Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 2- From Rabbi Uri

January 13, 2009

Dear Friends,
It's 2:30am, and our Rabbinic Mission has just pulled into a hotel in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon. OUr group arrived at 5pm today, and our journey was quick to begin.
First, I met a representative of the Ethiopian Jewish community of Gideira, another town in the Negev, and was able to pass on to him all of the school supplies donated by our community, which I managed to cram into two, 90lb duffel bags. His name is Kassahus, and his smile was only matched by mine, as I handed him a lot of love from New Orleans. He was so thankful and explained that the supplies will be distributed today to families throughout his city, so that children can continue their schooling at home - away from the unprotected school buildings where missiles have threatened in recent days. Then...
...those of us that arrived first in Israel on the earlier flight, traveled to the nearby city of Lod, which is a crime ridden town, with a uncertain future as a religious community. We met with the RAbbi of the city and the President of their synagogue, and their families, as they explained how they hope to revive their synagogue community. Rabbi Saret (of Lod) and I shared a deep connection, as we each discussed how meaningful it was to live in a smaller size Jewish community, where everyone counts and makes in a difference in communal life. They have grown the religious community from 70 to 200 families in the past four years. We shared community building strategies, and I suggested a cafe with kosher beignets...
Rabbi Saret also took us to the local kindergarden, where pipe bombs had been thrown two days ago from rioting Arab locals protesting the war. Thank God no one was hurt.
We thanked the Sarets for their hospitality, and rejoined the larger mission that had now grown to 22 Rabbis from all around the United States. We traveled south to Ashdod. The Rabbis there spoke to us about a young woman who was killed last week, when she ran from her car to a bus stop, seeking shelter during an air raid siren. The rocket landed directly on the bus stop. We were then asked to pray for Aharon Yehoshua ben Chaya, a young man who was married just two weeks ago, then called up from reserves for officer duty the morning after his wedding, and spent this past Shabbat in the hospital with severe brain damage from a Hamas attack on his unit on Friday. May God watch over his soul...

But our visit to Ashdod was also uplifting, as we visited the Neve Dekalim Yeshiva and paired up one-on-one with the Yeshiva students for a half-hour of Torah study. I was paired with Yitzchak Azran, who was proud to share that he was a Chris Paul fan! The Yeshiva was originally located in Yamit, which was evacuated for peace with Egypt, then it was moved to Gush Katif, which was evacuated for peace with the Palestinians, then they moved the Yeshiva to Kfar Maimon, but consistent shelling from Hamas forced them to move again to Ashdod. Today, they study, sleep, and eat in the basement of a synagogue in Ashdod because their temporary Yeshiva caravans are also unprotected from missile attacks from Gaza - a solid 30 kilometers away! But these boys have heart and they shared with us how they hope that in the merit of their Torah study, their older comrades will be successful in their military operations to bring peace to their homes. Here is a picture of me and Yitzchak - I am holding a picture of their original Yeshiva that he gave me as a gift to bring home:
Our group was also introduced to the Mayor of Ashdod and the local Rabbis and political leaders who discussed their current security situation and how they try to keep their city functioning as normal as possible...
From Ashdod, we headed to Jerusalem for a few minutes of peace and serenity at the Western Wall... Our group is poorly pictured here:
And now, it's 3am, and we're back in the south in Ashkelon, with a full day ahead tomorrow visiting hospitals, shelters and families throughout the southern region.

One final word: Every group we've met here has had two things to say: 1) Kol Hakavod - Thank you for coming. And 2) Thank you to your communities for sharing you with us, and making a strong statement that we are all one Jewish family.
I pass on their love and thanks to you.
Good night.
Rabbi Uri
This message was sent from Rabbi Uri to It was sent from: Congregation Beth Israel, 4000 West Esplanade Ave, Metairie, LA 70002. You can modify/update your subscription via the link below.

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