Events, Resources, and Information about Israel at War

Israel rally on the Boston Common

We live in heart wrenching times. On October 7, 2023 we didn’t even get to end Simchat Torah before the terrorist attack by Hamas had begun killing more than 1,400 Israelis. Their attack on Israel is against every citizen: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Arab, Palestinian, Druze, and many other nationals. We also grieve for the innocent Palestinians in Gaza.

We have gathered together some resources. We hope that you will find them helpful as we try to navigate through the shoals of grief and despair for so many lives lost.

May the strength of Israel endure and may there come a time when peace becomes stronger than violence and all those who live in the region know calm from a united heart of community and cooperation.

Since the devastating days around October 7, 2023, and the ensuing war with Hamas, members of Temple Israel have traveled to Israel. Here is what they found, wrote, and experienced.

Eye Witness Accounts from the Recent Temple Israel Trip to Israel

Janet and Bernie Aserkoff

We left Israel feeling very sobered, even sad. There is a war going on and everyone has lost a family member or a family member of a friend or neighbor. When we asked people what they thought would happen when the war ends, everyone said the same thing: “I don‘t know.” And yet, everyone is going about their daily business, plus extra effort to help the evacuees, and smiling and planning for the next day.

Michelle Feller-Kopman

In recent Shabbat Awakenings, Rabbi Zecher shared “Why I am Going to Israel Right Now” and “On Our Way Home from the Front Line in Israel.” In addition to the reasons voiced by Rabbi Zecher, I went to Israel at this time because when I am in Israel I feel on a deep level that I am with family. It could be me living there with my husband and our children serving in the IDF. It could have been my children who were murdered, raped, and kidnapped at the Nova Festival. I went to demonstrate empathy and solidarity with my Israeli family who are facing an existential threat and suffering in a manner that was previously unimaginable and unprecedented in our lifetime.

The hostages’ faces appeared everywhere we went from the welcome hall at Ben Gurion Airport to the newly-opened (October 29) National Library where the vast reading room included posters of the hostages with their favorite books. In the United States, we witness the hatred driving the defacement and erasure of the hostage posters. In Israel, nothing mars the beautiful faces of family in horrific captivity. They stare out at you everywhere you go so that you will not forget the barbaric kidnappings, humanitarian crisis of their prolonged captivity, and high priority of their release.

Another striking theme during our short visit is the immense impact of October 7 and the ensuing war (not to mention the concurrent and constant attacks in the North by Hizbollah) on this generation of Israeli young adults. Our final stop was the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem where we saw way too many, fresh graves of young soldiers killed in the western Negev and Gaza on and since October 7. Adding to the heartbreak are the throngs of young soldiers individually and in groups visiting the graves of their friends at Mount Herzl and the Nova Festival site. The Nova site itself feels like a mass grave. Bearing witness to the 364 memorials and placards of the 40 kidnapped along with the throngs of young soldiers (they resemble our own college students) visiting their peers’ graves, each one surrounded by dozens and dozens of yahrzeit candles is soul-crushing. I imagine it would feel the same at the site of a death camp in Europe, the only difference being the recent timing of the Nova massacre.

Rabbi Naama Dafni-Kellen of Or Hadash in Haifa spent the day with us visiting the Bedouin town (the largest in Israel, which feels more like a city) of Rahat, the Nova Festival site, the border town of Sderot and Kibbutz Kfar Aza, all in the Gaza envelope. She told us that when some in her community heard that she was traveling south to visit these sites, they asked her if she was crazy (given how traumatized Israelis already are even without personally seeing these sites). She also told us that one of the hardest things for her since October 7 is the number of young adults in her congregation who rise weekly on Shabbat to say Kaddish. During our visits, I saw a degree of pain on her face (and all the faces of the Israelis that we were with) that was deeper than the pain visible on our American travel partners’ faces. As Rabbi Zecher said, this pain, sadness, and trauma were apparent and in the air everywhere we went in Israel.

Yet, as Rabbi Zecher also said, everywhere, too, there were incredible signs of resilience, strength, heroism, and human light. Like Mordechai and Esther in the face of Haman’s evil plot to kill the Jews (the one-letter discrepancy between Haman and Hamas being ironic at best), the Israelis somehow manage to uplift one another as they say — not unlike Mordechai and Esther — “we have no choice”. The “Thank you for being here” we heard repeatedly throughout our short visit, underscored the vast meaning of our empathy and support by being present in those brief moments.

