Temple Chai’s solidarity missionPosted: September 2, 2014
Guest blogger Debbie Blyn, president of Temple Chai in Phoenix, shares her experiences of Temple Chai’s solidarity mission to Israel. She and seven others are on the mission, which was coordinated through Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel. They arrived in Tel Aviv on Sept. 1 and the mission continues through Sept. 4.
Today was a day of learning. After a delicious Israeli breakfast (the best kind!), our group started the morning with a discussion of why each of us decided to make this trip to Israel. For most of us, it was a feeling of needing to be here when Israel is at its most vulnerable, when world opinion is not supportive and when the citizens of Israel have had such a difficult and stressful few months. For me, it is a need to speak with my actions, and not just my words of support.
It was an overwhelming day of learning and discovery. We met with a scholar of Islam and Islamic movements, a Palestinian from Gaza who now lives in Israel and is working to create dialogue among the youth, and a prominent journalist. We visited a new 24-hour news station dedicated to providing Israeli-based news to the world. Tonight’s dinner was spent with two IDF soldiers who were recently called up for service, one of whom spent time in Gaza.
The most emotional sessions were with the Palestinian and the soldiers. Our Palestinian speaker has risked his life and safety, and that of his family, to work to create relationships among individual Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. He firmly believes that through personal relationships a lasting dialogue can be created.
The soldiers described their individual service and shared what it was like for them during the recent war. Both are now in the reserves. One is a student whose IDF service is focused on humanitarian efforts for the Palestinians. He talked about the need, and sometimes difficulty, of getting medical care for children, and getting needed supplies to vulnerable Gaza civilians. The second soldier is a combat engineer who has been called up several times over the past decade. This time, he was activated just one month after becoming a father. He was in Gaza supporting troops who were looking for, and destroying, the tunnels. Both soldiers expressed hope that one day they could free Gaza from the grip of Hamas, and create a better life for all.
Tomorrow we head down south where we will visit with the Israelis who suffered the most during this recent war.