Reflections from day 2 - Rabbi Yael RIdberg

Written by Rabbi Yael Ridberg on November 28, 2023

The Book of Proverbs offers the observation: ner adonai nishmat adam - the lamp of God is the soul of humanity (20:27). Today was spent understanding the myriad of ways that Israelis in different sectors awoke on Sunday October 8, determined to rise, and take care of every possible need - as if literal lamps of God.

We began the day at Nisan Nativ - the leading performing arts school in Jerusalem that has become the Chamal - the operations center for many grassroots efforts that were mobilized in the hours after the attacks.  Thanks to Charlene Seidel of the Leichtag Foundation we were introduced to two incredible managers of the many efforts of the chamal including providing clothing and supplies and harnessing the incredible kindness that lives in humanity.

We heard stories of selfless people from Rabbi Chaya Gilboa like the man who gave Chaya a credit card to secure hotel rooms for displaced families with disabled kids from the South. We spent some time sorting through the many bags of donations to help in the organizing of what is available for anyone who needs.

We then met several activists from the ultra-orthodox Haredi community who also set up an operations center to do whatever was needed: hot meals for soldiers coming out of 24 hours without food; 25 cars that showed up to take 60 soldiers needing to get to the North, and a single WhatsApp message that brought hundreds of people to a funeral at 1 am. The result, an ongoing effort to help families manage funeral needs, ritual, and shiva in 4 geographic regions in the country. Hesed shel emet - true compassion.

Volunteers from ZAKA (the Disaster Victim Identification team) sat with us and shared some of their searing experience as first responders to the carnage, seeing the cruel horrors up close, and now benefiting from mental health efforts from the Jerusalem Model - a project of the Leichtag Foundation - that seeks to strengthen Jerusalem’s civil society.

When I asked the volunteers where they found the capacity to do the work of ZAKA, one volunteer said: “I feel obligated to do the hard work that I know others won’t necessarily do.”

After a short visit to Shaare Zedek Medical Center to meet with Prof. Ofer Merin for a briefing about the remarkable healthcare system responding to the war, we joined other Federation Missions from Miami, Boca Raton, and Washington DC for a reception with President Isaac Herzog at the residence.

It was an hour of straight talk - an articulation of the challenges facing Israel and determination that any peace cannot come without the security of the nation, and the restoration and strengthening of the soul of Israel.

With the blazing lamps of all the people and efforts we encountered today, for sure Divine light will continue to shine on Israel. #BringThemHomeNow


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