Federation board chair recaps mission to Israel
Photo: Guy Yechiely
Dot Haymann shares a card of encouragement written by a Dallas Jewish day school student with a soldier on an army base near the Gaza border Feb. 20, 2024. The Dallas Federation Solidarity Mission provided lunch and fellowship for the troops.

Israelis need our unwavering support

By Dot Haymann

Our trip to the Kotel, the Western Wall, served as a poignant reminder of the deep connection between our Jewish identity and our homeland. It was here that Sarit, a mother who had tragically lost her son Ben, shared her poignant story, demonstrating her remarkable strength in the face of unimaginable loss. There were no dry eyes in the room as she read his last letter to her, telling his family of his love for Israel and his unwavering dedication to support of our beloved homeland. This is the face of perseverance; Israel is a nation of resilience like no other in the world and that is why we will survive these atrocities together.

As we toured the country, we were brought face-to-face with the harsh realities of life in Israel’s border communities. Visits to Kibbutz Zikim and Kfar Aza revealed the full impact of the tragedy on the people who not long ago had called these places home. Despite the trauma and uncertainty they faced, the residents felt deep gratitude for our group’s presence, accepting small gifts of love and support with heartfelt appreciation. Lasting fear and trauma tainted the landscape wherever we went. The displaced residents mourned their homes and lives destroyed, but showing their strength, they vow to return and rebuild. It is hard to properly articulate the raw courage of these defenders and the pain of all their losses.

We have all seen images of the Nova Festival site after the attacks but seeing it in-person was gut-wrenching. Listening to Yossi — the head of ZAKA, the Israeli volunteer search and rescue organization — recount the horrors he witnessed while retrieving the bodies of the fallen, served as a sobering reminder of the human cost of conflict. His tears were our tears. His incredible courage and total dedication showed us the personal cost to even the most seasoned professional. He was unable to process what he saw. Despite his having served in so many other war zones and earthquakes, this cruel destruction left him without words. These events have haunted him and his team forever. As we stood there absorbing the significance of the site, the sounds of mortar fire in the distance provided a chilling backdrop, underscoring the ongoing dangers faced by those in the region. As we stood there, soaking in the surroundings, we heard the sound of a guitar to remind us of the importance of music in our culture, the mournful song played as we walked and paid our respects to the beautiful neshamot that were extinguished that tragic day. These were lives stolen and we each carry the burden of this loss.

Evident throughout the trip were the immense sacrifices made in defense of the people of Israel. Lives have been changed forever. We met an elderly couple, survivors of the Kibbutz Zikimraid,who are too afraid to walk outside without Manny, their armed guard. We met a wounded soldier at Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center who bravely recounted his ordeal protecting our beloved Israel. The tears and anguish in their eyes and hearts served as a reminder of the resilience and courage of the Israeli people.

As the mission drew to a close, a meeting with the president of Israel served as a fitting conclusion to the journey. His gratitude for the support shown by the visiting group underscored the importance of a united Jewish people in times of crisis.

In reflection, this journey to Israel served as a powerful reminder of the enduring bond between the Jewish people and their homeland. It reinforced the need for unwavering support, both moral and tangible, in the face of adversity. As Israel continues to navigate the challenges of conflict and uncertainty, it is clear that support from friends and allies around the world remains essential in safeguarding the nation’s future.

The Solidarity Mission to Israel was not just a journey; it was a reaffirmation of commitment to our values of compassion, resilience and unity in the face of adversity. As the group returned home, their hearts full of memories of the people they had met and the stories they heard, they carried with them a renewed sense of purpose in supporting Israel and ensuring a future where every Jew feels safe and welcome in their homeland.

Dot Haymann is board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

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