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Rabbi’s Blog: Stories from Sderot

12/26/2023 03:08:57 PM


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Dear OZ family,

Life resumed a slight bit towards normalcy this week for Sderot, the closest city to Gaza. The Hesder Yeshiva, a central hub of activity in Sderot returned to its home base after more than two months of exile at Yeshivat Shaalvim’s campus.

I had the privilege this morning of delivering the opening shiur at 9am. This meant a very early vasikin minyan this morning at Beit Shemesh. Fortunately, a veteran of our own 6am minyan, Yoann Mallet took me to the earliest minyan in town. Yoann & Rivkah recently made Aliyah and they and their kids are doing very well in Beit Shemesh.

We also visited with, and heard chilling stories from some of the early first responders on Oct. 7th, as terrorists were rampaging through the streets of Sderot. Their stories of selfless courage are only now starting to be reported online. One person saved an entire shul by luring 5 terrorists to another directions while the congregants escaped. That person, Yosef Urim was shot and miraculously survived. Please google his name to read more about him.

From Sderot, we visited nearby moshavim and kibbutzim which all remain uninhabited - many with their Sukkahs still up. From there we visited an army base that has received shipments of highly specialized equipment from our community.

Every one of these places was busy with activity, and people who were very happy to see visitors.

It is an incredibly beautiful testament to our people that so many of us choose to spend our end of year vacation time delivering supplies, equipment, good will and empathy to a land that still needs much healing. I strongly urge anyone who is already making travel plans for Presidents Week, and for Pesach, that you look into spending your time in Israel. Many industries have been devastated and they need us, not only to deliver supplies for soldiers, but also to take taxis, eat out and shop in Israel. 

I sent to our Israel WhatsApp (link above) a picture of how we had to travel for fear of attack or shrapnel. In fact, very shortly after we left Sderot, a barrage of missiles rained from the sky. The country is so small, and large cities like Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Kiryat Malachi are all just miles away from those who would like to burn those cities to the ground.

Everyone here is talking about how this will all end. I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I do believe that common sense would deal with Chamas the same way you would deal with any similar criminal entity, which is: follow the money and cut off the money. Then maybe we can see an endgame. In the meantime, the country’s unity continues to be an inspiration.
Surely that is part of our endgame as well.

Stay well and healthy.
Rabbi Allen Schwartz

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