By Josh Bernstein
Shalom from Modiin, Israel. We are about two weeks past the Hamas massacre. Once again, I want to share so many thoughts but I am having difficulty articulating them in a way that the average person in America can appreciate. Thank God, over the past two weeks, amid the thousands and thousands and thousands of rockets which Hamas has fired into Israel, the only siren which has gone off in Modiin requiring us to go into the bomb shelter occurred on Day One. In other words, here in Modiin, I wake up each day to the peaceful sounds of birds chirping and our wind chimes, which we brought from Dallas, playing music in the amazing fall breeze. Daily life here is fairly normal, relatively speaking. I am able to take the dogs for a nice long walk several times a day, I can walk to the pastry shop at the top of the hill for a delicious fresh baked croissant, we are able to spend time outside and eat meals on our new patio and Shaya is able to go out at night with her new neighborhood chavurah (squad/friend group) to relax in the park or at a friend’s house. As thankful as we are, it is hard to enjoy these activities knowing that so many families have lost everything.
Since everyone wants to know what life is like here during this unprecedented wartime, let me share what I did today, which is typical of the past two weeks. It’s after midnight right now on Thursday night and everyone is getting ready for Shabbat tomorrow — not for themselves, but for the soldiers. Jordana, Rosie and Shaya baked over 100 mini-challahs this evening and put them in bags with special notes saying “anachnu choshvim aleichem,” which means “we are thinking about you.” I just got back from dropping them off at our neighbor’s house a block away, where the house was filled with teens (let me repeat, it is after midnight right now) packing the hundreds of challahs other families dropped off into boxes with other goodies and Shabbat treats for soldiers. Boxes and bags were stacked in their living room from floor to ceiling. Last week they collected and distributed 14,000 challahs for soldiers, which were combined with tens of thousands of challahs from other cities all around the country.
This afternoon my next-door neighbor, David (who coincidentally is the son of former Fort Worthians June and Jeffrey Glazer), came and grabbed me around noon to go to a base about an hour south of Modiin with another friend and his 12-year-old son. We brought several coolers filled with Coke and Gatorade and many cartons of cigarettes and positioned ourselves outside the base. David also brought his guitar. Throughout the two hours we were there, nearly every military vehicle stopped for a drink and/or a smoke, whether returning to the base with weary soldiers or leaving the base with anxious soldiers. David played songs like “Am Yisrael Chai” and we danced arm-in-arm for a few special moments with each carload and exchanged hugs, high-fives and a big “todah rabbah” (thank you very much) until our supplies ran out. Thankfully, I can’t get the image out of my mind of the many soldiers with appreciative, smiling faces.
This morning and every morning over the past two weeks, our downstairs neighbors came over first thing in the morning to retrieve bread and other ingredients they have been storing in our extra fridge. Dozens of kids from all over the neighborhood have been coming to the house every morning to make sandwiches for soldiers. For obvious reasons, school has been canceled here in Modiin and in most places throughout the country. For many kids, there is no question what to do with their free time. They make hundreds of sandwiches each day and deliver them to a central donation facility at the local rec center, where they are combined with other supplies and shipped off to bases throughout the country. Each evening a constant stream of people come by to drop off bread and ingredients to be used the following morning; late each night our neighbors come by to put everything in our fridge so it is ready for use the following morning. Jordana and I are very thankful that we are able to contribute our extra fridge to the war effort.
Our community is 100% united. Incredible unity and cooperation are displayed everywhere you look. No one here is blaming or pointing fingers. Rather, everyone is following what seems to be the national motto: “Fight now and investigate later.” Most people we interact with are shocked that we are new olim (new immigrants) and just arrived a few weeks ago. Some ask us if we regret our decision or wish we were back in Texas. Jordana and I invariable respond with a resounding “No!” and we add that “Hashem’s timing is always perfect and we can’t imagine not being here for our girls during this difficult time.” In between all of these activities, over the past two weeks, we have managed to visit the ministry of aliyah to sign up for important benefits and visit the medical offices building to meet with our new doctors. Rosie has been providing invaluable assistance where needed and we are proud of ourselves when we manage to take the right bus to the right location and succeed in taking care of important new immigrant business.
My thoughts vacillate each day between worrying about all of the brave soldiers — including our son-in-law Avi, who have left their families to protect us — and being angry. Angry that so many people around the world refuse to acknowledge that animals with no regard for human life have committed atrocities which should not ever have to be reduced to print. Atrocities such as cutting open a pregnant mother and stabbing the fetus, butchering and beheading babies, burning families alive as they hug and embrace each other and smoking out and then gunning down children as they attempt to flee. I apologize for being so graphic and I debated about whether to tone this description down, but I concluded that if we cannot speak the truth, however horrible, then we cannot expect the doubters and deniers to do the same. Because of the skewed manner in which many news outlets report these facts, the cowardly manner in which many public figures refuse to condemn these facts and the unfathomable manner in which many have celebrated these facts, we continue to receive calls and texts from family and friends asking us what “allegedly,” “reportedly,” “supposedly” might have occurred. This all occurred and anyone saying the opposite is simply lying. And anyone “protesting” in support of a known terror organization whose mission statement is “death to Jews and death to America” needs to review their facts. You know how you feel when reading about a Holocaust denier? When you get that feeling of hurt in your heart and at the same time that feeling of anger and at the same time that feeling of helplessness when you ask yourself “Do I really need to prove that my grandparents were murdered?!” That is how every single person in Israel is feeling right now.
Please help by correcting the narrative when necessary. And in these difficult times, remain united and pray that God guides and protects our soldiers and returns them all home safely. We wish a refuah shlema (complete and speedy recovery) to all the wounded, safe return to all the hostages, strength to all the mourners and may the memory of all the fallen be for a blessing.