We’re scheduled to leave Israel in a few days. Except for the fact that our children are in America, I’d much prefer to stay here while our country is at war. I’ve joked that I want to stay, even though there’s not much two Americans can add to the war effort.
And then tonight, it occurred to me that there is much we can do. CNN graphically reports the negative impact of the war on Lebanese civilians but does not begin to lay bare the disruption of the lives of ordinary citizens in Israel.
The trickle of people fleeing the north has become a flood. The city of Bet Shemesh is absorbing somewhere from one to two thousand people in municipal buildings. Local residents are adopting refugee families and taking care of their most immediate needs for laundry, meals, showers and the like.
Communal meals are being prepared for families in bomb shelters. There are drives all over the country for blood, non-perishable food, diapers for babies and toys for children in bomb shelters, bedding, fans, clothing, flashlights and all the essentials of daily life.
People left with dirty dishes in the sink and whatever cash they had in their pocket in order to catch the last bus headed toward the center of the country. How much can you pack in 20 minutes? Families displaced, jobs lost, homes destroyed, children traumatized, money gone.
This sounds hauntingly familiar. We just did this. We just mobilized a year ago to deal with the refugees from Gush Katif who had all the same immediate and pressing needs. Gd-forbid that these most recent refugees are still homeless a year from now.
As soon as we leave Israel, a neighbor’s family will occupy our apartment. She is currently hosting 18 (!) of her family members from northern Israel in a very small apartment down the street. And they’re the lucky ones because they are together with family.
While we’re here, we can beg Hashem to end the decree. We can send money, donate food and household items, give blood. And when we leave, we can give someone a temporary home.
That’s not nothing.