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242.

11/06/2023 11:53:43 PM

Nov6

Rabbi Micah Peltz

This is a hard post to write.  That’s because our last part of our first day here focused on the hostages.  At the moment, Israel believes that there are 242 hostages being held in Gaza.  I say believes because no one is really quite sure how many hostages there are.  Every Friday the government publishes a new list where they adjust the total.  This is because of the long and difficult process of identifying remains of people who were brutally murdered by Hamas on 10/7.  It is especially difficult because each number of that 242 is a person, who has a name, a family, and a life that is now at best interrupted.  

We first spent time getting to know the story of one of these hostages.  We met with Ayelet Hashachar, the mother of 19 year old Naama Levy who was taken hostage by Hamas.  They know for sure that Naama was taken hostage because there was a video of her, dragged by the hair and with her clothes bloodied, being pushed into a jeep by Hamas terrorists.  Ayelet told us about her daughter.  Naama is the second of her four children. In high school she studied diplomacy and participated in the Hands of Peace program.  She spent a year before the army volunteering near Eilat in a kindergarten for African refugees.  Ayelet said that Naama likes to travel, dance and fight with her mom, like many teenagers. She was just posted to the army base at Nachal Oz a few weeks ago, and was there when Hamas terrorists broke in.  Ayelet said that all she wants is her daughter back.  She is asking us to share Naama’s story and ask others to as well and do whatever we can to advocate for her release, along with all of the other hostages.It was heartbreaking hearing Ayelet’s story, which she told through tears.  It is even more heartbreaking when you remember that this is just one of the 242 stories that are being told.

After this we went to a square where families of the hostages and other people who just want to help have dedicated to the cause of advocating for freeing the hostages.  This is where the first empty Shabbat table and empty chairs were placed (you can see the pictures below).  The Masorti Movement has been leading a prayer service there every day at 5pm for months, and we joined in with it today.  I was honored to be asked to lead it with my friend Rabbi Chaya Rowen Baker, who is the Dean of the Rabbinical School at the Schechter Institute, the Masorti Movement’s Rabbinical School in Israel where I first met Rabbi Chaya when we studied together there almost 20 years ago. Our friend from TBS, Rabbi Arie Hasit, the Assistant Dean, was there as well.  We sang, we prayed for Israel, soldiers and captives, and also shared words of hizuk (strength). Below is a video of my remarks, which are in Hebrew.  

Here is the translation:
I am part of a large group of rabbis and leaders from all over the world: North America, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, London and Germany, who all came here to share with you an important message:  you are not alone. We are with you. We brought with us many suitcase filled with many items to donate, but you know and I know that these suitcases are not only donations, they are love. Love that we bring to you from our congregations that represent hundreds of thousands of people. Each one of whom sends donations as a symbol of their love. We support you, we are with you, and just like it is written in the prayer we are about to recite, “we have in our hearts love for you, our brothers and sisters in Israel, and together we are one.”  
Thank you for your generous example and strength that inspired me to share this message.  
After the service, we headed to Jerusalem and checked into our hotel, where I am now.  

One final word on my first day in Israel:  As much as things feel different here, and they certainly do, and as difficult as the situation is, and it surely is, there is an incredible sense of ahdut, unity, of Israelis to rise to meet these challenges.  The sense of unity of purpose, of cause, of community, of being all part of one big family, is palpable.  And we are part of that.  Our brothers and sisters in Israel need us to be a part of this, and we also need to be a part of it.  We are, and we will continue to be at this moment, and for whatever comes next. 
Lila tov from Jerusalem.
#MasortiMissiontoIsrael #MasortiSolidarityMission

Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784