By Jennifer Gorovitz, Chief Executive Officer
Just three weeks ago, we took a committed and enthusiastic group of lay leaders, our Israel and Global Committee, as well as members of our Board of Trustees, to Israel to evaluate the progress of our grantees in social and economic inclusion and pluralism. We found that our shared dreams have become reality with incredible community development, poverty fighting, education, and social businesses. We were awed once again by Israel’s beauty, its ingenuity and creativity, and its complexity. Together we stand in good times and in sad times, like today.
Community members arrive for JCF's Yom Hazikaron ceremony.
When we met with Amos Oz, one of my favorite Israeli authors, and a person who expresses these dual realities so well, he said: Israelis are a fiery collection of arguers, prophets, prime ministers and missiles all shouting at the top of their lungs to be heard. Ours is a people of doubt and argument, which also makes us a people of creativity and invention. When we solve our two major issues, war and peace, and social solidarity, Israel will truly be paradise on earth. The land of dreams and intentions and master plans that finally come true.
In the meantime, together we work to honor the memories of those lost, help those who were connected to them to go on, and transform our dreams into reality.
Let me tell you one such story: When we were in Israel this time, we visited a trauma center in Sderot, in the south of Israel. Before we could really begin, we needed to understand where the bomb shelter is in this school, knowing that any moment a siren could go off and we would have only 15 seconds to get there.
We got up, we moved in an orderly fashion, and we did not make it in time. Once inside, we were reminded that 12,000 missiles have fallen in this area in the past 10 years. The children here know all too well, and they know that a siren means run, not walk, to the shelter.
The techniques that are applied to the children to teach coping and resilience are now being applied to the soldiers too.
While we were sitting in the classroom, about to hear from a soldier, a rocket landed not far from us I guessed by the way the ground rumbled and the thunderous sound it made. Our hearts raced, our anxiety peaked, yet no alarm went off.
And then we heard Yaron’s story. Yaron is 28 years old. He fought in the Second Lebanon war and was a company commander. He was responsible for 120 soldiers. During his command, a rocket fell on a building they had entered and one of his soldiers was killed and 10 were wounded. His unit was sent by the Army to the trauma center to help them now to lead stronger, healthier lives by processing their experience and their pain. Combat leaves marks, and rather than be diminished by them, there is now growing recognition that with support these boys can grow differently and lead more resilient lives by using the intensity of their brothers in arms for social support. during the program, these combat units visit diaspora cities and learn how grateful we all are. And for many of them, they are realizing, hey I did that for the Jewish People. And their perspective on their experiences is forever changed. Yaron believes that this program is invaluable. The government isn’t so sure. He and others like him are building a movement, one soldier at a time, one memory, one trauma at a time.
Today we join him in remembering the soldier he lost in battle, the innocence he lost in battle and in wishing for him and others that they may transition from the army to civilian life in a way that bolsters them, strengthens them and helps them to lead full lives.