Nov 21, 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 second report from participants in the Mission.
Reuven Tradburks reports:
Before beginning an extensive briefing on the situation in Gaza and the war effort, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman spoke to our group of 30 participants. His emphasis that the protection of our people is through our Torah learning fell on receptive ears. Though, as is his way, no state secrets were revealed to us about the war effort or impending ceasefire.
The realities of the situation in Gaza was presented to us in great detail by our leader for the day, Major (res) Farhi. After his extensive discussion of the battlefield in Gaza as well as the battlefield of hasbara in the newspapers and blogs, we headed down south. The reserves who have been called up are sitting b'shetach, in the fields, waiting for the word. We met a major just a few kilometers from Gaza, who expressed his deep commitment in the mission of the ground invasion. We got the feeling that any minute the call would be given to move in on the ground.
His commitment to the ground invasion, a sentiment shared by others, was the intolerable nature of the life in the south. The red alerts go off multiple times a day. The kids are terrorized. The feeling of the soldiers is to do the job and do it right, so that the rockets don't start firing again next week.
We continued on to a field position of a tank division. Dozens of tanks were parked, shielded from view from Gaza by a hill. Artillery was ready, occasionally firing. We stood with the Commander of 20,000 troops, while he explained their readiness. We stood with him while Shmuel Goldin read the Tfilla for Tzahal, many of whose members were in eyeshot. That was a touching moment for me - the boys will do their part while we can offer our tefillot. Elli Fisher had brought with him treats, food, and snacks from the Modiin community, which was delivered to the soldiers in the field.
From there we moved on to an Iron Dome installation. The installation cost 130 million dollars, with each missile fired costing $50,000. As we stood we could see rockets being fired from Gaza, with their white smoke trail showing their direction. They weren't in our direction, so the battery did not fire.
From there we had an opportunity to visit the wonderful indoor playground in Sederot. This large facility allows the children to play while just seconds from secure shelters. Hundreds of thousands of children come every year, while rockets are being fired and while it is quiet, to allow life to go on with some semblance of normalcy.
But I must say that for me, the most meaningful part of the day was the visits we made in the Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. Here, we were rabbis visiting wounded, bringing comfort to them and to their families. One Family organized these visits for us and took us around, from room to room. We visited with an elderly woman. She and her husband both have walkers. When the siren went, they went to the stairway but she fell and broke her leg. She was so happy to see us and to receive the mi sh'berach from Jay Karzen, RCA Israel President.
We visited a fire fighter. While dousing the flames from a fire started by a rocket, a mortar exploded right near him. The mortars do not trigger the iron dome as they are too small and too low. Shrapnel entered his head by his ear and lodged in his cheek. He was grateful to be alive, having endured surgeries to remove pieces from his face. We said a mi sh'berach in each room.
After visiting another soldier who suffered a leg injury from a mortar attack, we proceeded to the more acute.
Four young men were in a jeep when a rocket passed right through the jeep, in one window and out the other. They all survived, miraculously, but with facial injuries. We visited one boy who has lost sight in both eyes and though he can hear, was not responding to us. His family were there, his mother, understandably, at his side. She has faith, that his sight will come back, at least a little bit and thankful he is alive.
And finally, his partner, also blinded but whose sight is not lost. We gathered into his room and he, though a bit overwhelmed was happy as was his family, brother, sisters, father and mother. His mother thanked us - in her south London accent. An Olah, she spoke in English to us of the support she has received from so many and the pride she feels in our visit to her.
Though it may seem a cliché, I asked Boaz Genut, our friend and colleague in Tzohar, what he felt, personally, during this war. He said that he felt, with all the diverse political views amongst Israelis, and all the differences in religious beliefs, in wartime, we are all together. It sounds like a cliché but there is a powerful bond we all feel - the bris Avraham. We feel for this blinded soldiers mother - because that could be my child and because we feel that this mother is our sister. She isn't an Israeli, living far away. She is Am Yisrael, he is Am Yisrael and we are Am Yisrael.
