Message From Israel

Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback is currently in Israel, volunteering through a variety of organizations that are responding to the horrific terrorist attacks on October 7th.
November 1, 2023
Hamal Ezrachi, Tel Aviv (Civilian “War Room”)

The journey to Israel from Los Angeles has been incredibly inspiring and meaningful. I came to Israel with five bags of supplies for the IDF and for those who have had to evacuate their communities in the south as well as the north. Getting the supplies through customs was more challenging than I had anticipated but ultimately all of the supplies made it through and were delivered directly to those who were eagerly awaiting them.

Arriving in Jerusalem for Shabbat, I was able to be present communally and personally. I paid a shiva visit to my college friend, Rabbi Leon Wiener-Dow (about whom I spoke in my Yom Kippur sermon at Stephen Wise Temple), who just lost his father. I joined the community at Kol Haneshama, the congregation where our oldest became Bat Mitzvah and where I am still an overseas member, for services. The sadness and trauma were powerful and palpable; amidst the beautiful prayers, we read the names of every single hostage known to be held in Gaza.

Hamal Ezrachi, Tel Aviv (Civilian “War Room”)

But so was the determination and courage.

On Saturday night, I left Jerusalem to visit my dear friends, Adi and Itzik. Adi, more sabra than not in her usual emotional demeanor, cried as soon as she saw me. “I’m so glad you came to see us,” she said. “Anachnu mispacha,” I said, we are family. This is what family does. We are there for each other, especially in the difficult times.

For over 41 weeks in 2023, an Israeli group called Achim L’Neshek (Brothers in Arms) was the driving and organizing force behind the massive protests against the judicial reform agenda of the current government. On October 7, their mission—and considerable organizational skills—pivoted to organizing a nation-wide response.

Rabbi Yoshi and Rafi Bielasiau (Brothers and Sisters for Israel)

Creating a new non-profit called Brothers and Sisters for Israel, the leadership has mobilized the entire country. From providing food, clothing, strollers and cribs to the families who have had to evacuate the south and now the north, to enlisting high-tech CEOs and engineers to use A.I. to try to identify everyone who was kidnapped as well as the Hamas terrorists who perpetrated the massacre, to sourcing supplies for the I.D.F., the all-volunteer organization was an absolute inspiration. I’m working with them now to find ways to source an additional 8,000 sets of body armor that are desperately needed by the army and I want our Wise community to help. We will let you know as soon as we have the details of the project; I know our community will meet the challenge.

I won’t mince words: The atmosphere here is somber. The entire nation has experienced a terrible, terrible trauma. Every single Israeli knows someone or knows someone who knows someone who was murdered, kidnapped or wounded. To add to the pain, they have witnessed the same pictures and videos and comments on social media that we’ve seen. It feels like much of the world is, at best, apathetic and unmoved by our pain, and, at worse, actively blaming us for a barbaric massacre of which we were the targets.

The entire nation has experienced a terrible, terrible trauma.

And, at the same time, there is astonishing courage and resilience. Tens of thousands of Israelis are toiling every day on behalf of their fellow citizens, many of whom are complete strangers. But they know—and we know, too—that we have a shared history and a common destiny. Now is the moment to step up for people and our homeland. Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh—we are responsible for one another.

Am Yisrael Chai: Our People lives and endures.

To support Rabbi Yoshi’s tzedakah work in Israel, make a donation to www.Kavod.org and note “Emergency Relief for Israel.”


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