It has been a very different past two months. Although I have had the privilege of spending several summers in Eretz Yisrael with my family, I definitely learned the most from this summer. Some of the things that I discovered were the power of tefilla, leadership, achdus; and the importance of flexibility, family, community, and friends.
On Thursday, I saw more than I have ever seen in a short fifteen hours. I travelled from Yerushalayim with the One Family Fund Southern director, Pini Rabinovich, the whole day. Our first stop was Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva. We went to visit some Chayalim who are still recovering there. It was heartbreaking to see them sit in their beds crippled as they tried to speak to us. Pini spoke as a bereaved father (he lost his daughter to cancer 18 years ago) and as a representative from One Family Fund. He introduced me as a volunteer from America. We left them with some goodies and assured them that OneFamily is going to assist them along the way.
Then, we attended a very unique Bris in the emergency ward. Yehuda Yitzchak HaYisraeli, 23, is a soldier who was wounded in Gaza in Operation Protective Edge, and he remains unconscious. His wife, Rivky, had a baby boy in Soroka and they had the Bris today. The families set up Kisei shel Eliyahu, space for people to stand, and tables with refreshments. The hospital staff brought in Yehuda Yitzchak’s bed so that he can be present for the Bris of his son. Yehuda Yitzchak’s officers, fellow soldiers, and friends came to participate in the Bris. There were about 150 people standing there. As the media crowded around and the Yehuda Yitzchak’s father held the baby, we all davened that Yehuda Yitzchak would wake up. There was singing and dancing in the hallway of Soroka Medical Center as little Erez Yechezkel ben Yehuda Yitzchak entered the Bris of Avraham Avinu. I cried through the whole Bris as I watched the chayalim daven for their friend, the family stand by Yehuda Yitzchak’s bedsire, and the mohel perform the Bris. We continue to daven that Yehuda Yitzchak ben Iris will be able to hold his little baby boy very soon.
We continued on to Sdei Avraham to go be Menachem Avel at the Tregerman family, who lost their 4 1/2 year old son Daniel last week. As we spoke to Doron and Gila, Daniel’s parents, we understood that they are going to need a lot of help in the near future. Gila is concerned with how her life is going to resume to routine, and we comforted her by telling her that One Family Fund is going to hold her hand the whole way. I got up to hug Gila and explained to her why I came from America. I told her that many people in America are thinking about her and her family. She was very moved by that and asked for another hug.
With that, we drove to Kibbutz Nirim, where there was a mortar attack from Gaza just a few hours before the ceasefire. First, we went to be Menachem Avel at the home of Shahar Melamed, 43, who was killed in the mortar attack. His wife and children were sitting shiva somewhere else; however, we met with his parents, Yechezkel and Hadassa. They were very grateful that we came from far and told us about the Kibbutz and their family. When Pinni asked Yechezkel if he ever goes to shul, Yechezkel answered that “אני ישר עם קוני.” Though they are not religious, this man demonstrated that he has a unique relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu.
Right after, we attended the levaya of Ze’ev Etzion, 55, the other man who died in the mortar attack in Nirim. The levaya was right outside Nirim in the cemetery there. Pinni warned me that it would be a military funeral, and as we approached, we saw many soldiers, policemen, commanders, and officers. There was an overwhelming amount of people there and many of them were connected somehow to the army. Because it was a military funeral, it was conducted in a very professional, orderly fashion. All of the soldiers present wore their hats, and soldiers carried in the Aron. Ze’ev was the father to five children, and the head of security for Kibbutz Nirim. Four of his children spoke about their strong, brave, funny, and protective father. A few of his friends that work in the army spoke about his unbelievable dedication to the security of the citizens of the Kibbutz. Ze’ev’s son said, “In the past few weeks, when we heard a siren, in 15 seconds, we were in the bomb shelter. When Abba heard a siren, within 5 seconds, he was on top of the roof because he wanted to see where it landed and who needed help.” One of the commanders from the army said, “Ze’ev, we were upset because we heard about the mortar attack in Nirim and kept on calling you to find out if you are helping out on the scene. Did we even think for a second that you would be on the receiving end?” As we stood with many people outside and listened to the speeches, we saw the tremendous Kavod that was given to Ze’ev because of his extremely devotion to his family, friends, and all of the people of Nirim.
Our last stop was in Sderot. Pini is very close with a family that has suffered a lot, and last year, they just lost their father to cancer. Thursday night, they made an Azkara for the father’s first yarzheit. We entered the house as the men were davening Mincha. We sat down, listened to the Rav speak for a few minutes, and got up to leave. The family offered us food for the way back and were very thankful that we stopped by. For the few minutes we had, I turned to a lady that lives in Sderot and asked her how she manages with all the sirens. She answered right away, “We are just not scared anymore. We don’t live in fear. We have 15 seconds and we do it.”
In the meantime, we’ll see what next week brings. I hope to visit Tel Hashomer Hospital in Tel Aviv at some point. One Family Fund is doing an incredible job, whether it’s entertaining little children and their families or assisting with the psychological needs of bereaved parents, and families. Volunteering with One Family Fund, observing the very dedicated staff under the leadership of Marc and Chantal Belzberg, and meeting such special people is a big Z’chus and life-altering experience for me. No one in the office is resting for a moment these weeks. My tefilla in this month of Elul is that we will show Hakadosh Baruch Hu that a nation with this much emunah, achdus, and chessed deserves an end to all tzaros. And the past few days have made me even prouder to be part of such a nation.
May we hear only good news for all of K’lal Yisrael everywhere.