My Israel Journal: Day 1

January 16, 2024
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.  

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 
Key takeaways:  

  1. President Biden and the U.S. Government have been amazing, and Biden will go down in Israeli history as a great American leader for the state of Israel. 
  1. Israel’s vision needs to remain focused on a two-state solution. 
  1. Hamas is teaching children at earliest of ages to hate Jews and to want to kill them. 
  1. 70% of Palestinians stand with the terror that happened on Oct. 7 and support the massacre.  
  1. We need to destroy Hamas as terrorist organization and cannot allow them to remain in charge of the Gaza Strip  
  1. Israel is profoundly worried about the younger generation who struggles with Israel’s right to defend itself.  
  1. We must strive to get young people (ages 18-24) to Israel. 

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 

  1. ZachorRemember. We must advocate to bring the hostages home to their families and friends.  
  1. Israel’s civilians have mobilized in such an incredible and organized fashion (no matter political differences) to be unified in their support of each other. There is great concern about the worldwide reaction and the need to do what we can to better educate, especially young people ages 18-24, on Israeli history and what brought us to this devastating time
  1. We can’t ever forget that the United States is essential and critical to Israel’s safety to ensure that the war doesn’t spread into the north. 
  2. Hamas won’t disappear. It’s an ideological and evil movement and we must destroy their infrastructure.  Israel and the US can’t eliminate them and the objective needs to be to reduce their abilities to fulfill their horrifying vision.

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