April 9, 2024
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Ma’ayanot Rapids Response Mission to Israel Makes a Difference

On Jan. 28, the Ma’ayanot Rapids Response Mission departed for Israel. The group of 43 women included Maayanot’s head of school, CB Neugroschl; Aliza Adler, Tanach teacher and director of student activities; Nina Bieler, ninth-grade dean; Bailey Braun, and 39 students from ninth-12th grade. Working together with World Mizrachi, the mission was going to Israel for four days “to do what needed to be done,” explained Neugroschl.

“There’s a certain type of gevura that emerges when you know that you have something to offer and this idea that everything we do to be present as a member of klal Yisrael helps carry the load of this ‘eit tzara’ is what inspired us to make this mission to Israel,” she added.

Upon landing at 6 a.m., the group went to a chamal (command center) to help pack up clothing that would be distributed to displaced families. From there they went to pay a shiva call to the parents of Cedrick Garin, z”l a chayal from the Philippines who was among the 21 soldiers tragically killed in the building collapse in Gaza. The shiva call was arranged by Neugroschl’s son, Alex, who is also a soldier in the IDF and served with Garin. “Despite the differences of all the people there, we all stood united to honor someone who gave up their life protecting our country,” said sophomores Ahuva Broder and Celia Fuld.

The mission then set out for Hostage Square to meet with families of some of the hostages. “It made us feel so much closer to the hostages and really feel a deep emptiness and sorrow in their absence,” said Broder and Fuld. The day ended with a visit to the Kotel where the women davened for the hostages and soldiers “with a connection deeper than ever before,” they added.

The next morning the group began their day in the south, knee-deep in mud, helping out on an eggplant farm. From there they went to the scene of the Nova Music Festival and heard firsthand accounts from people who lived through that tragic day.

Ayelet Sandler, an 11th grader, said that day especially stood out to her as she looked around at what had once been a beautiful park that had tragically turned into a war zone. She called it a “paradoxical moment,” surrounded by faces of the victims on one side and recently planted trees for each of these individuals on the other side, to represent the future of Am Yisrael. “On the one hand, we were beyond saddened and broken by the carnage of Oct. 7, and at the same time we were able to feel the sense of strength and resilience of the Jewish people in looking forward to perpetuating the memory of all those who were murdered Al Kiddush Hashem and to rebuild.”

The group also visited Bat Mishael, a police officer from Ofakim who was at Nova and spent10 hours bravely fighting off Hamas terrorists with just a pistol in her hands. Sandler was moved by how she welcomed the group into her home. “Just from the way that she delivered her story to us with such sensitivity … it is so clear that Bat is a hero.” Mishael told the women how she always talks to the “Borei Olam” and has tremendous emunah in Hashem. She felt that He was with her every single minute and created a situation that allowed her to save people’s lives. Mishael then told the women that they have to be the ones to laugh and dance because Am Yisrael is stronger than this nightmare.

They group also held a carnival for the displaced children of Sderot and spent time at a community center assisting families and entertaining the children who had a parent serving in Miluim. “We had the opportunity to help the children regain some sense of normalcy by giving them a chance to have fun and play games,” Broder and Orly, another student, said. “While our goal was to spread joy to the people around us, all the people we interacted with that day ended up spreading joy to us too.”

On the last day, they went to Har Herzl and watched soldiers preparing to honor one of their fallen comrades. “Stepping into Har Hertzel felt like entering a realm of heroes, each person embodying self-sacrifice for the defense of our country. It was a deeply emotional and impactful experience, affirming the immense gratitude owed to those who dedicate themselves to safeguarding our nation,” said senior Tiferet Teitelman.

Before visiting injured soldiers in the hospital, the group met with Rav Doron Perez, executive chairman of Mizrachi World Movement, whose son is among those taken hostage. He told them how important it is not to forget the hostages and how the hostage families work together to give each other chizuk because they believe that they have to do 100% hishtadlus. He said he has an obligation to have koach and give 100% of his hishtadlus; otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to be the messenger that Hashem wants him to be.

Amid a torrential downpour, the group stopped off one last time at Hostage Square. The tent was packed as it typically is on Thursday nights, when people come together to join in the tisch held there and sing for the safe return of the hostages.

“Embarking on this mission I did not know what to expect but it was a trip filled with inspiration and meaning, “ said Orly. “We left with an even stronger connection to Israel, a strong appreciation and love for the people, and the importance of advocating for Israel here in America.”

“I learned so much from the people I interacted with on my trip,” Teitelman said. “We are the generation responsible for spreading awareness of Oct. 7. We must learn from all the people who were injured or hurt in any way and keep telling their stories.”

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