Reflections from Day 2 - Heidi Gantwerk

Written by Heidi Gantwerk on November 28, 2023

Thinking a lot today about the connection between opening yourself up to love and accepting the possibility of the pain you feel when those you love are suffering. I did not know when I stepped into this position 2.5 years ago that the job came with a whole new family halfway around the world that I would come to love very much. But that has been the exactly what I have found. My Sha’ar HaNegev family, born out of decades of partnership and investment from Jewish Federation of San Diego and the מועצה אזורית שער הנגב | Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council, is in terrible pain. The tragedy and trauma began on October 7th, and continues to deepen as they await the return of family members still held hostage by Hamas, and struggle with the difficult reality of being refugees in their own country: Without a kitchen, how can you make your kids a snack? How do you do laundry at your hotel? How do you get from your new “home” that is now hours away from your job? How do you work from home when you are sharing a single hotel room with three teenage children who are in school for three hours a day? The list is endless.

Right now, they are in pain, so I am in pain. And so many other dear friends in Israel are sharing this pain and anger and uncertainty. We have been hearing their stories, which include stories of heroism and strength and ingenuity and resilience, and it has been a privilege to do so.

Our #SanDiegoSolidarityMission is at the halfway point, and you can read heartfelt and deeply impactful accounts of our last two days at, and you should take the time to read them.

The experiences we have had together have been intense and often gut-wrenching, and our trip participants are writing about the experience with eloquence and deep compassion. Today I just want to put the focus on some of the faces of people I have come to know and love, and to do whatever we can to lift just a little of the load they are carrying.


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