Doing Good When Times Are Bad
In 1973 I was a student in Jerusalem during the Yom Kippur War. Following several days in and out of bomb shelters, our student group was split into volunteer teams that fanned out across Jerusalem. I was dispatched to a poor neighborhood to go door-to-door and deliver new garbage bags to the residents. This was one small thing that I could do to help.
Just like 1973, many Israelis as well as Jews outside of Israel are doing positive things to help, educate, and even inspire others since the war with Hamas began. In doing these good things, they are finding that they are not just helping others, but helping themselves deal with this war. This edition of Israel Matters is devoted to sharing what some of the people we know are doing to help Israel and the lives of Israelis. Even small, individual efforts can sometimes make a big difference.
Meryl D. moved to Israel from New York City two years ago. The first Friday after the October 7th atrocities, she found herself a bit lost, not knowing what to do but wanting to help somehow. She decided to bake challahs. Lots of challahs. While the dough was rising, she met someone in the park who suggested where she could donate them. There was a community center nearby that was temporarily housing refugees from one of the Kibbutzim decimated in the attack. When she brought the challahs to the center, one of the women there hugged her.
In addition to baking challahs, Meryl volunteers twice a week helping to pick crops. Many of the people who usually do this work are now serving in the Israeli army, or are not coming from abroad. Without volunteers, the fields would remain unharvested and the fields’ owners would lose the year’s crops and income, and there would be a massive shortage of fresh fruits and vegetables. So far, Meryl has picked kohlrabi, oranges, olives, potatoes and clementines.
Ashley WB. was an Israeli online “beauty Influencer” with hundreds of thousands of followers. She created live and recorded video content about make-up and skincare. But on October 7th, Ashley suddenly realized she could use her large online audience of followers in a more significant way – so she started producing content to describe and educate about the realities and historical truths of the Israel-Gaza war. She also now works with the Israeli government to support their social media efforts. In just over two months, and now conducting her videocasts and recordings in English, Ashley’s influence has grown to be multi-national – with about 40% of her followers outside of Israel, including 15% from the USA. (You can follow Ashley or view her videos on instagram @ashleywaxmanbakshi)
Michael B. (his first name is pronounced “Me-cha-el”) is a 30-something computer scientist living in a suburb of Tel Aviv. He is also a well-known dance choreographer. His best friend’s sister, Yaniv Sarudi, was killed in the massacre on October 7th. At his friend’s request, Michael choreographed a beautiful dance as a tribute to Yaniv. This dance, “Mechakot” (Wait), was introduced by Michael at a Canadian workshop in November, and has since been taught in over 100 sessions and workshops in Israel, across the USA, Europe and Australia. Many say that dancing this dance helps them feel more connected to Israel during this difficult time. (You can see Michael demonstrating this beautiful, emotion-filled danceand listen to the haunting music at https://tinyurl.com/45yev5kn.)
Dorene S. is a licensed clinincial social worker affiliated with the Yale New Haven Hospital. As part of her efforts to help relieve the stress and anxiety that many are experiencing associated with the events since October 7th, Dorene facilitates an in-person support circle for people with loved ones in Israel. The circle meets at the New Haven JCC Thursday evenings at 7 PM. There is no need to register and walk-ins are welcomed, (including of course) TBS members who might benefit from such support.
Yonatan B. is from Tel Aviv. He is an up-and-coming young musician, singer and songwriter, who is currently competing on Israeli television’s “Kochav Nolad” (which literally means “a star is born”. (Kochav Nolad is equivalent to our “American Idol” show). Like many song writers, Yonatan’s means of expression is through his songs. After October 7th, he wrote a song for the world to hear, “M’Saviv L’Shulchan” (Around the Table), which dreams about the return of the hostages, family, and peace. Here are a few of the song’s lyrics:
“After 2000 years…
We’re still fighting for our home here
That ain’t easy…
Let the soldiers come back home
Let the kidnapped come back from Gaza
Let my mother sleep at night
Let the anxieties pass.
“Inshalla” (meaning, G-d willing)
Let the babies grow up here without fear.”
(You can watch the video and hear the song with English subtitles at: https://tinyurl.com/mry56my4.) Yonatan’s songs always have a message, and on his last appearance, this song brought the judges on Kochav Nolad to tears. One judge commented to Yonatan, “your song reminds me of the hope I have in my heart.”
Shari N. is a therapist who currently resides in New York City’s Upper West Side. Shari lived in Israel for several years after college and speaks fluent Hebrew. In early November, she enrolled in a special training course in trauma informed practices, offered specifically to address the huge need in Israel since October 7th. Shari now provides a weekly group support session over Zoom for women who are experiencing extreme distress since the events of October 7th.
Jonathan K. is an expert in modern Jewish history and Israeli society who has lectured on these subjects at the Hebrew University and the Jerusalem University College for many years. He realized that
Chart from Jonathan K. presentation shows number of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza Strip by year, the last bar on the right is Oct 2023media coverage of the Hamas-Israel war was shockingly ahistorical, so he developed a one-hour slide presentation that covered the basics: the facts of October 7th, Israeli strengths and failures, the historical background of Israel, the Palestinians, the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Hams takeover of Gaza, the role of Iran, and big questions governing the future. He presented this via Zoom to thousands of students in Israel and around the world, including at Yale, to provide a better understanding how we got here and where we are going.
David M. lives in Hamden. (He’s actually a member of TBS and a faithful reader of Israel Matters 😉)!
In February 2024, David will travel to Israel on a JNF mission trip where he will spend time with evacuees and take part in community service, volunteering in a variety of ways. David and the other members of his team will do things like volunteer on a military base stocking supplies, pick crops, cook and pack up food for solders – whatever he can do to help. Volunteer trips like this not only help Israel in the specific areas of work that participants complete, but they strengthen the feelings and resolve of Israelis, in knowing that others who live outside of Israel care enough to visit and help. You can find out more about the JNF Volunteer in Israel program at https://www.jnf.org/travel/tours/index/volunteer-in-israel-missions.
There has never been a more important time to help Israel. The people you’ve read about here are each doing something – what they can – to offer support. There are dozens, even hundreds of ways, big and small, that make a difference. We encourage everyone to find what they can do to help Israel now, because Israel Matters.