By Sari Ray
Last year, I wrote that packing boxes at the Yad Eliezer warehouse should be part of everyone’s itinerary when visiting Israel. This year, the experience is even more meaningful! Thousands of families in southern Israel have been forced into bomb shelters as the siren warns of approaching missiles. Life is disrupted and it has become difficult to shop for necessities or to have any daily routine. Etz Chaim, a synagogue in Livingston, New Jersey, decided that now is a time to demonstrate solidarity with our soldiers and our families living in terror by doing something to help. Rabbi Klibanoff and Alan Schall didn’t just say that “the check is in the mail.” They flew with the funds to Israel and brainstormed with Yossi Kaufman about how the money could best be used to support Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. They visited army bases and toured bomb shelters to gain a better understanding of what was needed. It was apparent that in addition to physical deprivation, the families and soldiers were experiencing emotional distress.
“Operation Standing Together” was created to provide care packages for soldiers and families, but more importantly to send love and support to those who are in constant danger. This morning, in the beautifully renovated Yad Eliezer warehouse, we joined people of all ages and all persuasions who had arrived to assemble care packages for soldiers on high alert in Gaza. Packed with each water bottle, snack, and package of wipes were wishes for the safety of our forces. My husband and I were directed to the group assembling boxes for families in shelters. Before beginning to pack cartons, we watched an inspiring video created by Moshe Coopersmith. It was a documentary about the shelters and the people forced to flee their homes because of approaching missiles. Elderly people with walkers or in wheelchairs expressed their appreciation and happiness when receiving the goodwill packages. Young children stared in disbelief when presented with shiny new toys to keep them occupied when they attend camp in the bomb shelter. The message they wanted to send back to us is, “We will endure, we will survive, Am Yisrael Chai!” We packed pickles, olives, rice, oil, and other staples that would sustain and strengthen those who are living in perilous conditions. It was a privilege to be part of this worthy effort. Those visiting Israel should make every effort to participate and those abroad should do everything to support the projects of Yad Eliezer to help those in need. To volunteer, contact Yossi Kaufman at www.yadeliezer.org. ϖ