Israel has been at war since October 7, 2023. The darkness of these days cannot be overstated, but at the same time the most miraculous of things have been occurring all the while: as life collapsed around us, people rose up and came together in the most amazing ways. Israel is a country like no other – a land full of upstanding people who truly exemplify what kindness really means.
“We need to come together and help” read the Rabbi’s message on the community WhatsApp group. “If anyone can house a Jewish refugee family from the North of Israel, please consider opening up your home.”
My friend saw the message and immediately responded to the Rabbi. He had a spare room in his apartment in Jerusalem and was willing to host a displaced family.
But only a little while later, he received a reply from the Rabbi saying “thank you for your offer, but we’ve already found homes for all of the families now.” My friend was confused – only 45 minutes had passed since the Rabbi had sent out his request.
“Okay, let me know if I can help in any other way” he wrote back, before tentatively adding another line “oh, and by the way, how many families did you manage to find places for?” As the Rabbi’s reply came through, my friend’s breath caught in his throat: “five thousand.”
Israel has been at war since October 7, 2023. That dreadful Saturday was one of confusion and horror, and for most Israelis, the days since then have continued to be filled with terror, loss and fear.
The darkness of these days cannot be overstated, but at the same time the most miraculous of things have been occurring all the while.
As life collapsed around us, people rose up. Communities pulled together, families started initiatives, the young and the old, people from across all the religious spectrums and political persuasions, put any differences aside and came together in the most amazing of ways.
The acts of kindness and charity, resistance and aid, from Israelis literally across all walks of life has been astounding.
To write about them all would be impossible, for there really is no end to the acts of support happening across the country, even as you read this article.
But I can tell you the story of the 22-year-old olah (immigrant) from South Africa. She shares a small apartment with a friend, and when the war broke out their university studies were postponed. She could have spent the next month watching Netflix and seeing her friends, but instead she decided to put a message online asking for supplies to send to IDF soldiers fighting on the front lines.
Before long, people started showing up at her door, arms laden with goods. And they didn’t stop. Day and night, her small apartment filled up until there was no more room to stand. The boxes she had organized were far from enough and no matter how many hours she spent packing them up, there were always more donations.
She reached out to all of her friends and asked for help packing the boxes, and designated people to visit each local supermarket and collect their spare cardboard boxes and as many plastic bags as they would give her.
She organized teams of other volunteers in their early 20s to take this aid from army base to army base, even when it meant going into areas which were unsafe.
As of now, this young, unassuming girl has delivered over 15,000 aid packages to soldiers across Israel. By the time you read this, the number will have risen yet again.
She is not the only person helping out our brave soldiers. It seems that everyone wants to offer a hand. In their late 60s, my friend’s parents tend to err on the cautious side, so it came as a shock when my friend got a call from them saying that they were heading down to the South of Israel for the day. A woman in their community had spent two weeks at home in her kitchen cooking and freezing literally hundreds of nutritious and hearty homecooked meals for soldiers, and needed help delivering them to bases.
My friend waited for an update all day, and eventually as dusk fell, she got a call from her mother. “Sorry it took me so long to call you darling, we had to go to so many army bases! No one wanted us!”
My friend thought she had misheard – who wouldn’t want platters of spaghetti bolognese and stir-fried vegetables? “The soldiers have been receiving so much food and so many volunteers that they simply don’t have room for any more!”
My friend laughed, and asked what her mother meant. “Well,” her mother replied “at the first base we went to, their commander sent us away because his soldiers had enough donated food to last them into the next decade – he was worried that his troops would all get too fat and not be able to fight… and as we went from base to base each commander told us the same thing.”
“Volunteers have been arriving all day and night to lend a hand and distribute food, and they simply can’t take any more. Don’t worry, we got rid of our food eventually, but by the end of the day we were nearly forcing the schnitzels into the soldiers’ hands!”
These stories may sound phenomenal but they are not unique. Not at all.
Right now, there are over 200 American girls in a seminary who chose not to flee and return to the USA when war broke out in Israel, instead deciding to stick around and run a free daily children’s camp for displaced Jewish children from Gaza border communities.
Right now, there are teams of haredi men sitting in my husband’s yeshiva dying sheets of material army-green and tying tzitzit at their corners so that the IDF soldiers can wear ritual Jewish clothing even when camouflaged.
Right now, there are weddings being organized on army bases as soldiers choose to get married amidst the chaos surrounding them. Photographers, dress-makers, rabbis, caterers and more offer their services for free to make these extraordinary celebrations happen, even at a few days’ notice.
Right now, there is a growing group of kohanim on call 24/7 to offer a priestly blessing to any soldiers entering Gaza.
Right now, therapists across the country are offering free sessions day and night to those traumatized by the war.
Right now, people are queuing from morning to evening to donate blood at hospitals around Israel, and medical staff are even turning people away as the lines to donate get too long.
Right now, women are on call from different communities across the country to pause their lives at any given moment and accompany laboring women in their births while their husbands are away fighting in the army.
Right now, thousands of shekels are being donated to the war effort by anyone who has a penny to spare.
Right now, professionals from every field are offering their skills for free to anyone who needs them.
Right now, the IDF army draft is at more than 100% due to people volunteering to fight despite having no obligation to.
Right now, Israel is the only country to have more of its citizens return rather than leave during a war.
Right now, despite fighting for our very existence, Israel has never been stronger.
We hope and pray that these good deeds will no longer be needed in the days to come, as Israel returns to a state of peace. But in the meantime, we want to recognize every person who is helping the country stand tall, and we continue to wish for the safety and success of Israel and all of her remarkable citizens.