I could not help but think how many times during the course of our people’s history did we wish, dream, and pray that we had the means to defend ourselves. And there, up in the sky, were the answers to those prayers.
Stop The Sirens
This is an edited speech delivered by Barry Seidman in Springfield, IL on July 18, 2014. Mr. Seidman is Chair, Stop the Sirens Emergency Appeal, and Vice President of the Jewish Federation of Springfield, Illinois.
What we read, see, and hear is chilling, but there is no way we can understand the terror of what it is like to live in Israel during these times. There is no way we can feel the terror of hearing the sirens go off, and not knowing where the missile, or more likely missiles, will hit.
The missiles were also striking two years ago when our son, Jacob, was living on a kibbutz near Nahariya close to the Lebanese border.
You might have read that missiles fell on Nahariya earlier this week. [My wife] Barbara and I were concerned to say the least. But when we were able to speak to Jake [two years ago] he told us he was lucky. Just by chance he had been assigned a bunk directly across the street from the kibbutz bomb shelter. He assured us that in the fifteen to thirty seconds from the time a warning siren goes off until a missile would actually hit he would have no trouble getting to the shelter. (I can’t tell you how reassuring that was to Barbara and me!)
Over the last couple of weeks he has been regularly communicating with one of them, a young woman named Rachel. According to Rachel, while it was a nervous time to be there two years ago it is much different this time. Jake forwarded me a text he received from her earlier this week.
“It has been so horrible here you have no idea. We have continued to work through and I cry and shake with every siren. There was a house close to me that got destroyed. I am so afraid and I just want this to end. There is no where
safe to go in this country – everywhere has been hit by rockets. I’m sick of going to the stair well every day and the safety room at work, bomb shelters outside, and even had to hide under my chair on the train.”
During the same period Jacob was in Israel our son, Eli, was dating a young woman who was studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. One evening, while skyping with Eli, she told him she had been walking to classes earlier that day when sirens went off. She was outside, completely in the open, and for an instant she froze. Soldiers running by grabbed her and took her with them. They crouched behind a large rock. She told Eli she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry that, potentially, the only thing between her and a missile was a rock.
This was in Jerusalem. While some don’t acknowledge Jerusalem as the political capital of Israel, we know it is the heart and soul of Judaism. And it was, and is again, under attack.
So what do we do? What can we, Jews of the Diaspora, do to help?
You already know the answer: We give.
Very likely there are many among us who are thinking, how much can we give? It’s a reasonable question. We already make annual pledges to the Federation Campaign, we pay synagogue dues, we donate regularly to other synagogue or Jewish related causes. How much is expected of us?
The analogy that comes to my mind is that of a house. When you own a home you have monthly mortgage payments, insurance, utilities, etc., etc. If we’re fortunate we have all of our household expenses budgeted out and after fulfilling these regular obligations, if we’re lucky, there’s a little left over. Everything is fine. But then there’s a leak in the roof, a problem with a furnace, a plumbing issue. When situations like these arise they have to be dealt with. Usually quickly. And when we deal with these situations we are not relieved of our regular obligations. We just have to do what needs to be done.
For Israel what needs to be done right now is to help financially.
Jewish Federations of North America has asked all communities to raise funds that can be used right now. The way to do this is through the “Stop the Sirens Campaign.”
This is an emergency appeal to help alleviate the psychological and physical effects of the present conflict on Israel’s population. It is important to note that not one dollar raised during this appeal will be used for military purposes. Rather, the funds raised will be used for humanitarian support such as:
- Relief from the line of fire for tens of thousands of children who live within twenty-five miles of Gaza. These children have really been under fire for thirteen years, and our funds will help provide them with much-needed time away in summer camps and youth villages far from the line of fire.
- 100% of the money we donate will help provide thousands of elderly living in poverty who, because it is difficult if not impossible to travel out right now, need food, medicine, and caseworkers to come to them.
- Where do you spend the night when your home has been destroyed by a rocket blast? Our contributions will help provide physical relocation, and just as importantly, psychological counseling.
I would like to close tonight by attempting to leave you with an image that will never leave me.
Just over four years ago, Barbara and I along with Raya [daughter] and Jacob were in Israel visiting Eli who was doing a semester of high school there at the time. Our trip happened to coincide with Yom HaZikaron – The Day of Remembrance.
That evening we, along with thousands of others, went to the Western Wall where ceremonies were taking place. There were several speakers including Shimon Peres. At the end of the ceremonies the entire crowd joined together to sing Hatikvah. Chills went down my spine to be among thousands of Jews from all over the world singing the Israeli National Anthem while gazing upon the Western Wall all lit up in the darkness of night.
But that’s not the image I want to leave you with.
The next day was Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day. We did what apparently many Israelis do on that day. We went to the beach. While lying on the beach we saw out in the distance ships from Israel’s naval fleet going by. It was very impressive. But not as impressive as what came next.
In celebration of the day, Israeli fighter jets screamed overhead in formation. I looked up and saw those fighter jets each with the Star of David on it. I could not help but think how many times during the course of our people’s history did we wish, dream, and pray that we had the means to defend ourselves. And there, up in the sky, were the answers to those prayers.
We can now defend ourselves. We may not fly the planes or steer the ships. We don’t even have to live in Israel on the front lines of regular terror. We can defend ourselves by coming to the aid of those in need.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.