In this context, we saw a proliferation of street art and heard music that has been produced since October 7, always a way for humans to express overwhelming experience and emotion.

Here is an excerpt of one such song:

Not Alone/Lo Levad

Music: Jane Bordeaux
Melody and Lyrics: Doron Talmon

Let’s all lend a hand
We are not alone…
A shared fate of pain and love as one people
We’ll cry and overcome
Like back then, we won’t break
We only have each other and nothing more
The roots of the tree grasp the very heart of the earth
will return to rise up and grow with the melody
an ancient melody [Nigun] of consoling and children’s laughter
we are a house unto ourselves, an end to our wandering
Let’s all lend a hand
We are not alone…
We will remember the flowers, all that were plucked
the beautiful angels, wrapped in a flag
And to who have not yet returned, a beacon will be
We will light a big light here, until to us they return
Let’s all lend a hand
We are not alone…

Dru Greenwood

Ted and I went to Israel to spend time with friends, to be together in this hard new time. To listen, to speak, to absorb the moments, to knit each other’s lives. I share a few of these moments here to etch them into my memory and to invite you as well into what unfolded…

It’s spring and the flowers are flagrant in their blooming. Wild cyclamen, blue rosemary, bulbous lilies, tiny pinks and yellows, and red poppies — ”no not poppies, they’re something else, what are they called in Hebrew, in English?!” It mattered. The matter remained unresolved.

A friend in Nahariya, just kilometers from Lebanon, tells of a run with his dog, Scrappy, along the Mediterranean in the early days following Oct 7. A siren sounded, and a few IDF soldiers, having set up a shelter, quickly waved him in. One eyed Scrappy, looked at our friend, back and forth. “Are you Maya’s dad?” Yes. This is our army. The next day, as we walk along that same water’s edge, IDF vessels patrol slowly just off shore.

The best ice cream ever can be found in Zichron Yaakov. We all enjoy it — two flavors to a cup, except for Ted who just has the Salted Caramel.

A Shabbat drive with our hosts, friends like family: Somewhere outside Haifa on the way to Carmiel is a huge spice market, with heaps of za’atar, varieties of shakshuka mix, turmeric, curries, dried peppers, flower teas and things I’ve never heard of that go on for acres. Every Israeli seems to know about it. Of course, we buy presents for US family and friends, pausing only briefly to wonder how the airport canine brigade will respond to our luggage. On our way again we miss a turn and our friend activates GPS. Of a sudden, in the middle of the countryside, we appear to be in Beirut. The route to our destination maps for 6 hours through Syria and Jordan then back north. Scrambled for war. We turn off the GPS and find our way together.

Spread on a berm in a park along the Haifa waterfront near the train station is a huge blanket composed of individual squares, each one honoring a hostage, each one crocheted by a different person, keeping them in mind. The giant ammonia tanks in the port have been emptied, for safety, though fuel tanks stand nearby. We sit with our friend, looking at the surfers and the sun on the water.

Saturday evening and we join the now weekly march and rally in Haifa with old friends who made aliyah decades ago. Only now, they tell us, almost 6 months into the war, are people coming out in larger numbers. Many keep Israeli flags in the trunks of their cars from the protests against Bibi’s judicial reforms in the time before. Those flags wave all around us. A crowd topping 1500 strains to hear Yair Golan, presumed running for head of Labor. Surprising us, he takes on Gantz for enabling Bibi. The crowd erupts. Elana does simultaneous translation for us in between greeting all the people she knows. My heart lifts with the vision and courage
and hope of this crowd, people intent on justice and compassion and change even in the midst of a war that touches everyone. My people.

On the train from Haifa: two men, maybe a bit younger than us, claim seats opposite, arguing at a pitch, back and forth. I know they’re kibbutzniks, because they keep saying “kibbutz” and they clearly own their space — knee to knee with us. One is heated, the other is sure. Small pauses, then bursts of renewed passion. They have long carried on like this. Chaverim, for years. I am grateful. Gradually, as we approach Tel Aviv, the intensity ebbs. Then they are gone.