As we said the tefillas haderech when we set out in the morning, the driver stuck his hand on his head. And as we said the mi sh'berach for this blinded soldier, his mother gently placed her hand on his head. For in all that happens, there is something above, the One Above, who is the source of healing for all those wounded, who need both refuat hanefesh and refuat haguf.
May the quiet that the ceasefire has brought, be lasting.
Photos and Videos taken by Sharon Altshul The Real Jerusalem Streets
Four videos from today:
Rabbi Goldin's post is now featured as a Top Op on The Times of Israel site.
The direct link to the article is here: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/when-your-home-is-in-danger-you-come-home/
When your home is in danger, you come home
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin is the president of the Rabbinical Council of America and has served as spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, since 1984
The first indication that things are different emerges as you listen to the radio on the ride from the airport to Yerushalayim. Over and over again, the regular program is interrupted as a calm voice announces: "Tzeva Adom: Red alert- Kiryat Malachi; Red alert-Beersheba; Red alert-Ashkelon; Red alert-Ashdod; Red alert-Yerushalayim......"
And you realize what these announcements mean; city after city under attack; families, children, scrambling for cover; terror raining down haphazardly from the sky; no guarantees of safety anywhere...
I am here in Israel, as president of the Rabbinical Council of America, together with a delegation of rabbis from across the United States and Canada. The goals of our mission are clear. We are here to lend solidarity to the citizens of Israel at this critical time. We are here to experience, if only for a few days what the lives of our brothers and sisters in southern Israel have been like for much too long. We are here to learn how we can help Israel when we return. Above all, we are here because we do not feel that we can be anywhere else this week. We dropped everything to come, on a moment's notice, because when your home is in danger, you don't run the other way. You come home, even if, for now, it's just for a visit.
Our first day here was filled with experiences that we will never forget. We visited Kiryat Malachi, the scene of the recent fatal rocket attack. We climbed up to the devastated apartment, recited psalms and then visited family members of one of the victims, as they sat shiva in memory of their loved one. We traveled to Moshav Shibbolim, a small town in the Negev that none of us had ever heard of, and visited in small groups with families who live under the constant fear of rocket attacks. During these visits, a Red Alert was sounded and we were all forced to find cover together with our respective families. We spent time with children attending programs in a bomb shelter, because it is unsafe for them to go to school. We spoke with Israeli citizens, from government officials to people on the street, sharing our wishes and hearing their stories.
Over and over again, they thanked us for coming. Over and over again, I objected. The thanks, I explained, go in the opposite direction. We are here to thank them for their courage and dedication; for fighting our battles, every day of their lives.
Perhaps I'm dreaming, but you get the sense that globally things may have reached a tipping point. There is a sense of growing consensus - not only in Israel but throughout the world - that the status quo cannot continue. President Obama's words say it all:
The precipitating event here... that's causing the current crisis... was an ever-escalating number of missiles; they were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles landing on people's homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel's right to defend itself.
Perhaps the world community will finally give Israel the space to do what it needs to do; whatever any other country in the world under the same circumstances would do...
As I write these words, Tuesday evening in Israel, uncertainty hangs in the air. The dilemma haunts each Israeli. Will there be a cease-fire or a ground incursion into Gaza? Should Israel risk the lives of its young soldiers in an enterprise that is certain to carry loss? Can Israel, on the other hand, stop now, without real, tangible, lasting gains?
We will see what tomorrow brings. But for now I know one thing. There is nowhere else that I would rather be; nowhere else that I should be...
In the News
The Conference of Presidents, in cooperation with the JCRC of Greater Washington, is launching a petition saluting unwavering US support for Israel's right to defend her citizens and borders, and calling on the Administration and Congress to continue the unequivocal, bipartisan support for Israel in the days ahead as it bears the brunt of the global war on terror. Please click here to sign on or go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/salute-us-support-for-israel/
and circulate the petition widely to your lists.