July 15, 2024
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Lessons From A Week Spent in Israel

Israel wants you. Israel needs you. Israel appreciates you.

The Passaic/Clifton-based “Chazak Yemin Yisrael,” a tzedakah organization that cares for the needs of local residents, organized a solidarity mission to Israel that took place November 25-December 2, 2023. Seven men left their families and jobs for a week to travel to Israel in a show of concern for and solidarity with the chayalim and citizens of Israel.

 

What Supplies Should We Bring?

Before embarking, they made sure to find out exactly what was needed. Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon and General Benzi Gruber knew firsthand exactly what would be helpful. Rav Rimon is the rav of the Gush Etzion Regional Council who since October 7 has been assessing the spiritual and material needs of the chayalim around the country, and Benzi is the Vice Commander of the 252nd Armored Division, with over 30,000 soldiers under his command. Based on Rav Rimon and Benzi’s suggestions, the group began filling their 17 duffel bags. They also expedited the shipping of numerous boxes of clothing from North Jersey based Yad Leah, which sends $6 million worth of clothing to communities throughout Israel every year.

One of the participants in the group was Adam Negnewitzky, founding partner of Jewish Link Marketing Solutions, who saw the trip as an opportunity to show chizuk to Am Yisrael and share the experience with son Rephael studying at Yeshiva Mevaseret Tzion. Negnewitzky shared highlights of his trip with The Jewish Link.

Upon arrival, the group was housed together in an apartment on Rechov George Washington in Yerushalayim from which their van set out each morning for their prearranged visits of chizuk.

 

Visiting Our Heroes

A sign indicating a special ward for the “wounded in war” welcomed them to Tel Hashomer/Sheba Hospital. Upon entrance to each room, they were warmly greeted by the recovering soldiers who were obviously delighted at their visit. The Americans introduced themselves as a contingent from the Passaic/Clifton community that keeps the soldiers in their daily tefilot. The soldiers responded that they too kept the American communities in mind, and jokingly mentioned that although they had claimed the Gaza beachfront properties for themselves, there are some “second row” properties still available. The patients were greatly touched by the warm wishes sent in greeting cards designed by the children of the community; the soldiers commented that they were meragesh, touching. Although wounded, each soldier just wanted to get back to their units so they could continue to protect the Jewish people.

The New Jersey group visited soldiers ranging from secular to religious, from Sephardi to Ashkenazi and everything in-between. The sense of brotherhood and responsibility for each other was very strong. All of the differences that sadly used to divide us were completely gone. And what was left was love. Simple love for a fellow Jew, no matter what and no matter who. Negnewitzky commented that he hopes and prays that this ahavat chinam will continue even during good times.

 

Meeting with the Mayor

The visit to Kiryat Arba, where they met with Mayor Eliyahu Libman, proved to be most memorable. With a rifle on one side and seforim on the other, Libman welcomed them to the City of Avraham, a bastion of chesed. His son Elyakim was serving as a security guard at the Nova Music Festival when he was taken hostage and has not been heard from since. His other two sons are currently fighting in Gaza. Despite the current challenges, Libman was able to uplift the group by sharing, “We are called Yehudim, from the word le’hodot, to thank. We must always be thankful to Hashem. Despite the tremendous challenges, I’m thankful for my healthy children and six beautiful grandchildren.” Libman said that his two sons who are currently serving in Gaza have been spray-painting messages on walls around the city and above the tunnels reading, “Elyakim, we are on our way. Imma is waiting for your return.”

 

Miracle at Shokeda

Since October 7, the entire Moshav Shokeda was displaced and are now living at a hotel in Neve Ilan on the outskirts of Yerushalayim. Upon entering the hotel, the New Jersey group got the feeling of a Pesach program gone too long. Upon closer inspection, it became evident that the families, most without men, were trying to keep their children occupied after their shortened school day was completed. The backstory of Shokeda was no less than a miracle. Shokeda is located right next to Kibbutz Be’eri, however, the terrorists were not able to enter. How was this moshav spared?

On the infamous Shabbat of October 7, terrorists were prepared to attack Shokeda. An IDF helicopter flying near the kibbutz was shot by Hamas terrorists and forced to perform an emergency landing. The Israeli soldiers landed in front of the moshav’s gate, where they immediately engaged with the terrorists, killing dozens of them. Thankfully the moshav was spared!

Back at the hotel, one of the displaced boys was celebrating his bar mitzvah. How do you celebrate a bar mitzvah when you are miles away from home? The neighboring Tel Stone community heard about the situation and immediately stepped in, organizing a joyous bar mitzvah celebration. They brought a band with a DJ and food, and members of the Tel Stone community came to join in the celebration. The achdut demonstrated among the groups was inspiring. The New Jersey contingent distributed goodies and toys, adding to the festivities.

As They Go Into Gaza

On their way to the hard-hit Kibbutz Be’eri, the group found out that it was being closed off due to a visit from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog, so they rerouted to the staging area where the IDF prepares to go into Gaza. The Passaic group spent two hours distributing their gifts of equipment including leather gloves, tactical knives, headlamps, protein bars, thermal clothing, laser pointers and more, which were so appreciated by the chayalim. Hundreds of soldiers stopped by and exchanged warm hugs with the group.

As the equipment was being emptied and embraces were shared, a tank rolled by on its way into Gaza. Seeing the commotion, a tank soldier popped his head out of the commander’s hatch, asking over the din what they were there for. One of the group called back, “We just came to tell you we love you and to thank you for everything you’re doing.” Touched to the core, the soldier jumped out of the tank with another soldier and gave everyone a hug. Then he said, “In this generation, we are providing an answer to anyone who wants to hurt a Jew. Period.”

The group’s time spent by the border was a time of tremendous achdut. Everyone embraced each other regardless of what type of Jew they happened to be. All of the differences melted away and they became one.

 

A Special Shiva Call

Even after the conclusion of shiva, families of the bereaved appreciate visits of comfort, which allow them to share the stories of their beloved. The group was directed to the home of Rabbi Yehoshua Shani, whose 22-year-old son Ori Shani HY’’D of Kiryat Arba, a Golani commander killed on October 7, left a wife and a 4-month-old baby boy. It was obvious that speaking about his beloved son was comforting to Rabbi Shani, who had prepared an elaborate slide show about his son’s life. Ori had made a list of spiritual goals and placed them within his Rosh Hashana machzor. The handwritten resolutions have now become a guide for the nation to take upon themselves as a zechut for their victory. One of his goals was to love all Jews. What an inspiring message from a courageous father!

 

Unshakeable Achdut

Throughout their mission, Negnewitzky felt that the comfort and support offered to the chayalim and residents of Israel was equal and even often surpassed by the chizuk the participants received in return. Furthermore, the achdut, unity of the nation, was felt consistently throughout the trip— during informal meetings with Israelis, on the street, in stores and eateries, and even through chance encounters. The mood, though serious, was optimistic that the hostages would be returned safely and the war would result in the safety and security of the borders of Israel. Negnewitzky recommends that solidarity trips continue and proliferate to the benefit of people on both sides of the ocean.

While the mission was successful in helping countless soldiers, displaced families and families who have lost loved ones in this war, there’s still a tremendous need. If you are interested in having 100% of your donation dollars support continued soldier needs, Tefillin requests or support for displaced families, please visit WWW.CYYClifton.org to contribute.

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