By Barak Hermann, CEO, JCC of Greater Baltimore
Barak is travelling with 30+ leaders representing JCCs and Jewish communities throughout North America on a four-day Solidarity Mission led by the JCC Association of North America and Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.
Day 1: January 15, 2024
Yesterday was a meaningful and at times a very heartbreaking day full of heavy emotions. Travelling in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem we could sense the complexity, devastation, sadness, and challenges faced by Israelis. Pictures of the hostages are everywhere as reminders of the innocent people kidnapped from their kibbutzim and the NOVA music festival.
Meeting with Naftali Bennett, Former Prime Minister
Bring them Home Now! Headquarters
This grassroots organization, which was mobilized within 24 hours of Oct 7, 2024, offers assistance (mental health, legal, and financial) to the hostages’ families and friends and is all volunteer based. They are also supporting families of murdered hostages and the hostages that have been freed. We learned about their worldwide social media strategies to ensure the release of the hostages (of all ages). They are focusing on presenting each hostage’s individual story.
We met with a father of a 40-year-old male hostage. Hearing the story of how his son and he were calling and texting with each other on Oct 7 and the level of fear and anxiety that ensued was devastating. His son has been a hostage for over 100 days. The father asked us to please keep the stories alive of the hostages and to bring strength.
Meeting with President Herzog
We met with President Herzog at his private residence Jerusalem. It was inspiring to hear first-hand from him the extremely challenging efforts to end the war and build stability in the Middle East region. The rise of antisemitism worldwide is a great concern.
President Herzog was very interested in learning from us about what’s happening in Jewish communities today in North America. We discussed the importance of the shlichim and shinshinim programs which brings young adults from Israel to our Jewish communities. They seek to educate and share their love of Israeli culture and develop authentic relationships with Americans.
The President also stressed the importance and need to bring young people ages 18-24 to Israel so they’re better educated and could start form a deeper upstanding of Israel.
Meeting Musicians and Survivors, Linor and Daniel
The evening featured an opportunity to hear two young musicians, Linor and Daniel who lived in the kibbutzim that were attacked. They shared their beautiful music and the horrifying stories they experienced on Oct 7.. Daniel’s father was killed. Hs mom was taken hostage and later found dead in front of a hospital in the Gaza Strip. To hear Daniel and Linor sing so powerfully and share original songs written in the last few months, was the embodiment of the Israeli spirit.
We will host Linor, Daniel, and two additional musicians on Thursday, February 1st at a concert in the Gordon Center. All proceeds will support Israel. Learn More >
Bring Them Home Now Square
The day ended with a beautiful 90 min walk with a few colleagues. We stopped at the Bring Them Home Now square which features extremely powerful art projects that have been created to share the pain experienced since Oct.7. It is a place to come together and stand in solidarity and to pray and advocate for the release of hostages. The newest exhibit is a tunnel that demonstrates what’s happening in Gaza and the terror created by Hamas.
My Takeaways for Day 1