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The TBE Blog

I recently joined several fellow TBE congregants and clergy, along with some from Temple Israel (Boston) and Temple Isaiah (Lexington) for four non-stop days of visits to places and with Israelis impacted by the October 7th attack. I found it a trip both heart-wrenching yet hopeful, witnessing a society torn by trauma yet also with intense resilience and the continuing desire to dream of peace and shared society (although perhaps postponed for now). I felt a sense of cognitive dissonance, with restaurants full and people seemingly going about their lives yet with posters of hostages everywhere and hotels, including ours, housing families displaced from their homes in the South and North.

Everyone we met expressed deep gratitude for our visit and support, especially at a time when they feel abandoned and ignored by the current government. We met first with volunteers from the Center for the Hostage Families Forum. Almost overnight, a large organization of volunteers was created by hostage families that provides family services (mental and financial), legal advocacy, marches/rallies management, and a worldwide media advocacy program. Our visit included hearing the stories of the granddaughter of an abducted couple and the mother of a son taken from the Nova music festival. We then walked through the nearby Hostages Square, filled with art installations and memorials to the hostages and the site of weekly rallies. We visited with the Bedouin head of an NGO working to bring Arabs and Jews together to promote shared society in Bedouin towns and mixed cities. Those efforts kept them quiet and peaceful in the wake of the attack. That ray of hope helped bolster me through difficult visits to the Nova Music Festival site and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, viewing the memorial pictures of the victims and hearing the story of the terror of that morning, all amid the sound of artillery shells being fired into Gaza. We also helped for 3+ hours harvesting lemons on a moshav, met with soldiers (a friend of Rabbi Callman in Sderot and a recuperating soldier at the new Rehabilitation Center of Hadassah Hospital) to bear witness to their bravery and resilience, and paid respects at the new graves of fallen soldiers on Mt. Herzl, watching tearfully as a group of young soldiers gathered and sang Hatikvah.

Until all the hostages are returned, I feel that Israelis are living through a kind of ever-present shiva and can’t go back to normal. They are mourning the atrocious loss of life, the hostages, and the lost sense of security at the same time sending family members to the IDF. We can help by bearing witness, voicing support, and promoting organizations that work toward fulfilling the delayed dream of peace and shared society.

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