Reflections from arrival day - Rabbi Devorah Marcus

Written by Rabbi Devorah Marcus on November 27, 2023

Our journey began as every trip to Israel does with an opening welcome meal. Usually these are festive and set the tone for the trip ahead. This dinner defied description. We were welcomed by our partners from Sha’ar HaNegev as well as Vered Libstein and her sister-in-law, Ayelet.  Vered is the widow of Mayor Ofir Libstein (of blessed memory).  Ayelet is married to Vered’s sister. Ofir was murdered while defending his Kibbutz, K’far Aza, from the terrorists on 10.7. Vered and Ofir also lost their oldest son, Nitzan that day - he was murdered in his apartment on the Kibbutz as well as Ofir’s mom. In addition, Ayelet lost her son who was also murdered in his apartment.  Also there was Lior, the current CEO of Sha’ar HaNegev (SHN), and two more full-time SHN staff.

Our dinner was a bittersweet reunion with friends who have been living with an unspeakable grief for the past 52 days. When we asked them how they’re able to find such incredible strength to continue on each day, they gave us two answers…

The first is that they reminded us they are not as strong on the inside as they might look on the outside.  However, they were strengthened every day by the love they have been shown by their fellow Israelis and by their partners in San Diego and in Australia. Knowing people around the world genuinely care makes a huge difference. Knowing that our delegation came, and that our communities and families back home supported us in coming to send the message of love and support was strengthening in ways that were difficult to describe but truly means so much to them.

The second is that they have no choice BUT to go on because they still have other kids, elderly, and community members who are relying on them. This is the answer I have witnessed over and over again for the last 24 hours.

Everyone we have met from Sha’ar HaNegev has been broken apart into a million pieces, but they are rebuilding themselves as we speak. Some of the rebuilding is the commitment not to collapse in. Some of it is creating new preschool classrooms out of empty hostel rooms at the hotel where the whole kibbutz is currently living. Some of it is helping the traumatized preschoolers learn how to trust care providers again and separate from their parents. Some of it is getting the Kibbutz factories and industries restarted. And some of it is getting up in the morning and breathing as you’re waiting for your daughter, or your son, or your husband, your wife, your parent, or your friend to be released from captivity by Hamas.


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