m. in Tel Aviv that Saturday. I can’t remember much else about that day except that we tried to follow the news, and I walked to the hospital to give blood, but they only wanted Type O. Our landlord called to tell us to take shelter in the stairwell when the sirens went off, and to stay there for 10 minutes to make sure all the broken pieces of the Hamas rockets and the Iron Dome counter-rockets had fallen to the ground before we went out again. The streets were empty of cars and people, quieter than car-free Yom Kippur, when there are usually people on foot and bikes.
Everything was closed for the first few days, except for the little shops that serve the working-class/gentrifying area of South Tel Aviv where we were staying. At the Levinsky Market, an open area of restaurants, spice stores, and cafes, some of the anger from the previous months of protests flared up. One merchant yelled at his neighbor, “It’s your fault! All those demonstrations!” He blamed government critics for the weekly demonstrations against the plan to remake the Supreme Court, but his neighbor could well have blamed the government for advancing the plan in the first place.
People were sad, angry, scared, but shared consoling wishes for better days. People said drivers were letting others go ahead at intersections, more than they would have before the war started. The wife of one of our cousins wasn’t dealing well with the situation. She lives with her husband, her parents and a few grown children who moved back home after the attack. Arab villages lie just a few miles away from their home near Netanya, and she was scared. “They’re going to kill us, they’re going to slit our throats … ” she said, again and again, hugging herself, her shoulders high and tight.
We know an Arab family whose home is not that far away. Their village has a school with a joint curriculum for Jewish and Arab students. They too were upset by the attack, but they were also afraid of the possible consequences for Israel’s Arabs, even though they and many others detest Hamas. The father told his daughters to stay off social media because vigilantes, and perhaps intelligence agents, were reporting even innocuous statements to the police. A prominent doctor they know had a Palestinian flag with a dove as his Facebook picture. He was removed from his hospital post after someone reported the image, which had been up for years, denouncing it as support for Hamas.
The rocket attacks, and the big booms from the Iron Dome countermeasures, never stopped despite the Israeli bombing raids in Gaza. Once I was on a bus when sirens went off. The driver told me and the other passenger to find a shelter and said he would stay with the bus. We followed a small crowd of pedestrians and cyclists into an apartment building where a tenant opened the door for us, and we crowded into the stairwell. Then we got back on the bus. On one Shabbat, the sirens sounded while we were riding rental bikes along the beach. There was a parking structure nearby so we and a few hundred other people ducked in there until the booms stopped.
We had gone to Israel for a wedding and planned to stay for two months to do some light touring and visit friends and relatives. One night after the war started we were walking near our apartment when we saw a group of people outside a bar/restaurant. We asked what was going on and learned that they were volunteers making meals for distribution to anybody who asked on social media. We asked if we could help and they said yes come tomorrow. So there we were for two weeks. Donna and I became the pasta king and queen, cooking up many pots of fusilli on electric burners. The pasta was the base for other volunteers to pile on tomato sauce, tofu or chicken, and cooked vegetables.
The mass mobilization of the reserve units was so fast and unexpected that many of the units only had field rations, so our group sent them tens of thousands of freshly made box meals in the two weeks before we left. The meals also went to displaced families from the border areas and people sitting shiva. The organizers are two sisters from Berkeley who usually run Citrus and Salt, a cooking school in South Tel Aviv.
The volunteers were mostly young people, many of them American olim, but also Israelis and French people, British, Dutch and Swiss. There were older people too, including a French lady who insisted that washing the mountains of carrots was not enough and that each one had to be scraped clean. We let her do the scraping, which made her happy. Old and new Israeli songs blasted on the sound system, along with rock and roll, hip-hop, and other genres. The atmosphere was friendly, and many of us gathered again on Friday night for a Shabbat meal on the sidewalk that ended with a raucous round of arak shots (arak is a licorice liquor; I usually don’t like licorice but after a few of them I was fine with it!).
After two weeks we came back to Los Angeles, since we hadn’t planned on staying longer, and there was much to be done on the home front. But we miss the feeling of being together with everybody else and helping out during a tough time, which was happening all over Israel, not just at our little restaurant.
