How is the OU Israel Emergency Fund Helping? Reports from the Field

15 Jul 2014

Below are a collection of reports on how OU the Israel Emergency Fund is helping during this time of crisis:

Wednesday, August 13

leatherman1_artThe OU solidarity mission returned to the U.S. in late July but the spirit of chesed remains. The mission as privileged to have numerous encounters with IDF soldiers who had just returned or were about to depart for battle in Gaza. Mission attendee Neil Kugelman took the words he heard to heart – the following is a letter he sent out to friends, who in turn forwarded it to many others:

I rarely (if ever) send out an email like this, but Tuesday night (7/29/14) I returned from a four day mission to Israel with the Orthodox Union. What we saw with our own eyes was truly unbelievable. The only words that can describe the spirit of our Chayalim and the people of Israel is “Mi K’Amcha Yisroel!”

Many of us here are wondering what we can do for the Chayalim. There are many things and all are probably worthwhile. However, visiting the two staging areas just outside Gaza, soldiers were asking for things that Tzahal was unable to provide immediately. One thing they were asking for is a Leatherman Wave in black.

With tax, each one comes to $97.64. As time is of the essence, I have to assume that we will have to pay tax. Obviously, if I can find it for less and without tax, I will do that.

Anyone willing to make a contribution of any amount, please drop off cash or a check at my house made payable to the “Orthodox Union – Israel Campaign“. If cash, please make sure your name is written on the envelope. I will forward the results of this fundraiser with the bill of sale to everyone who participates in it. I plan on purchasing these on Monday, 8/4/14.

leatherman2_artWithin 2 weeks, not only was the money for the 200 Leatherman tools raised, but additional funds allowed for the purchase of 100 LED headlamps, also requested by the IDF. All in all the effort brought in nearly $20,000 for the OU’s Israel Emergency Campaign.

The tools and lights are on the way to and Rabbi Berman, Executive Director of OU Israel and he will be arranging for these items to be delivered directly to and signed for by the proper unit commanders.

Yasher Koach to all!

Note: Delivering the tools requested by the IDF soldiers are just a small part of what OU Israel is doing to help – you can be a part of it by supporting the OU ISrael Emergency Campaign – donate today!

Thursday, July 17

From South to North: Fun Day for Makom BaLev and Oraita Teens

ouisrael718_5Planning this fun day wasn’t easy. It seemed that every time there was a siren or Code Red alert, another teen cancelled. They’re nervous. And their parents re-thought their permission. In the end 70 teens from Oraita in Ofakim and Makom BaLev in Sderot and Kiryat Gat headed north early on Wednesday morning July 16.

The day began with a warning siren in Kiryat Gat. The teens all got off the bus and took cover. They knew what to do. The most experienced among them – from Sderot – made sure that everyone’s smiles returned.

First stop: Amuka in the northern Galilee. This is the tomb of Rabbi Yonathan ben Uziel. This special location is known for segulot (charms that defy logic). Perfect place for heartfelt davening and saying Tehilim. Also not a bad place for breakfast.

ouisrael718_3_artSecond stop: Horseback riding at the Bat Ya’ar Ranch in the Birya Forest outside of Tsefat. At an altitude of 800 meters above sea level (over 2,600 feet), this was quite a change from the desert climate and surroundings the teens are used to. Chaim Pelzner, OU Israel director of programming met them with a few words about the unity of Am Yisrael.

ouisrael718_4_artThird stop: Rafting on the Jordan River. Even though the river is at its low point in the summer, the teens were at their high point on the water.

Return at midnight: Happy. Tired. Energized from a wonderful day.

“Our ‘day away’ in the north was everything we hoped,” says Racheli Ninio, director of training and content for Makom BaLev. “The kids had a great time. The reality of their life ‘down south’ faded away for the day. Everyone had fun which was enriched by moments of faith and friendship.”

These teens who have been dodging rockets for months couldn’t get over the organization and planning the OU Israel staff put into their special day. “They kept thanking us,” Ninio says. “Their gratitude and appreciation showed on their faces.”

“Several of the kids were amazed at the beauty and peacefulness of Israel’s north. They were also delighted not to have to be in shelters at all during the day. It wasn’t easy for some of them to convince their parents to let them join us,” Ninio says. “But in the end these kids who have been sitting in shelters had big smiles on their faces.”

Wednesday, July 16

Fun Day in the North. Teens from Oraita in Ofakim and Makom BaLev in Sderot and Kiryat Gat went north on Wednesday for a much needed “day away.” Organized by OU Israel and their local clubs, the teens went with their madrichim. Busses left early and headed for Amuka in the northern Galilee to daven Shacharit. Amuka is known for the tomb of Rabbi Yonathan ben Uziel which many people believe has special segulot (charms that defy logic). From there the group enjoyed two special activities: horseback riding with a backdrop of pastoral views of the Galilee and kayaking on the Jordan River.

ouisr716aSurprise! Stav Abutbol (center), an eighth grade madrichah with Makom BaLev in Kiryat Gat got a nice surprise on Tuesday (July 15). Her “chevreh” (friends) planned a birthday party for her, complete with a cake, balloons and a gift. Not bad for a teen who wasn’t planning anything for her birthday – because of the “situation.”

Talking by phone and in person. Conversations by phone and in person are a daily activity for teens from Makom BaLev in Sderot, Kiryat Malachi, Kiryat Gat and Bet Shemesh. Other Oraita and Makom BaLev groups around the country are continuing to reach out to each other every day. Oraita in Dimona is helping neighborhood children cope by organizing a variety of activities aimed at keeping them happy. Sometimes they even sleep in the Oraita moadon/shelter.

