Solidarity Among Israelis– Reform Jews in Israel Reach Out to Help Others

I have heard about and read reports of a sense of unification and solidarity among Israelis during the current Lebanese conflict. A personal email account from Naomi Ragen, whom I do not know personally but who is currently in Jerusalem, was forwarded to me this morning.  On this point of unity, she writes

"… all over the country, people are reaching out to each other. Every death is a death in the family. Every soldier is our son.  The television has a running text with people’s names and phone numbers who are willing to host families from the war zone.  Kibbutzim in the south have made room for the members of kibbutzim in the north, inviting parents and children to enjoy a little vacation, pool side.  The immigrant absorption center in Safad, crowded with new Ethiopian immigrants who spent days squashed together in a bomb shelter that didn’t even have room to move, have been picked up by Jewish Agency buses and taken to youth centers for a vacation.    The television broadcasting authorities are making an effort to put on quality children’s programming and good movies.

There is a sense of all of us being one family, all the bitter divisions of the past years disappearing like smoke as we band together to support each other and our soldiers in a life and death struggle to reclaim our sovereignty and security."

The report below from the Israel Religious Action Center details initiatives undertaken by Reform congregations in Israel to support displaced families from the north of Israel. 

“All Israel Stands Surety for Each Other”:
Support for Residents in the Line of Fire
Update: July 18, 2006; Tammuz 23, 5766

From the onset of the fighting on the Lebanese border, the Congregations Unit of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, Israeli Reform synagogues, the Israel Religious Action Center, B’Kavod, and Kehilat Tzedek have all been working to extend a supporting hand to residents who live in the line of fire in the North, to the Israeli Reform community, and to the general public.

Following are details of the Israeli Reform Movement’s activities of support and aid:

1) Hosting Families

50 families from the North are currently being hosted by members of Reform synagogues in Jerusalem, Modi’in, Tzur Hadassah, Mevassert Tziyon, Yahel, and Lotan.  A special effort is being made to find fun and enriching activities for the children in these families.  The identification of families wishing to be hosted as well as supervision for the host families is being coordinated by the Congregations Unit of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.  For more information contact Ofer Shemer, director of the Congregations Unit, at: 054-779-1009, or Oshrah Naor, administrative assistant, at 054-779-1135.

2) Hosting People with Special Needs

In conjunction with the hosting of families, the staff of Kehilat Tzedek is working to find solutions to the hosting of people with special needs from the North.  Our staff is working in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Welfare and we represent a primary address for the rehabilitative unit of the Ministry in the North.  We have opened a Hot-Line for calls from people with special needs and their families in an effort to solve hosting problems.  Naama Dafni, coordinator of Kehilat Tzedek, is coordinating the Hot-Line, whose number is: 054-779-1101.

3) Transportation

The disruption of public transportation in the North has caused significant difficulty for many families who do not own a private vehicle.  These families are unable to be hosted in the center of the country, even if this opportunity was offered to them.  The Israel Religious Action Center is working with the Ministry of Transportation in order to arrange for solutions to this problem.  As an interim step, B’Kavod is helping these families with their transportation needs.  So far, B’Kavod has organized the evacuation of 5 busloads of families from Tzfat, Nahariyah, Karmiel, and Kiryat Shmona.  Sharona Yekutiel, coordinator of B’Kavod, is organizing the transportation.

4) Social-Rabbinic Hot-Line

With the onset of fighting, a staff of rabbis and social workers from Israel’s Reform and Conservative congregations was organized to provide spiritual, communal, and social support to congregational members from communities in the line of fire.  The Hot-Line is available in 4 languages: Hebrew, English, Russian, and Spanish.  Many of the callers, who are in emotional crisis and wish to speak with a rabbi or a social worker, are new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union or from South America who have to deal with unfamiliar surroundings while experiencing the difficult security situation.  Naama Dafni, coordinator of Kehilat Tzedek, is organizing the hotline, whose number is: 054-779-1101.

5) Arts & Crafts Kits for Bomb Shelters in the North

In an effort to help the residents of the North who are still in their settlements, dozens of Arts & Crafts kits will be delivered to bomb shelters in Nahariya, Shlomi and Majda Krum.  The kits will be assembled by members of the leadership course of the Israeli Reform Youth Movement (Noar Telem), who are currently spending two weeks at the Movement’s summer camp.  Depending upon the need, additional kits will be packed in the upcoming days and distributed to additional settlements.  Rabbis and members of congregations “Yedid Nefesh” in Karmiel and “Emet ve-Shalom” in Naharyia will be in charge of distributing the kits to the different bomb shelters.  The distribution of the Arts & Crafts kits is being organized by B’Kavod, IRAC’s fund for social responsibility, out of B’Kavod’s emergency budget.  Sharona Yekutiel coordinates the work of B’Kavod and may be reached at: 054-779-1191.

6) Prayer and Study

In order to allow members of Israel’s Reform congregations and other residents who are in bomb shelters to take part in Shabbat services, the Kabbalat Shabbat services of congregation Natan-Ya will be broadcast via conference call.  Anyone wishing to take part in the prayer service can do so through a simple telephone call.  Going forward we will be considering the possibility of conducting daily services and a class in the Torah Portion of the Week through a similar arrangement.  For more information, please call, Osy Ashkenazi, administrator for IRAC at 054-779-1105.

I truly hope that this sense of solidarity will carry over into the future and that the Israelis will re-examine the irony of their own internal divisions with new perspective when the tragedy of these armed hostilities abates.

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