Today was a pretty normal day for these times. I had a private Hebrew conversational class in the early morning and then went to my group lesson at a private ulpan. Only three of us are in this class so it gives us plenty of opportunity to practice speaking. Aside from me, there is Mila from Moscow and, believe it or not, David, from Seoul Korea. He speaks and reads Hebrew so quickly that I can’t keep up, but the real problem for me is his accent!
From there I rode my bike to meet my girlfriend, Rhona, for lunch near the Cinematique. She was waiting for her son-in-law to arrive from the Southern front. Rhona has lived here (from Cleveland Ohio) for over thirty years. Her three kids and grandkids are all here and two of her boys are in the reserves.
After lunch, I went to visit a friend who is in the hospital. She broke her ankle from falling off her bike. Unfortunately, she needs surgery, but the hospital is full of injured soldiers, and it is very busy. Yesterday Aviv Geffen came to play and sing for the hospitalized residents.
Our fellow congregant Jonathon Swerdlow is here delivering supplies and harvesting sweet potatoes on a trip with Aish. Steve (my husband) was on the phone with him today. Perhaps they are going to play tennis. So, you see life is somewhat normal.
Tomorrow, we prepare for Shabbat and will see my son Benji and his family for a picnic at the park on Saturday. Sunday, we have a friend arriving from Northern California with $10,000 in donations for his son’s unit. He will stay with us for a night before returning to California. This is his second trip in less than a month. The first time he and his wife raised over $40,000 and brought 17 bags of military-style equipment and underwear!
I think a lot about what I would be doing now if I was in the States. I can’t imagine not being here. This country is an amazing gift to all Jews and the rest of the world. That is not to say that there are still a myriad of problems that we have in our daily lives without a war. It’s funny, but the world here is now much more civilized than the world outside of Israel. It is like the saying ביחד ננצח Together we will win.
We have cousins in Israel whose children are in the IDF, and as far as I know they are ok.
My daughters, Michal and Tamar, and I were at the amazing March for Israel in DC. The LA Jewish Federation sponsored a gathering before the event which included a heartwarming speech by a Christian pastor as well as other remarks. It felt so good to be embraced by numerous other TBA members and Rabbis Rembaum and Kligfeld.
After this, we attended the march and demonstration in front of the White House. Security was tight but unobtrusive. Although the crowd was huge, nothing happened to disrupt the event.
We had a great balance of musical gems, speeches from prominent American and Israeli Jewish leaders, including the President of Israel and Pastor John Hegge, and students from various countries. A young Argentinian woman gave a brief but moving statement. Natan Sharansky gave a moving speech in which he said that while he was a prisoner in Russia, he survived by knowing that he was being supported by Jewish communities like ours who demonstrated for his freedom. He is truly a hero.
Every speech given aroused deep emotions and many cries such as Bring them home! Am Yisrael Chai! My daughters and I were incredibly excited and elated to participate and be with such a wonderful and numerous crowd whose hearts beat as one in love of Israel.
From TBA members who attended the March for Israel in D.C.:
As we were leaving the rally/ march, I was struck by how calm, friendly, and polite everyone was to each other, particularly to the police officers who were positioned throughout the city. I kept hearing people saying “thank you and we appreciate you” to these officers. It was very clear from the smiles on their faces how much they needed these words of appreciation.
Also, the experience of singing the Star-Spangled Banner, and then Hatikvah, as we overlooked the Congress building, with hundreds of thousands of people, is an experience I will never forget.
Our daughter, Linda Rosenblatt, is serving a 10-month volunteer position with the Talma program in Ben Shemen (near Tel Aviv and Lod Airport), teaching English at a boarding school to high-school students. She often hears the sirens warning her to get to a shelter quickly, and then she hears the booms from the Iron Dome. She stays in the shelter until she is given the all-clear.
Otherwise, she is well, and glad she is giving of herself in Israel. We have family and friends there, and Linda spends time with them.
For three weeks, Linda was not able to leave her village; and classes were conducted for a couple weeks by Zoom. Initially, when in-person classes resumed, only half of the students could attend in person, because shelters could not accommodate all. Now, however, all students are present in person for classes.
Barry and Kathy Rosenblatt