When the editor of Cincy Jewfolk reached out to me on October 9th to ask if I’d be interested in writing something about the horrific massacre that happened just two days earlier, I answered that I was too much at a loss for words to even consider it.
In his note, he referenced a previous piece I had written about the judicial reform protest movement in Israel, and suggested that I interview friends and family members about their experience in the aftermath of that devastating Simchat Torah Saturday. He also asked about my friends and family’s safety, and I can now report that they are for the most part safe, though I do have an aunt still under Hamas rocket fire in Ashkelon, a brother-in-law running the laboratories of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya while helping to move the older patients and the babies to the basement wards for safety, and other friends in the north of the country living under threat of Hezbollah rocket fire.
Even in the center of the country, family members and friends still have to run to shelters when rockets are aimed at their cities. Beyond my immediate circle, I do have, as do all Israelis, many people within second circles that have been wounded, murdered, kidnapped (my Ashkelon aunt’s niece and nephew from her first husband’s side), and I know people who have been drafted, working as first responders on the front lines, and many, many volunteering to help survivors and evacuees.
Many of those volunteers are the same people that I wrote about in August, those who week after week had been protesting the right-wing government’s proposed judicial reform. It is those people who have risen to the occasion in the aftermath of the October 7th massacre to fill gaping voids on many fronts that the current government is spectacularly failing to address.
Using their networks and tech savvy, protest movement organizers were the first to help to identify and centralize information about victims – those who were wounded, those who were murdered, those who were abducted, and those whose fate is still unknown.
The protest movement alumni were the first to help comfort survivors and help evacuees from the south and the north. They have also been helping to keep up with agricultural endeavors in evacuated farms in the south (milking cows, picking peppers, etc.), rescuing dogs and other pets that were left behind – some wounded, many traumatized, and some animals needing fostering because their families are in temporary digs, or dead.
Restaurant chefs and dozens of volunteers in Tel Aviv are operating massive kitchens, turning out thousands of prepared meals daily for soldiers, hospitals, and evacuees. And, despite having been called traitors and “ochrei Yisrael” (polluters of Israel) the protest movement folks are doing a much better job on the public relations front than the crazy, impotent government ministers are. (If you are not following them, TikvaInternational is a great place to start!)
Many of these protest movement people are just regular people, using their personal and professional experience and resources to do whatever they can. One such person is my dear friend Sari, who happens to be the current chairwoman of Amuta for Kids, a foundation that serves kids in need in Haifa and Northern Israel. The foundation has stepped up to deliver clothes, toiletries, toys, and school materials to the small, family run Garden Hotel in Haifa that is housing evacuated families. When Sari and the other foundation volunteers learned that the hotel owners are footing the bill for staff, utilities, and food, they also stepped up to contribute funds to help defray those costs.
Sari says that it is a comfort to her and the other foundation members to be able to do something helpful. Much as we American Jews are consumed with the news from and about Israel, we have a kind of luxury of being compelled to carry on with our jobs as well the opportunity to safely carry on with our social lives. I attended the Cincinnati Symphony on October 14th and found it both jarring and a moment of reprieve, which made Louis Langrée’s opening statement and moment of silence at the beginning of the evening particularly welcome.
In Israel, the grief, anxiety, and danger are ongoing, paralyzing normal life but mobilizing the best people into action above and beyond the call of duty. It is inspiring and life-affirming to behold.
Many in Israel are stepping up. But it is clear that it is especially the folks who, until recently, were spending their weekends shouting, “you’ve messed with the wrong generation,” who are now the people proving that Am Yisrael Chai (The People of Israel Live).
At the moment, it’s hard to imagine the resumption of this liberal grassroots political front, but we are confident that they will prevail. They are proving to be the only ones who are capable.
The Foundation for Kids in Need in Haifa and the North has been operating for 24 years. They are a 100% volunteer operation that normally funds their services and projects by holding performances and lectures presented by artists and presenters who donate all ticket proceeds to the foundation. They are not used to soliciting donations from abroad but would now greatly appreciate our help. They can accept donations by way of PEF Israel Endowment Funds, Inc. (Rated 4 stars by Charity Navigator) with checks marked ID# 58-0384378 in the memo line.