Dear friends from Outreach days welcome us to their home in Jerusalem for a blessedly long
afternoon into evening. We all talk at once, and laugh. Heartbreak breathes in the quiet spaces.
We drive to the Old City in the rain and move quickly down the slippery, empty stone alleys deep into the Arab Quarter to a particular shop that she knows, owned now by the son, Hashem, who is waiting to greet us. With pride, he invites us all into his second shop, acquired during the pandemic and restored with help from the Israel Museum antiquities workers, who opened the floor to find a trove of ancient vessels sitting on some long-buried stairs and now visible through a lit glass floor. Hashem’s work is beautiful: silver pomegranate drops with tiny stones promising abundance and shimmering Roman glass pendants from which we choose for our family. Even more, the evident friendship between them is beautiful, an unexpected light in these days. When we return dripping to the garage for the car, we can’t find it, going in circles up and down echoing levels until at long last, there it is.

We leave Israel through the Ben Gurion Duty Free shops. Such an odd place. Neither here nor
there, stocked with many, many items from costly international brands and lots of chocolate and liquor (to dull the pain of transition?). We carry, as you know, spices and Roman glass. I have a sudden panic about gifts for the men in our extended family. Not enough spice and the jewelry is spoken for. There is something Israeli–Ahava skin care products with minerals from the Dead Sea. Shower gel and foot cream. Eight boxes, 4 for the price of 3, which I cram into the
overhead bin once on board our 1 a.m. flight.

It’s just in writing this that I realize it’s not the Dead Sea minerals that drew me to this gift, or the anticipated pleasure of the guys in the family. (They have been surprised.) It was the name — Ahava / love, the ineffable experience of these days, so real, so deeply felt, so normal, so extraordinary, that I wanted to capture and carry with me. I’m home now. And my heart is in the east.

Ted Greenwood

Reflections on Six Days in Israel

Dru and I spent six days in Israel during March, returning March 19. We went not to bear witness or visit the Gaza envelope but to be with friends as they continue to live as best they can through the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack. What follows are some reflections on that trip.

The first notable difference between this trip and our many previous trips was the lack of tourists in the country. This was clear in many ways. Although our flight was full, there were many fewer flights n March. I think all US airlines and many others had cancelled their flights and, as of mid-March, had not yet resumed them. At Ben Gurion Airport, things were definitely not normal. Walking toward customs, one has a bird’s-eye view into the large atrium full of shops and cafes and, normally, people sitting and mulling around. It was not empty, but it was far from busy. Approaching passport control, people split into two lines: 70-80% went to the line for Israeli passport holders. The same was true at Logan Airport when we came home: only 20-30% went to the line for US and Canadian passport holders and US permanent residents. That, too, is not normal.

Our hotel in Nahariya was one of the few not filled with people displaced from their homes in the north. It was far from full: “a little busier in recent days,” said the desk clerk when I asked. In Jerusalem’s Old City, where we spent a few hours on our final day, the lack of tourists was notable and that did not seem to be only due to the rain. Many shops were closed, especially in the Christian Quarter, which is especially notable because, normally, most visitors to Israel are Christians. There were also not many people in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, usually a very busy place.

In March, five and a half months after October 7, Israelis were living in a kind of “in between.” The war in Gaza was still underway and soldiers were still dying, although, thankfully, not many, and Gazans were suffering greatly. Hundreds of thousands of people were (and still are) displaced from their homes in the so-called Gaza Envelope and in the North, near the Lebanon border. Everyone knows someone who was killed or injured on October 7, or subsequently in the war, or displaced, or called up for military duty, even though most reservists had been released. (Many have been called back since.) Life was definitely not normal. For example, the IDF sometimes scrambles the GPS. At one point when our host was trying to determine the best way home after our trip outside Haifa, his GPS said that we were in Beirut and suggested a six-hour route home via Damascus and Jordan. In Haifa, occasionally one could hear airplanes. These, we were told, were fighter jets on the way to or from attacking in Lebanon.

