Israel Mission 11/2023 Day 2

Today was every bit as full, as meaningful, as sad, as hopeful and as exhausting as I thought it would be. I’m going to briefly summarize the day and put more information in the photo captions.

We started the day with a briefing by US Ambassador Jack Lew at our hotel and then went to the Foreign Minister office to speak with Elad Strohmayer (Director of Congressional Relations) Hamutal Rogel Fuchs (Director of Jewish Communities) and Rasha Atamny (staffs the US-Israel Bi-lateral Cooperation and Israel’s first Muslim diplomat). We next went across town to meet with Talia Levanon, CEO of The Israel Trauma Center at the Jerusalem Ramada hotel (the hotel is now housing refugees from a religious neighborhood in Sderot). From there we drove to Kibbutz Mishmar Haemek (near Megiddo) , to meet with families who were evacuated from Kibbutz Nachal Oz on the Gaza border and then returned to Jerusalem to get to Beit HaNasi (the President’s House), where we were welcomed by and asked questions of President Bujie Herzog. We closed the evening with a dinner conversation with Yossi Klein HaLevi from the Hartman Institute.

Like yesterday, several themes emerged from these meetings, some of which were difficult, some of which are inspiring:

1) The feeling that the government abandoned the people.

2) The breakdown of trust in the Army’s ability to protect its citizens.

3) A newfound sense of unity of purpose among the people, both to free the hostages and eliminate Hamas from power.

4) The incredible resilience and kindness that Israeli civilians society has displayed and organized in the absence of government support.

5) And again, a tremendous level of gratefulness to American Jews, President Biden and the continued bi-partisan American support.

In the past, when Israelis talk about defending themselves, it often carried a sense of bravado that made me uncomfortable. But I discovered today that the absence of the bravado that I heard today was even more difficult. The Army is slowly rebuilding trust. The government is not. The people are strong and resilient and this, more than anything, is what gives me hope.

Started out the day the same as I ended yesterday- the beauty and inspiration of the Old City Walls.
We are grateful that Ambassador Jack Lew (pictured on my left) was able to join us and share the Biden Administration’s deep commitment to Israel in its efforts to free the hostages and disempower Hamas.
Talia Levanon (in the red coat) is the CEO of the Israel Trauma Center (ITC) and shared the challenges of helping people through trauma when you are experiencing that same trauma. She also talked about the ever growing need for trauma counselors. JFGW has already distributed $500,000 to the ITC to support their work.
It was especially heartening to hear Rasha Atmany, a Muslim Israeli diplomat, talk about the support for Jewish Israelis from the Arab citizens and how that is different from 2021. The brutality of Hamas attack showed its interest is not in building a Palestinian state but in destroying a Jewish one.
Kibbutz Nachal Oz was preparing for its 70th anniversary celebration scheduled for Saturday evening, October 7th. Instead, they were brutally attacked and left to wait for 18 hours in their sealed rooms, mostly without power or cell service. At 4:30 am on the 8th, they were evacuated to Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek near Megiddo in the north, where they were welcomed with breakfast, toiletries, clothing and anything they needed. They have been invited to stay for the full year if necessary. President Herzog, members of the opposition parties, the IDF and outside groups have come to visit but government ministers have yet to show up.
It was an honor to be welcomed to Beit HaNassi (the President’s House) and meet with President Herzog (seated on the right).
Among the many people I ran into at various stops, it was especially nice to see Rabbi Yael Ridberg (who grew up at Tikvat Israel) at President Herzog’s house!
On almost every building and bridge there are signs supporting the hostages. The top right says “Unity is Power”. The bottom right says “Be strong, we are coming. The IDF is on its way!”