From November 20-22, 70 SAR faculty, former faculty, parents, grandparents and alumni joined a solidarity mission to Israel to see initiatives supporting victims and soldiers at this critical time, bringing chizuk to Israeli friends and family.
Faculty member Atara Douglas said, “I never thought I would feel sadness navigating an airport so quickly.” At the hostage vigil outside the Tel Aviv Museum, “we met the sister of a hostage. She was so composed and hopeful, sharing her sister’s story. It’s hard to comprehend how someone can have such emunah and tikvah while experiencing this torment.”
Visiting the headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Medison, which provides supplies to soldiers, Douglas noted: “My former student who moved back to Israel was there. It’s unbelievable to see so many types of people working together. Kippah, no kippah, head covering or not, everyone was there for the same purpose. While I’ve packed bags in America, it felt so different in Israel. I couldn’t help feeling immense pride for our nation.”
At Sheba Hospital’s rehabilitation center, they met soldiers wounded in battle and another whose army base was infiltrated on October 7. Recalling the delegates’ first air-raid siren, Douglas said: “It’s incomprehensible how people experience this multiple times per day. This is the norm; sirens put a pause to children’s activities. We ran off the bus, got on the ground, and covered our heads. We said Tehilim and then witnessed the Iron Dome.”
Traveling south, they assisted farmers picking avocados. “The grateful farmers are desperate for help, losing much produce because there’s not enough manpower to pick crops.” Their visit to Sderot was “surreal, not a soul on the streets, no children in playgrounds, sukkahs still up, bullet holes everywhere and seeing the police station destroyed by Hamas.” A security chief spoke about the attack and shared disturbing footage. “While in Sderot, we heard Gaza bombings. After each boom, I whispered a little prayer that this should be over soon so Sderot residents can peacefully return and resume their lives,” Douglas said.
At the Dead Sea, Kibbutz Saad evacuees, including former SAR staff members Eran and Keren Ginsberg, received sweets, toys and sports equipment for children attending “school” in tents behind the hotel.
The final day included volunteering at Shalva, Chamal Ezrachi and Shaare Zedek Hospital, then touring United Hatzolah and Brothers for Life. In Modi’in, SAR sponsored a carnival for 100 families with parents in the reserves.
SAR Principal Binyamin Krauss explained the evolution of this mission: “Everybody’s been sitting around since October 7th thinking: What can we do? How do we do more? We believe our school community has come together to support Israel, raising over $800,000. We have given out micro-grants to people connected to our community with pressing needs.
“We were also devastated by the battlefield loss of former SAR teacher Yossi Hershkovitz,” Krauss continued. “People see this school as a community and were really looking for us to organize a mission, generating lots of interest. It was an ambitious trip, with packed days; not for relaxing.”
For Krauss, a highlight was an evening of chizuk, hosting many SAR-affiiated individuals, joined by SAR grandparent, U.S. Ambassador Jack Lew and SAR’s former Principals Rabbis Yonah Fuld and Joel Cohn. “We’re all connected around the same school and that school’s connection to the State of Israel.”
The group heard a Kfar Aza survivor’s October 7 story. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” said Krauss. The woman has been invited to SAR and share her experience. At a post-shiva visit to Yossi Hershkovitz’s wife, Hadas, the principal presented the Congressional Record of SAR’s Congressman Ritchie Torres’ eulogy for Yossi, which had been presented on the House floor.
SAR parent Michal Abehsera commented: “It was a combination of seeing and hearing things that had a direct path to my heart. Hearing from our fellow brothers and sisters, taking action and being given the opportunity to take part in small acts of kindness, to pack for soldiers and pick for farmers, to play with children and put a smile on fellow Jews’ faces who have been hurting. So many thoughts and stories I will remember forever.
“There’s a sense of unity; everyone is together, one family, one nation, all grieving together, helping one another, fighting for our homeland together. That is the light that shines upon the darkness we saw. There’s so much we can do. Everything needs to be rebuilt. We can take part in helping to make sure that gets done. Am Yisrael Chai.”