Every bomb shelter had been resupplied and everyone always knew where the nearest one was. Israelis are always conscious of bomb shelters, but this was definitely heightened. No one had any idea when, if ever, normalcy would return. October 7 was an event as traumatic for Israel as October 6, 1973, when the Yom Kippur War broke out. Yet, day-to-day routines have mostly returned. People are no longer staying home. Work, school, shopping, visiting friends, and other ordinary routines, all of which stopped on October 7, have returned to normal. Politicians have returned to calling each other names. Day-to-day life is both back to normal and not-at-all normal. None of our friends or others with whom we met in Nahariya, Haifa, and Jerusalem are right wingers. They range from Center Right to quite Left (Meretz voters). They all want Netanyahu gone and a new election now. But no one has any realistic recipe for how that can happen. Some said: maybe some Likudniks will bolt the party and join Ganz, enabling a new government to form without a new election. This is possible but does seems unlikely to close watchers of how effectively Netanyahu enforces party discipline. Others said: maybe Benny Ganz and Gadi Eisenkot will leave the war cabinet and somehow that will lead the government to collapse. Both parts of that proposition seem like wishful thinking.

On Saturday evening we joined friends at a march and rally in Haifa calling for elections now and the return of hostages now. The large weekly demonstrations against the so-called judicial reform stopped after October 7 and only recently have the same organizers relaunched them with a different rallying cry. In Haifa, as elsewhere, the numbers have been growing weekly. When we were there, the estimate was about 1500 people, much smaller than last September, but much larger than the several hundred the previous week. Our friends wanted to hear especially from former Meretz MK, Yair Golan, who is running for Leader of the Labor Party in order to bring the two dwindling leftist parties together. He spoke powerfully and they liked him. (Subsequently, he was endorsed by Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who was expected to be his opponent in the election for Labor Party leader.) The first speaker, the main organizer of the event, took as her major theme a scathing criticism of Benny Ganz who, according to her, was enabling and protecting the current government by joining and remaining in the war cabinet. She did not seem to have considered what is obvious to me, that, if Ganz and his fellow Blue and White Party member, Gadi Eisenkot, had not joined the war cabinet or departed now, then there would be no restraint on the far right in their conduct of the war in Gaza and what would happen in Lebanon.

Despite the return of the hostages being a main theme of the weekly marches and rallies and it’s being on everyone’s mind, there is no consensus on how to bring that about. Few seem to think that there needs to be a realistic strategy. They see that rescuing the hostages is not Netanyahu’s top priority and they think it should be. But what should be the strategy if it were? Not clear.

Everyone with whom we spoke agreed that Israel must continue its effort to remove from Hamas its ability to govern Gaza and to attack Israel. They see this as an existential issue for Israel, a matter of life or death. Some think that Israel must do whatever it takes and do it for as long as it takes. Others believe that a permanent cease-fire would be acceptable now if that would result in the release of the hostages. When asked what that would mean for the fight against Hamas, their reply was: Hamas cannot be destroyed no matter what. People seem incapable of facing implicit contradictions.

It was not easy to talk with people about what is happening in Gaza now and we did not talk at all about what is happening in the West Bank. These are painful subjects and we did not go to Israel to challenge people but to support and listen to them. People were defensive when we raised the question of what is happening in Gaza. They saw and believed a different reality than we see and believe. The main Hebrew-language media do not talk about the suffering and starvation in Gaza, we were told, and do not show the pictures that we see. The English-language media does somewhat, we were told, and so, too, does Arabic-language El Jazeera, which is where most Palestinian Israelis get their news. Most Jewish Israelis knew only in general terms the suffering that is going on in Gaza. The main narrative that we heard about this was: Israel is sending in adequate food and water but Hamas is stealing it. So, the suffering there is the fault of Hamas, not of Israel. Israel has been trying to figure out how to deliver what is needed in a way that Hamas cannot steal it. This is a totally different narrative from what we hear and believe to be true. To me, this difference was the most striking thing that we encountered.

People were very aware that Israel is losing support in Europe and the United States and they were very concerned about this. The major reason, as they saw it, is not Israel’s actions or inactions, but antisemitism that has turned the world against the Jewish state. I found it quite surprising that people with center and left political leanings would hold this view.

