Nov 22, 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 third report from participants in the Mission.
Reuven Tradburks reports:
Today's mood was entirely different. The streets have more activity, the ceasefire is in effect.
First, I want to make it clear that even though we would be proud to claim credit that the RCA came and brought peace to Israel, we can take no credit. But I also must admit that I am relieved that we were not traveling back into the range of the rockets today.
I didn't write this yesterday - because my mother reads these. The red alerts are really frightening. The Israelis who live with them I guess get used to them. But we had a few red alerts, both inside and outside the past 2 days. Standing in the most protected part of a home feels more guarded than falling to the ground outside. The procedure for the red alert for us required us to stop the bus, for everyone to get off the bus and to lie on the ground away from the bus on your stomach with your hands protecting the back of your head.
We could not travel in a regular coach bus because you only have 30 - 45 seconds to get off the bus and a big bus would take too long. After lying on the ground you wait to hear the boom of the missile exploding on the ground and then wait again in case there is a second one in succession. There is a feeling of resentment, of anger, of vulnerability.
Gerald Steinberg of NGO Watch felt that this war was very different in hasbara. The IDF website and the social media feeds helped counter the war crimes claims and disinformation from Hamas. He also felt that the European press was less shrill.
We also had a wonderful briefing from Knesset member Otniel Schneller who helped us understand the balancing of interests that are weighed in arriving at the ceasefire. Iran, weapons supplies, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon. He pointed out that we need 3 years to finish the work that the Iron Dome has begun. The Marvad Haksamim and the Chetz are more advanced systems to protect against long range missiles from Iran and more time is needed to make these systems. This operation may have bought enough time for that.
Today's highlight for me was meeting with Chief Rabbi, Rav Amar in his office. After thanking us for coming and commenting on the interconnected feeling of Jews in chutz l'aretz for Jews here, he commented that he feels for the pain and anguish of those who lives have been disrupted by the hurricane.
He then told us about being with the soldiers in the field yesterday. He quoted the pasuk that Hashem is in your camp. We don't need to be afraid because He is right with us in our camp. All the soldiers wanted to enter Gaza - they certainly must have been afraid, but their commitment to Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael is so great that they fear not.
Rav Amar described going to the Givati Brigade of 500-600 soldiers. The soldiers came running from all sides to listen. They said the Shema and full yom kippur style kabbalat malchut shamayim.
Then they came to get a bracha and Rav Amar, together with Rav Peretz, the Rav Haroshi of Tzahal, gave them each a small tehillim and a pair of tsitsis. Not one refused the tsitsis or tehillim. Some asked for a bracha that they be chozer b'teshuva.
Oded Weiner, the chief of staff in the Chief Rabbi's office, had accompanied Rav Amar and had filmed this. I had hoped to have that film clip to post but didn't receive it yet.
Rav Amar is a special person. He carries himself with great dignity - maybe the long chief rabbi caftan has something to do with that. He is warm and greets each person. For us to hear of the Chief Rabbi of Israel with the soldiers in the field was very inspiring. The soldiers want something spiritual at that moment and he provided leadership and support to them.
Rav Amar concluded by expressing his warm relationship with the RCA, with Rav Schachter, Rav Willig, Rav Reiss and Rav Schwartz.
Our afternoon included a wonderful visit to the emergency centre in Ashdod, a visit with the Ethiopian leadership in Ashdod and a discussion with Rav Stav, Chairman of Tzohar on the state of the spiritual leadership in Israel today.
With the war over, we all felt relieved, while many Israelis felt disappointed. I did not read the papers or check the websites either yesterday and today. I had expected a chorus of wishes for a job well done and was surprised by the reports which were not all positive when I did check them tonight. Israel received a lot of missiles but the kipat barzel was a phenomenal success. The Israeli incursions into Gaza were very effective. Though more would have been done to the Hamas infrastructure with a ground invasion, the military action was a major success with minor casualties.
Let us hope and pray that RCA delegations to Israel in the future will be for Torah learning, for mitzvah work, for family celebrations, and even for aliya.
May it be a Shabbat of Shalom.
Haaretz (Yair Ettinger):
The Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle:
Jewish Voice NY
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.