June 15, 2024
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A Weekly Glimpse Into Israel

Event in Poland.

A Different Kind Of Report Card

This is the time of year in Israel when schools give students their mid-year report cards. But this year, many schools in the north and south didn’t know what to do about students who were evacuated from their homes, whose families were seriously impacted by the war, and whose daily routines were upended.

At the Ort Yeshiva in Kiryat Shmona, the staff found an original way to give their students a boost. The following is a translation of one student’s certificate:

“With a hug and sending strength, we are delighted to award this certificate to our dear student Shimon Cohen for the heroism you displayed in the course of the Iron Swords war. You have demonstrated tremendous resilience in coping with a new, complex situation. You are mature and responsible and have been helpful to your younger siblings, with humor and an optimistic outlook, while also developing new hobbies. We are very proud of you! Your family and the school staff.”

May we all complete this test with flying colors, with joy and confidence as we look toward the future.

 

Meaningful Legacies From Fallen Soldiers, z”l

Yaffa Ben Valid is the mother of 33-year-old Barak, z”l who tragically lost his life in Gaza on the sorrowful day that saw the loss of 24 soldiers. Yaffa shared that during the shiva, hundreds of people came to offer condolences, shedding light on the profound impact Barak had on those around him. Among the visitors was a young man who maintained a quiet presence, observing from afar. When the crowds had thinned somewhat, the young man, I’ll call him Y, recounted a poignant story from 2009, when he and Barak were in basic training together. Y described feeling isolated and overwhelmed, struggling with the competitive atmosphere, and how Barak stood out by recognizing Y’s vulnerability. He offered encouragement, motivation and demonstrated kindness and sensitivity, making Y feel appreciated and helping him through this most challenging period.

Yaffa and her family were deeply moved by the stories shared about Barak, especially that told by Y. “We would like others to take this message to heart,” she said, “and in every situation, to always seek and identify the vulnerable individual who is in need of our kind attention and assistance.”

Chana is the widow of Uriel Cohen, z”l another precious IDF soldier who fell in Gaza. During the funeral, she described Uriel’s defining trait as his radiant countenance, evident in the photos featuring his bright smile, kind eyes and glowing face. “Chazal says that greeting another person with a smile is one of the greatest levels of giving,” she said. “There are times when a smile is even more valuable than money; it can be life-saving. Uriel, as his name suggests, truly lit up the world with his light.”

Chana remarked that during a funeral, we don’t just accompany the departed, but we are also called upon to acquire their positive traits. “May we all learn from Uriel and smile more to others,” she said.

“I know that during these difficult days, I’m supposed to feel like half a person,” she added. “But since Uriel fell, it’s been hard, but still I feel like one-and-a-half —Uriel’s soul is here, as is our wonderful Am Yisrael, which is surrounding us with love.”

 

From Poland With Love

I recently learned about a Shabbat program organized for the Jewish community in Warsaw. Rabbi Shalom and Dina Stambler, Chabad emissaries in the city, were heartened by the significant turnout. Contrary to expectations that the war in Israel and rising global antisemitism might reduce attendance, the opposite proved true. “We witnessed an unprecedented influx of first-time attendees to a Jewish event, drawing Jews from the local community as well as from Lodz, Bialystok, Katowice and Krakow,” Dina Stambler observed.

She also noted a profound awakening among Jews. “There’s a newfound resolve to defend the nation of Israel and Judaism, and to stand against Hamas and antisemitism.”

She told me about various supportive initiatives: contributions to the IDF, individuals learning Hebrew, a young man organizing a major pro-Israel rally, and another expressing his own “one-man demonstration” by placing a mezuza on his doorpost.

A particularly striking story involved two local businessmen, known rivals, who agreed to set aside their differences. They approached the rabbi, united in their eagerness, to aid Israel.

Remarking on the activities, a Jewish doctor in the community said, “If Hamas believed their actions would weaken our unity, diminish our connection to Israel, or curb our Jewish identity, they were mistaken. Since Oct. 7, these feelings have only grown stronger.”


Sivan Rahav Meir is a primetime news anchor on Israeli television with a regular column in Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest newspaper, and a weekly radio show on Galei Tzahal (Army Radio). She has a tremendous following on social media for her insights into Jewish life and tradition. Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds, and the live broadcast attracts hundreds of thousands more viewers across the globe. She was recognized by Globes newspaper as the country’s most popular female media figure and by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential Jews worldwide. She lives in Jerusalem with her husband Yedidya and their five children.

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