At one point Dru raised with our most left-wing friend the issue of the narrative of Israel as a colonial state. Our friend was very aware of this narrative and she reacted with an impassioned tirade about how wrong it is. Israel is not a colonial state, she said. Zionism was not a colonial project, although it was inevitably influenced by the general colonial attitudes in Europe of the 19 th century; the early European olim were not sent by their home countries to exploit an alien place for the benefit of the home country; they went to Palestine, the land of their forefathers, to escape persecution; most Israeli immigrants were neither white nor European. This conversation over a wonderful dinner in a busy Italian restaurant had a major impact on me and also on her. As she wrote afterwards:

I enjoyed the conversation also, especially finding my very Jewish and dare-I-say Zionist voice; haven’t heard it in years. Kind of reminds me why I am here in the first place. And your coming and support mean a lot to us. We heard over and over again how appreciative people were that we came, and that we came to be with them. This was especially true for people in Nahariya, a place under constant threat and to which people from abroad rarely go.

We are very happy that we went and we look forward to going again in November.

Marc Maxwell

There are no words to describe what we saw last week in Israel. The utter destruction of lives, families, and kibbutzim along the Western Border of Israel is unfathomable. The dire worry of hostage families, and yet the necessity of their hope that their loved ones will be returned speedily, safe, and unharmed, is palpable.

We’ve heard the disappointment, no, disillusionment, of Israelis we spoke with that the government has failed on so many levels, the betrayal of the sense of invincibility, security, coexistence with their neighbors and citizens of different politics, faiths, and cultures. We witnessed the incredible dedication of hostage families and their supporters to do everything in their power to not let their loved ones be forgotten. And still we saw the resilience of our people.

They have not lost hope. They have created entirely new systems and organizations to support the families of those lost, missing, or held hostage. They have turned their protests of judicial reforms into advocacy, and their communal divisions into a more unified society. We saw commitment to coexistence, and heard of the indivisible and collective bravery of defending their right to exist.

We come back with no answers, but with a better awareness of the complexity of Israel, within and beyond its borders. And a reminder that Israel is our Jewish homeland, to which we are connected, with all its faults, and beauty, and anachronistic complexity, including picking lemons for a grateful farmer on a beautiful day, tying us back to the land, the irony of which is not to be underestimated.

I wish you all could see what we saw.

David Nalven

Israel Trip Impression

Israel’s swagger — from creating an Eden of groves of citrus and fields of grain in the desert; leading the world in high tech invention; and building an iron-clad defense second to none — it is all now gone. What we learned from visiting our brothers and sisters in Israel, and being in Israel, is that it is not just life and limb that October 7 has taken; it is above all else Israel’s sense of security and strength, and hope for the future.

From a lifelong resident of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, a paradise on the frontline of Hamas’s attack, we were told simply, “we were caught completely off guard; where was the IDF; this is a catastrophe.” From a young IDF commander in Sderot we heard of disbelieving confusion in the early hours of October 7 and even greater disbelief when along Route 232 he discovered, one after another, bullet-riddled cars trapping bullet-riddled young bodies; who told us that more than military support, his soldiers needed mental health counseling from the horrors they had witnessed. At Mount Herzl, the military cemetery in Jerusalem, aside a freshly dug grave, we heard a company of young soldiers, very young, singing Hatikvah (“The Hope”), but with voices less hopeful than soft, diffident, and sad.

This will not end soon. No one we met, even the left-leaning resident of Kfar Aza, has an appetite for cease fire as long as hostages are held. What does that mean? As we traveled near the Gaza border, we saw smoke in the sky and heard bombs in the not far distance. And then on the next day, picking lemons for a farmer in the Negev, whose children were called for active duty and his workers gone, we heard the roar of F-15s overhead. We were constantly advised how to take cover in the event of sirens. And as an Israeli AP reporter on the Israel political beat with whom we had dinner advised, with Hezbollah attacks in the north, the timeline is easily a year or two. Never mind the absence of tech workers from their desks while they are deployed as reservists; families separated and displaced; and the construction of many new office towers and apartments in booming Tel Aviv ground to a halt. The nation is at war.

Our guide Uri, an Israeli since the age of 10 and who some may remember from his stint at Temple Israel as a youth leader some 20 years or so ago, reminded us: there is not an Israeli who does not know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who was killed, injured, or taken hostage in Hamas’s gruesome attack; who does not have a son or daughter (Uri has two) or nephew or niece serving in the IDF, or knows someone who has someone serving; who has not attended a funeral or shiva in the last five months. “While it is hard for an Israeli to say it,” he said, “this is a tough time in Israel … it is difficult now to have hope.” But where hope is all but gone, Israel has found determination. “We all have a role to play,” Uri said. “We do not have the luxury not to play that role.” He, and the many Israel’s we met, thanked us for our visit and asked implicitly that we find our own role in helping to return Israel to the security and strength, and the hope for the future, that October 7 crushed. When will that be? Uri’s closing words: “I don’t know.”

