Monday, July 28 at 8:30 a.m.
The familiar spicy warm Yerushalmi
sunlight welcomes us bright and early ... and within minutes we are on our way
south in a dusty jeep crammed with supplies for the troops, but also for the
tons of people living in communities around Gaza.
Provisor, from One Israel Fund, educates us in emergency procedures on what do
if we hear a mortar whistle, and other various dangerous situations. Something,
unfortunately, all 5-year-olds in this country know.
travel further south we notice the civilian traffic slowly diminish, and we are
one of the only "non-green" vehicles on the road. Marc informs us that we were
now IN THE ZONE. As my heart skipped a beat, we hear the newsabout
the five chayalim (soldiers) who fell the night before.
We pull into a staging area. In front of us is a huge field of tanks,
tents, and equipment. We learn we are only one kilometer from Gaza. Amazingly we
are not afraid. Here are chayalimjust
returning from actual fighting in Gaza. How can we be afraid?
We start unloading our stuff: clotting gauze, wound sealers, material
stretchers, flash lights, duffels, and our secret weapon—Romanian salamis. Now
our soldiers are equipped with Chicago chazak (strength)! As we pull out
amid hugs and “stay safes” to our new friends, I'm not sure if it's sweat or
tears running down our cheeks.
Next stop Kibbutz Erez, on
the border, whose residents are getting shelled daily yet stay the course. We
give them a large magnetic searchlight for their patrol jeep and they are too
grateful for words. In my head I say I wish I had 100!
birds are chirping as we eat fresh figs under a shade tree when we hear the
tzevah adom (red alert siren) warning of an incoming missile and run to
their safe room. Soon the glorious sound of the Iron Dome is heard and the
thunder of our tanks responding. We are literally in a war zone.
And so we leave more new friends.
Nativ Asara, a
quiet, idyllic moshav is our next stop. We roll in alongside a large
twisted barbed wire fence and donate a defibrillator, magnetic searchlight, and
some life-saving medical equipment. The people are cheery and upbeat and so
welcoming. And as I hear the thumping of our tanks in the "close" distance, the
voice in my head keeps thinking, don't these people know where they are?
Even the dogs here are frightful; their ears perk up and they run on their own
The gratitude is palpable as we unwrap our magic
gifts. They are a poor moshav, whose members originally came from a
moshav in Sinai and were relocated here on the border 30-ish years ago.
They too secure the safety of our entire country as they stay and work their
land. Quiet, hard-working and proud, they hand out clothing, meals and love to
all soldiers who pass through.
The road we take to Nachal
Ozis off limits to civilian cars. We have to
show our supplies, and Marc uses a little charm to get through this restricted
area. Here there are terrorists popping out of tunnels constantly. I'm not sure
we are even still in Israel! We pass the "drillers,” the ones finding the
Nachal Oz is now primarily vacant. Only the hard
and stubborn have stayed. We pass an assortment of army vehicles covered in
shrapnel marks. Empty playgrounds and vacant buildings echo out in welcome. Here
and there you see a few members on their bikes. We pass a burnt house where a
woman was killed a few days ago. Then we meet Benny, the security chief and his
deputy – a dog. He told us the hardest part is when they bring in the fallen
soldiers from the front.
We sit in the shelter and discuss
what he desperately needs: walkie-talkies and communication equipment. The
shelter walls are covered with children's drawings, mostly of the war, done
during the weeks they lived "down under." As the walls vibrate with noise,
hopefully from our tanks, they explain to us that their members all want to come
back when it's safe, especially the children.
buzzing of the drones and reverberating noise of the tanks mean only one thing:
bad things are going on and really close by. We give away more medical equipment
and flashlights and decide to go visit the tanks that are "nearby,” whatever
We distribute some of Chicago’s secret weapon to
some young beautiful chayalim. They sit in the blazing sun, heavily
dressed in protective armor. In the entranceway to Gaza, the noises start again
– time to go.
As we pull out, we see
a tired band of tanks with their soldiers resting, so we stop and ask a sweet
young paramedic what she needed and we share some more. We need an endless
At 1:30 p.m., we pull into Alumim. I remember
visiting here during my year in Israel. How beautiful it was! Now, in front of
us is a large green tent for soldiers filled with drink and snacks. We are a
nation of Jewish mothers – I had to hold myself back from jumping in and making
eggs for everyone!
On the road again, we make
a sharp right onto nothing, no road, only sand and tank treads. In a cloud of
sand and dust we find the soldiers and look for their medic. We pass out more
much-needed medical supplies amid the constant "noise" of stuff overhead. I
asked Marc where we were and he answered, “I can't tell you.” As someone from
Skokie, I wonder what the hell I am doing here.
keeping a written list of what we've distributed. We meet more soldiers, or
kids, and all of a sudden we know this one’s aunt, another one’s family. It’s
amazing. They just want to talk and tell stories. We then make another list of
what they need.
The spirit, determination, dedication and
faith of everyone I met was truly unbelievable. It was my duty and my
We made it back to Yerushalayim with our
hearts still IN THE ZONE. We have much responsibility: to pray for all our new
friends and to spread the word of how much is needed.
finished the day in a tiny hole in the wall in Sedarot, where I had the best
chumus of my life – a perfect end to an incredible day.
May we all be privileged to see peace soon very soon.
We are only your shlichim (emissaries). You wonderful donations
made this possible – keep them coming.