Every trip to Israel is a unique experience, filled with meaning and the discovery of something new. Each visit immerses you in joy, happiness, and diversity. The streets are alive with people, each carrying a different story. The vibrant shuk is a melting pot of experiences, from birthrighters exploring Israel for the first time to secular and religious families grabbing lunch or making last minute Shabbos preparations.
However, my recent trip carried a different vibe. Since October 7th, Diaspora Jews have been grappling with heartache, hurting for our homeland and our people. The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, the homebase of Conservative Judaism in Israel, organized a solidarity mission. The goal was to provide North American rabbis and Jewish leaders with a firsthand understanding of Israel's current situation, enabling them to articulate the experience and convey the message to their congregants and communities. I was invited to join the mission, contributing to social media outreach.
From the moment we landed at Ben Gurion, it was evident that the air was different. Only one baggage claim terminal was open, and there were no lines. As our group gathered for a heavy day ahead, we headed south to Ofakim. Witnessing the homes, including Rachel Edri's, covered in bullet holes was shocking, but it paled in comparison to what awaited us at Kibbutz Be’eri. We were the first civilian group allowed to visit, we could not exit the bus until we donned vests and helmets to emphasize the gravity of the situation on the border. The destruction was profound; houses burned, blood-stained floors, and remnants of lives scattered amidst the debris. Yet the soldiers, personally affected by the attack, expressed concern for us, worry for their families outside of Israel, highlighting the severity of the global rise in antisemitism. As we left Be’eri, we took a moment of silence, as silent as it could be through distant rockets, and said the Mourner’s Kaddish. It's a moment that'll stick with me forever.
The second day continued with sorrow but also revealed the strength and resilience of Israelis. Meeting Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin, tirelessly working for the safe return of their son taken hostage by Hamas, was both heart-wrenching and inspiring. The day was spent volunteering, witnessing people of all backgrounds coming together to support refugee families by packing and delivering essential supplies.
On our last day, we focused on reflection, contemplating how to share our experiences back home. It is still hard to put into words. I find describing the empty streets of Jerusalem easier than conveying the blood-stained floors of Be’eri, yet I know I must find the words. Sharing the reality in Israel is a task we must take on.
Even through the sorrow in the air, Israel continues to stand as a beacon of hope and resilience. Israel’s endurance is not just a testament to the strength of its people; it is a symbol of perseverance from the entire Jewish community.
Now is a time for us to amplify our voices, to speak out against the voices that seek to undermine Israel's rightful place in the world. In this critical moment, let us be loud in our advocacy, vocal in our support, and unwavering in our commitment to stand with Israel.
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