Nikki Nudelman

October 7 confronted me like nothing I’ve ever encountered. It took my breath away. I have not been OK. I participated on an CJP mision to Israel in early January on a 3-day mission to offer solidarity and friendship, to grieve with our “extended” family and to bear witness to the atrocities.

I arrived to the new Tel Aviv. The Israel of AFTER Oct 7. People are still out but it’s much quieter on the streets. The only language I heard was Hebrew and Russian. Gone are the swarms of tourists. There is a sense of melancholy yet resiliency. In Hostage Square we met with families of hostages. They have not had time to grieve. The hostages are only being kept 30 minutes away in Gaza but it’s like they are continents apart. This is the new standard of terror… no information. There are memorials all over Israel. I was confronted immediately when you land at the airport.

The message from Israel is clear. We need to keep the plight of the hostages in the media. We need to make our voices heard. We need to be loud and demand their release. We need to cry, scream, and shout their names. We cannot be silent. We need to keep international pressure up.

I returned after spending three days hugging Israelis, talking with families who have been displaced from their homes, playing with children who don’t understand why they suddenly moved leaving everything behind, meeting soldiers and people who have come back to fight for the security of our homeland, parents who are desperately worried that their children are fighting on the front lines, listening to families of hostages, and bearing witness to the destruction in the south. The images of burnt out homes and the smell of burning buildings haunt me.

I came home and vowed to be an active participant in our fight to make our voices heard and to continue to bear witness. Not everyone can travel to Israel but there are many roles we can each do to do our part by attending weekly rallies (Sunday rallies and walk in Newton Centre and other towns…TI is putting one together too), post on social media, log onto numerous lectures on zoom, email representatives of Congress and the White House, send emails to news media outlets when I don’t agree with what they are saying, and organize gatherings in my home. Most important, I invite my friends and friends I’ve lost touch with to these rallies and meetings. I became involved with a group of female activists who organize the rallies and walks. We host Israelis coming to Boston to speak out about the hostages. I want to make sure the world has not forgotten our hostages and what really happened on Oct 7.

I have found ways to collaborate and support these grassroots events by encouraging friends, organizations, and Temple Israel to endorse and get out the message. I have found comfort in being active in these activities since I’ve been home and met so many like minded people in the process. I want to walk tall with Jewish pride even in the face of antisemitism.

Am Yisrael Chai.

Andrew Zelermyer

“But is it safe?” We were asked that question countless times when my husband and I allowed our 19-year-old son to return to Israel in early December. I usually responded with “Have you ever ridden in a car when he’s driving?” My answer reflected my own discomfort with both the question and any serious answer that I might provide. After visiting Israel last week, I hear that question differently. “But is it safe?” is a question we can only ask as we sit thousands of miles away from the war, the murders, the rapes, and the kidnapping of innocent children, women, and men. To answer the question, we must dig deep for hope and resilience because, as parents, the answer must be “yes, it is safe.” While on a solidarity mission organized by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), we met many Israeli parents who did not get to ask “but is it safe?”. For those parents, whose sons and daughters were dragged from the young peoples’ village of Kibbutz Kfar Aza, the question was devastating but irrelevant. Many of those who were not taken hostage were burned alive in their homes or shot trying to escape the fires. Our guide, Chen, a resident of Kfar Aza is only alive because she was away on October 7th. Her friends and neighbors who saved her father were murdered by Hamas. A mom of young children hid in her safe room while hearing the cries of her friends and her children’s friends being murdered or dragged off as hostages. She contemplated whether to kill her own children and herself rather than allow them to be taken hostage. Somehow, she and her children survived; now, she will live forever remembering how she considered taking her children’s lives to spare them from the horrors and cruelty of the terrorists.

