Nov 20, 2012
RCA leadership went to Israel (November 20-22, 2012) on an Emergency Solidarity and Support Mission during Operation Amud He-Anan, as missiles were fired from Gaza onto Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the South. Below is the first report from participants in the Mission.
The RCA Solidarity Mission began today.
Our group of 10 began in Kiryat Malachi, a city introduced to us by Rabbi Harris Guedalia, an RCA member who runs an enrichment program for disadvantaged children in Kiryat Malachi.
The suitcase of colouring books, toys and games that Daniel Yolkut brought from Pittsburgh was almost emptied in minutes on our first stop. We visited, led by a member of the Garin Torani, a shelter that is offering children's activities since all the schools are closed. The 75 children quickly gathered around as Daniel handed out the books and games and the rest of us spoke with the parents gathered outside.
We visited the building that received a direct hit from a missile that claimed 3 lives. Standing in the blown out apartment, Shmuel Goldin, RCA President, led our group in Tehillim. Some of the neighbors gathered downstairs and spoke of Yizchak, one of those killed. He owned the makolet, smiled, joked, take what you need, always a smile. He was so proud when his twins were born, invited the neighborhood to the bris.
At the shiva tent, the father spoke of his 24 year old son, another of the victims of that rocket. As is sephardi custom we made brachot over the drinks and cookies, as an ilui neshama. The man was deeply moved when Shmuel and Lenny Matanky spoke with him, expressing that we came to be with him, for we feel as one family, bringing with us the feelings of 1000 rabbis and their kehillot. The women were inside and we expressed to them similar sentiments, the mother and sisters. Our mincha was in the shiva tent, again as an ilui neshama.
Rav Druckman hosted us in his beautiful library, shiur room, in his home. He spoke of the miracles, the nissim, that so many rockets had fallen, yet with very few casualties. He was very appreciative that the rabbis cared enough to come. The boys who were called up for miluim came to him for brachot - he gave them small laminated cards with "lech b'shalom, v' tashuv b'shalom v'yehi Hashem imachem" signed with his name. The boys hold this card in their wallets, the hopes, wishes and prayers of their Rebbe.
Boaz Genut, of Tzohar, who helped with many pieces of the organization of our trip, joined us to accompany us to Lev Achad in Sderot. Lev Achad is a national volunteer organization that mobilizes in times of crisis. Children's activities, home visits, music programs are all organized by volunteers. They took us to visit people in their homes in Shibolim, a dati moshav, 15 km from Gaza. Many people are home bound, especially elderly, as they are afraid to go far from a safe place, as they are not mobile enough to run for shelter.
We visited the homes in Shibolim in groups of 2, to speak and to listen and to be company to the people. They described sleeping with one ear open, waiting for the sirens, as many as 4 or 5 a day. In the 15 seconds there is no time to run to the shelters and most buildings do not have a secure room. They stand as far from windows as they can. As we spoke, the sirens went off and we heard the booms of the rockets landing. A helicopter hovered overhead, identifying the launching sites in Gaza. As we drove from the home, our host told me no need to put on a seat belt - you want to be able to get out of the car fast if there is a siren.
What message can I deliver to the rabbis and in turn to their kehillot?, I asked.
"Tell them tefilla. B'emet, Tefilla," our hostess answered. Did she mean daven, really, or did she mean sincere tefilla, tefilla b'emet?
Her husband offered "We appreciate the support so much. We are one people. And this is very important, tell them we are very strong, baruch Hashem. Tell them we are strong."
As we got into the bus to head back to Yerushalayim, the moon shone bright with the smokey plume from the Iron Dome missiles bracketing the moon, one plume on one side, one plume on the other. The Iron Dome has saved many lives, countless numbers, the newest tool in the hand of the Shomer Yisrael.