There is a new phenomenon emerging in the Jewish world.
But first let me tell you a story. We were scheduled to take 44 LA Dads to Israel in November on a 200-person Mission. Then October 7th happened, and the trip did not. But I was determined to go to Israel like those tales you hear about, of people running to Israel during the Six Day War and/or Yom Kippur War. For 50 years I wondered why people would do that? And now I understand. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. So, using my platform at Aish, we quickly attracted a diverse group of students, supporters and just plain folk from across North America. We marketed a six-day trip that promised they would make “an enormous contribution to Israel”. And contribute they did in money and in random acts of kindness. Within two weeks, we had attracted two busloads. The group never complained or looked at their watch. They just rolled up their sleeves and said, “put me to work”. They had no fear, rather an unlimited reservoir of empathy. The Inbal hotel in Jerusalem limited the group’s size because displaced families had taken up the rest of the capacity.
Yes, the security issue weighs like an anvil over everyone’s heads both there and here. We all felt that Jerusalem was probably the safest city in the world. Let me ask you, who would you rather entrust your life with all things being equal: The IDF or the LAPD? Guns were in plain sight everywhere, and ironically, I never have felt more secure.
It’s time to blanket Israel with Solidarity Missions. I am imploring you to create your own within your circle of influence. It’s the next wave of what Jews do and need to do! Right now, the Jewish Quarter and Ben Gurion airport are ghost towns. Cabbies complained of few riders.
Why us? Why now?
Because the entire country is in trauma from the pressures of the war. Everyone has relatives and friends on the Fronts, in the Reserves and so many are injured, captured, still missing, or killed. We North Americans were the emotional support for an exasperated populace. Everywhere we went people said “Thank you for coming. It means so much to us.” I was giving out hugs and everyone took one….as they told us of their drama and heroics. Just our presence spoke volumes.
How about the argument that we should have just donated the trip expense instead and not come? Are you kidding? We easily dumped $400,000 on the economy and additionally donated somewhere north of $350,000 along the way. Including an air force squadron of Drones, which seems to be the essential Chanukah gift for anyone in the Reserves.
If for no other reason, you must experience the overwhelming unity that currently glues the country together. I had no idea where Israelis stood on politics or religion. It never came up in conversation. There was one task at hand; defeat the enemy and support each other in the process.
If for no other reason, you must experience the overwhelming unity that currently glues the country together. I had no idea where Israelis stood on politics or religion. It never came up in conversation! There was one task at hand; defeat the enemy and support each other in the process.
As I promoted the trip for two nonstop, sleepless weeks I only had a vague idea of what we would do and the impact we would make. Here are the activities we did, and I suggest you do the same or a variation of:
- Find a shiva or military funeral. Yep.
- Listen to relatives of the captives.
- Visit wounded soldiers. We spontaneously walked into Hadassah Ein Keren and said we were there to help.
- Throw a barbeque for an IDF base. We did for 700 soldiers on a transit base five miles from Gaza.
- Harvest the abandoned fields. Nothing like getting Eretz Yisrael under your fingernails.
- Make sandwiches/food for the IDF. At the Aroma Café we were a 10,000-sandwich conveyor belt just for one lunch for the Reserves.
- Visit Shura Rabbanuit Army base to learn how they identify bodies and how they dealt with the deluge of 1200 in one day.
- On the same grounds, saw the hundreds of IDF Torahs in the world’s largest ark. And dance one hakafah/circuit with a torah rescued from the Holocaust for the Simcha Torah that couldn’t be celebrated.
- Visit the displaced families in hotels and bring toys for the children.
- Don’t forget letters for the soldiers who literally pin them up in their barracks.
- Drop off Shabbos food at the homes of families whose fathers are at the Front.
- Listen to stories of bravery and near misses from the survivors who had no idea of the magnitude of the onslaught. They fought, outnumbered, with guns against RPGs, defending hundreds at a time.
- And of course, dance and pray Friday night at the Kotel. You must celebrate life and our purpose for being. It will lift us to triumph over, yet another challenge brought on because we are the Light unto the very dark Nations.
On Shabbos we visited with the venerable 89-year-old Chicago born, Rabbinical Historian, Author, Lecturer; Rabbi Berel Wein, who made aliyah 26 years ago. He summed up the current situation as “We are living in biblical times, and we will eventually vanquish our enemies.” The Q&A continued as we thirsted for answers to the new era that has been ushered in.
Bottom line: Get on a plane. You will make a difference and encounter an Israel that is a taste of the Messianic Age and an Israel that is united in love and purpose.
Aryeh Markman is the Executive Director of Aish LA.