Prior to these atrocities, many of the residents of Chen’s kibbutz and the other nearby kibbutzim drove Gazan children and adults to doctors’ appointments in Israel. They strove for peace and to build bridges between Palestinians in Gaza and Israeli Jews. They know now that some of the Gazans who worked in these kibbutz communities mapped the layout and reported details back to Hamas to allow for maximum killing and destruction on October 7th. Some of the Kibbutz residents who had driven Gazans to medical appointments and gotten to know them told us that they could no longer feel compassion for Gazans. They felt sad and ashamed to admit that their hearts had understandably shrunk. What does the question “Is it safe” even mean to people who have experienced such betrayal and
devastation?

The parents of Israeli 19-year-olds cannot ask and are not asked “Is it safe” before their children are deployed to war zones in Gaza and the northern
border of Israel. We visited young men and women in a rehab hospital attempting to heal from their physical injuries and trauma. I also met members of a kibbutz who were moved out by the army after October 7th and recently were told that it is safe to return. The residents asked the army: “will we and our children still have only 15 seconds from the sound of a siren to get to a shelter?” “Yes.” “Will our children hear artillery fire when they leave their homes?” “Yes.” “Will our children have to walk by the burnt-out houses and take the school bus where they saw their murdered neighbors strewn alongside the road on October 7?” “Yes.” “Is it safe?”

We met with Hersh’s parents, Rachel and Jonathan. Hersh was taken hostage on October 7th after attending the Nova music festival, where roughly 400 young people barely older than my son and daughter were murdered. We know that many women were brutally raped before being executed and 40 young people, including Hersh, were taken hostage.

Hersh was my son’s counselor on his school trip to Israel last spring. He had been excited to learn that our son and several of his classmates were
returning to Israel last September. Hersh offered to take our son to a soccer game before he left for Thailand. He has not yet made it on that trip. Rachel and Jonathan didn’t get to ask Hersh “but is it safe?” before he left for the concert; perhaps it didn’t even dawn on them to wonder whether a music festival for peace would be precisely the opposite. They now ask us all to keep his name, and those of the other hostages, on the top of our minds and keep telling their stories. The resilience and tireless efforts of the hostage families to bring their loved ones home was empowering.

Chen shared that she still believes in peace. When she showed us around her destroyed kibbutz, I asked her how. She answered that she honestly wasn’t sure, but that she needed to sustain that capacity. I met with an alum of Seeds of Peace (a program for Israelis and Palestinians to develop relationships and tangible paths toward lasting peace) the day before he was to be deployed to the north as a reservist. He requested a deployment in the north to avoid combat with the Palestinians and their families whom he knew and with whom he was friends. He, too, continues to believe that peace is possible. He chose to share his precious time with me before his
deployment to convey that message to at least one American.

On October 7th, when Hamas attacked, I was visiting my son in Israel. We were staying in Jerusalem and spent much of the subsequent 48 hours learning bits of what was happening in the south. We heard sirens and returned to bomb shelters many times that Saturday. I brought my son home to Boston on October 9th, and we let him return on December 11th. If I am asked now “but, is it safe?” my answer will be that it has to be and that each of us must dedicate ourselves to making it so.

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Time

7:00 PM - 09:00 PM EDT

Since October 7th the incitement on the streets and on social media has fueled antisemitism and misconceptions about Israel and the Jewish people at ...

Torah Study with Visiting Israeli Rabbi Itamar Lapid

Date

March 16, 2024

Time

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM EDT

Gather with the Temple Israel community onsite or online for Saturday morning Torah Study. In a time of war and heartache for the Jewish people, it...

Israeli and Palestinian Policy Perspectives With Shanie Reichman and Khalil Sayegh with IPF Atid and Riverway

Date

February 21, 2024

Time

6:00 PM - 08:00 PM EDT

Join IPF Atid Boston and the Riverway Project for a discussion with Khalil Sayegh and Shanie Reichman as they share their policy insights on the Isra...

Cultivating Coexistence and Hope through Environmental Dialogue: Tareq AbuHamed from the Arava Institute

Date

December 7, 2023

Time

7:00 PM - 09:00 PM EDT

We bring in the light and hope of Chanukah by lighting the first candle together with Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, Executive Director of Arava Institute. I...