Tuesday, July 15

Girls from Camp Dror spent the morning with girls from Sderot in Moshav Keshet.
Girls from Camp Dror spent the morning with girls from Sderot in Moshav Keshet.
Read the latest reports on OU Israel’s efforts to assist those living in Israel during this difficult time:
Makom BaLev and Oraita Activities on July 14

A Day Away. Staffs of Makom BaLev in Sderot and Kiryat Gat as well as Oraita in Ofakim are working hard to arrange a Fun Day up north for their teens. The day is scheduled for Wednesday July 16.

World Cup Final. Makom BaLev Kiryat Gat and Oraita Dimona didn’t let the “situation” get in the way of enjoying the final game. They watched in shelters. That way nothing disturbed them.

Laugh at Yourself. Oraita Ofakim arranged an interactive theater evening for all ages – children, teens and parents. Audience members described different experiences and the actors turned them into humorous skits.

Interactive theater evening in Ofakim

Personal Visits. Daniel Landesman, a madrich for 7th grade boys in Makom BaLev Sderot is visiting homes and shelters in town. He wants to see how people are doing – and to let them know about the Fun Day on Wednesday.

Everyone Loves Chocolate. Makom BaLev Kiryat Gat distributed chocolate with personal notes for the girls. The staff also visited homes and shelters. Nothing like personal attention – and chocolate – to cheer people up.

Delivering chocolate to girls in Kiryat Gat
Delivering chocolate to girls in Kiryat Gat

“Who is Happy?” Makom BaLev Bet Shemesh is holding a summer camp for first and second graders. The overall subject is “He is rich who is happy with his lot.” (איזהו העשיר השמח בחלקו )

Teens and phones. A natural. Makom BaLev groups in Kiryat Malachi, Bet Shemesh and Sderot are making a concerted effort to stay in touch with each other by phone.

In the North. Girls from Camp Dror spent the morning volunteering with girls from Sderot who are visiting with their families in Moshav Keshet in the Golan Heights. They were brought north by the L’Chaim Association.

Monday, July 14

During Operation Zuk Eitan Oraita and Makom BaLev Teens Help Their Communities and Each Other

Oraita and Makom BaLev moadonim in towns within close range of rockets from Gaza are finding innovative ways to help their communities. This includes Ofakim, Dimona, Yeruham, Sderot, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat.

Oraita Ofakim staffs communication center/war room for the south. The center which was opened last week coordinates projects for volunteers in Ofakim and elsewhere in the south.

On Sunday July 13 the madrichim introduced new activities: drawing pictures for IDF soldiers  and a variety of group games.
On Sunday July 13 the madrichim introduced new activities: drawing pictures for IDF soldiers and a variety of group games.
Oraita Dimona: Games Central. The moadon is making board games available to children of all ages. During Shabbat Oraita teens hosted a number of families and their children. On Sunday Oraita madrichim introduced activities for children in shelters. The staff gathered neighborhood children to play a variety of group games. They also spent time drawing and prepared surprises for IDF soldiers.

Oraita Yeruham: Everyone is welcome. The first sirens in Yeruham were heard on Wednesday July 9. Yeruham residents thought that because they were off the beaten track, rockets wouldn’t find them. Many of the town’s shelters had become store rooms. One notable exception is the Oraita moadon in the Neveh Emek neighborhood. It was clean and ready to host people who wanted to get away from the rocket fire. In normal times the local Oraita moadon is a meeting place for Yeruham teens. They play pool and ping pong, talk, learn, and generally enjoy themselves. Now the moadon is welcoming the population at large. A number of teens guard the shelter around the clock.

Makom BaLev: Nationwide activities for residents of the south. Makom BaLev all over the country are opening their hearts and reaching out to those in need. One of the teens said they have received emergency call-up notices to strengthen the unity of Am Yisrael. Teens from the north and center of the country are reaching out to their peers in the south – by phone and social media. The idea is to support them and let them know they aren’t alone.

Prayers for IDF Soldiers. Makom BaLev Ma’ale Adumim began distributing names of soldiers so that teens can daven for them and for the success of Operation Zuk Eitan.

Makom BaLev Sderot, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat: Shabbat Shalom. On Friday and Motzaei Shabbat there was a round of phone calls in each locale to stay in touch and offer support when needed. On Sunday (July 13) there were individual conversations and meetings as well as reaching out to people in their homes.

Makom BaLev Kiryat Gat is also planning a “chocolate campaign.” They are planning to distribute chocolate with notes of encouragement to individuals and families who are in shelters. The local teens plan to visit all the shelters to cheer up the residents and offer support.

Makom BaLev Bet Shemesh welcomes IDF soldiers. On Friday July 11 a number of IDF reservists arrived at one of the local school where they will be stationed for the foreseeable future. Teens from Makom BaLev as well as other youth groups and local volunteers brought the soldiers food to make their Shabbat a bit sweeter. The soldiers really appreciated all the efforts made on their behalf.

On a personal level, since Operation Zuk Eitan began, Makom BaLev Bet Shemesh has been having individual conversation and home visits. Many of the teens were somewhat panicked by the sirens and rockets. Madrichim have been working around the clock to be a calming influence. Some of the girls in particular had philosophical questions. Their madrichot are helping them deal with their questions and return the feeling of safety. The Teen-to-Teen campaign to reach out to teens in the south is also active in Bet Shemesh.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.