A Nation of Superheroes: The Week's End, April 12, 2024
Apr 11th 2024

I am blessed to be a frequent traveler to Israel. When I visited in December, the experience was challenging. That rabbinic mission was mostly what is being called disaster tourism. I can’t unsee the destruction on the kibbutzim and while they are less frequent, I still get nightmares. Back then, many Israelis were still paralyzed and so many men and women had been called up to their military reserve duty. That two-and-a-half-day experience in December was not enjoyable. It is hard to admit but I wasn’t happy in my happy place.

Let’s contrast that with the Beth Tzedec Solidarity Mission that recently returned. To all that ask me how it was, I say that it was one of the most meaningful Israel experiences I can remember. The 21 participants quickly became a cohesive group and are still in touch multiple times a day. Everyone who was there wanted to help, serve and do. None of us wanted or needed anything in return for it. While we felt great about packing, picking, preparing and sorting, it was so minor compared to what Israelis are doing for each other. 

In Israel, everyone looks so ordinary, but Israelis really are a nation of superheroes.

We met with chef Nissimmi Naim Naor, who also leads a congregation in Jerusalem. He used to work as a consultant to the Israeli Prime Minister and is currently a Rabbinical student at the Hartman Institute. While munching on freshly baked foccacia and preparing babka for soldiers, Nissimmi shared with us his own experience on October 7, and how he himself organized 70 funerals following that terrible day. 

Our medic Ronen accompanied us everywhere we went. He took care of us well, but he also shared stories of the two months he spent in his reserve duty in Gaza. 

On our Saturday night, free time was scheduled, but most of us went to a protest and rally to bring back the hostages. In the crowd, I spotted Jon Polin, holding up a sign to bring back all the hostages now, not just his son Hersh. Jon and his wife Rachel Goldberg-Polin's relentless advocacy on behalf of all of the hostages make them heroes in my eyes. 

In the second week of October, Kobi, Eliran, and Dror Trabelsi set up a small table with some coffee at the entrance to Moshav Shuva, at the Balhat junction, near the Gaza Border. Now, they provide 3000 meals a day for soldiers. They also operate a free store that stocks socks, underwear, winter clothing, hygiene products, snacks, tents, and sleeping bags to hundreds of soldiers a day. They rent cars to transport meals and equipment to the soldiers at the front, including fuel, and necessary equipment. These brothers and the people who volunteer there are indefatigable and heroic. 

In Israel, everyone looks so ordinary, but Israelis really are a nation of superheroes. If you need more convincing, watch this video, sung by the band Hatikva 6:

And if you are anything like me, you might watch it over and over again.