From Dancing with the Torah to War in an Hour


From Dancing with the Torah to War in an Hour

In the synagogue on Saturday, an astonishing scene unfolded. As men were joyfully dancing with the Torah to celebrate Simchat Torah, their phones hidden in their pockets began to vibrate. And they instantly understood what the message was about.

A soldier from Israel prayed while standing beside a Merkava tank near the northern town of Kiryat Shmona, close to the Lebanon border, on October 8th.

In the space of just an hour, almost a dozen men from our small synagogue were called up for reserve duty in the Israeli Defense Forces. They transitioned from safeguarding Israel spiritually through their prayers to physically protecting the nation with their own bodies.

David, my neighbor, returned to the synagogue wearing his uniform, bidding a heartfelt farewell to his wife and two young children before departing. His wife was overwhelmed with emotions, as the reality of her situation had shifted too abruptly and drastically for her to comprehend. Just a few hours earlier, they had been enjoying a carefree holiday meal together, laughing, and cherishing each other's company. Now, she was sending her beloved husband off to war.

Unfortunately, in Israel, we are familiar with the harsh realities of war. We have become accustomed to things that no one should ever have to endure: thousands of rockets targeting our cities, bombings in cafes, stabbing incidents at bus stops, and the construction of terror tunnels beneath our towns and even our homes.

However, we have never witnessed anything quite like this. The images of elderly Israeli women being abducted from their homes by Hamas terrorists and taken captive to the Gaza Strip are too distressing to bear. Witnessing a mother and her young baby being held hostage by terrorists is a living nightmare.

As a mother of four children myself, I thank God that they are safe. But ever since I saw images of young, beautiful children who were happily attending an outdoor party being forcibly taken away by terrorists to be held hostage in Gaza, my tears have not stopped flowing.

The war in Israel may make headlines worldwide, but it is also deeply personal for every Israeli. In this small country of fewer than 10 million citizens, we all have our own tales of horror, and the war has only just begun.

My niece's friend was one of the children abducted from the party. Another niece of mine has been called up for active duty on the front lines. One of our board members has two sons who have received the call for duty, and both are part of elite combat units. Heartbreakingly, a dear partner of The Fellowship, Ofir Liebstein, lost his life in a firefight with terrorists while defending the people of Sha'ar Hanegev.

While friends in the U.S. contemplate what to cook for dinner, my concern is how to explain to my daughter that the police station we recently visited in Sderot has been overrun by terrorists. And how to console my son, whose teacher has been called up for duty.

With thousands of rockets launched at Israel in the past 12 hours, I find myself constantly moving between my home office, where I am coordinating The Fellowship's emergency response efforts to protect the people of Israel, and my bomb shelter.

For us, this is Israel's equivalent of 9/11. We are grappling with profound fear, the unnerving uncertainty of the future, and heartbreaking losses. Yet, even after the men left the synagogue earlier today, there were still people dancing with the Torah.


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