New Challenges to Shared Society: Building Bridges in the Midst of War

Date

November 30, 2023

Time

7:00 PM - 08:30 PM EDT

New Challenges to Shared Society:Building Bridges in the Midst of War with  Jimmy Taber, International Development Director of The Abraham Initiat...

Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict with Rabbi Dan Slipakoff

Date

November 13, 2023

Time

5:30 PM - 07:00 PM EDT

As part of the Hartman iEngage series, this 6-part class led by Rabbi Dan Slipakoff explores one of the most important issues impacting the Jewi...

Arabs and Jews Choosing a Shared Future - Standing Together and Mickey Gitzin

Date

November 15, 2023

Time

7:30 PM - 09:30 PM EDT

A New Israel Fund event cosponsored by Temple Israel Progressive Israel Caucus.  Join NIF New England and our hosts at Sinai Brookline for an impor...

From Our Clergy

We know there are many of us with family in Israel. Those who live in harm’s way and those called up to serve in Israel’s defense are held close to our hearts by all of us. Rabbi Zecher, Cantor Stillman, Rabbi Jacobson, Rabbi Slipakoff, and Rabbi Oberstein are here to support you in whatever way we can. We join you in wanting all those who live in Israel to be safe and secure.

Statements of Support

“I strongly condemn the horrific attack by Hamas against innocent Israeli civilians. We share in the grief felt by the Israeli community of Boston, the broader Jewish community, and all who are mourning innocent lives lost throughout the region. We join in prayers for peace.” — Mayor Michelle Wu

 

Donations and Collections

  • Knit a Hat for an Israeli Soldier. You can participate in an international project to knit black wool hats for Israeli soldiers. Return the hats to TI to be mailed mailing to Israel. Here is the pattern. Hats must be knit in superwash wool. Learn more about the project. For questions, contact Amy Sherr.
  • Support for Israel can go to this fund, specifically set up by CJP.
  • The Reform Movement is partnering with the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Operation: Swords of Iron campaign to support victims of terror, rebuild damaged infrastructure, and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by these horrific attacks. Make a donation here.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is working tirelessly to provide lifesaving medical care on both sides of the Gaza border. In conflict situations, the ICRC takes a lead role and directs the work of its partners — in this case the Israeli Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Red Crescent.
  • New Israel Fund Emergency Response. Caring for the most vulnerable and affected; preventing intercommunal violence; combating hate speech and disinformation; providing trauma counseling; responding immediately to human and civil rights’ violations.
  • HIAS. Jewish American refugee support organization now organizing support in Israel for displaced people.
  • Physicians for Human Rights Israel’s Emergency Response. Israeli organization addressing urgent medical needs both for Israelis and foreign workers in Israel as well as for Gazans.
  • Stand with Israel. A compilation of donation sites for a wide variety of needs across Israel.
  • Standing Together. Jewish-Arab Israeli grassroots movement mobilizing Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice. They are currently working to: spread a message of peace and de-escalation of the current conflict, advocating alongside the families for the return of the hostages. Hosting group meetings for Jews and Arabs together with psychologists, monitoring calls for violence on social networks and reporting to authorities and supporting communities of Arabs and Jews who want to work towards solidarity and safety in mixed cities. Standing Together is also funded by the New Israel Fund (www.nif.org).
  • UNICEF. Life-saving support for children in Gaza.
  • Anera. Providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
  • Visit the URJ’s resource page for additional ways to support Israel.

Talking to Children

Mental Health Resources

  • If you or people in your life are grappling with sadness, anxiety, and grief, please know that you can reach out to JF&CS Mental Health Connect by calling 781-693-5562 or by writing to mentalhealth@jfcsboston.org. They offer free and confidential advice, referrals to therapists (including Hebrew-speaking), support groups, and other resources for addressing mental health concerns.

Security

Our Executive Director, Dan Deutsch, who works tirelessly to ensure our safety wants you to know this: The safety of our community is a top priority. As has been our practice for decades, we work closely with many security and safety partners including CJP communal security, Boston Police, and Secure Community Network. Temple Israel’s safety and security committee is meeting regularly and evaluating information as it arises. As is most often the case, you may not always see our security efforts, but please know they are always being actively addressed, evaluated and adjusted. Security is something that we all need to participate in – if you see or hear something unusual around our facility, please report it to the front desk, Dan Deutsch or one of the clergy.