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Beauty Amid Devastation

January 16, 2024

by: Kate Norman, BFP Staff Writer

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War is ugly. It destroys lives. It steals away innocence. It highlights the evil of which humanity is capable.

October 7, 2023 should have been a day filled with laughter and joy on Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah). But some 2,000 Hamas terrorists shattered the festive morning by storming Israeli communities and homes, carrying out unimaginably violent acts against men, women, children, babies and the elderly.

The images emerging from that day are unbelievable. No one could imagine such brutality. Bodies with hands tied together, burnt beyond recognition. Bloodstains on children’s beds. Bullet holes in kitchen walls. Beautiful young people lying lifeless in pools of blood. Innocent lives cut tragically short.

War is ugly indeed. Yet hardship has a way of bringing out the beauty in people. Trauma and tragedy bridge gaps that had once been insurmountable.

On October 6, Israel had been a country divided. After October 7, the people of Israel were a nation united, joining hand in hand to heal, cope, mourn together and move forward.

A Quick, United Response

Fnorbot/pixabay.comollowing the Hamas attack, Israel needed all hands on deck. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) called up thousands of reservists across the nation. But Jewish and Israeli people scattered around the world also answered the call, returning to defend their homeland. Reservists flooded into Tel Aviv carrying bags stuffed with tactical gear, clothing and other equipment donated with love by international friends of Israel.

Photos went viral of an El Al flight from Bangkok that was so full of young men and women heading to Israel for reservist duty that many of them ended up sleeping in the aisles or in any other available space. A man on the flight described the scene on X, formerly Twitter, adding that the flight crew also packed people into the crew’s chairs and in the kitchen, not wanting to leave anyone behind.

Editor in chief of the Jerusalem Post Avi Mayer shared an account on X from an El Al crew member who witnessed quiet generosity at the airport in New York City. An Orthodox Jewish man who wanted to remain anonymous stood near the counter and purchased tickets for anyone with a call-up notice from the IDF. He ended up buying 250 tickets.

A Wave of Volunteers

The helping hands extended from beyond the military. Nearly half the population of Israel mobilized as volunteers in the aftermath of October 7, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society and Philanthropy in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported.

Vered Barequet/shutterstock.com

People sprang into action in any way they could, passing out meals and sweets to soldiers on their way to the front, hosting bereaved and shell-shocked families from the Gaza periphery or makingShabbat meals for survivors or lone soldiers. The people of Israel gave their time, money, resources and everything else they had to offer.

It wasn’t just Jewish Israelis who opened their hearts, hands and wallets. Some 29% of Arab Israelis joined in the efforts, according to the Hebrew University report. Also, some 28% of the volunteers at the beginning of the war had never volunteered before.

Examples of philanthropy abound. Less than a week after the attack, some 2,000 people were packed into a parking garage in Tel Aviv to organize, pack and deliver boxes of goods for soldiers and survivors, including food, toiletries, clothes, toys and more, Israel21c reported.

“It’s basically a group of friends who started off wanting to do anything that they possibly could to help the current situation,” Tamar Ohnona, an immigrant from Canada who works in high-tech, told Israel21c.

From there, it snowballed, and as more people showed up to help, they needed to keep finding bigger workspaces until the gathering of volunteers grew so large that they had to start turning people away.Roman Yanushevsk/shutterstock.com

An American Israeli family also issued a call for volunteers to help in Israeli hospitals. A wife of one of the family members sent a WhatsApp message to a group of her friends, Israel21c reported. Within the first 48 hours, more than 5,300 medical and non-medical professionals from countries around the world offered their services. By mid-November, more than 8,500 people from Israel and 50 additional countries had volunteered to help.

Israeli mothers came to the rescue when an Israeli woman who was kidnapped left behind a three-month-old baby who needed breast milk. A Facebook post and WhatsApp message pleading for help reached a gynecologist, Dr. Yasmin Farhadian, who had given birth a few months prior. Farhadian donated an entire supply that she had saved to use when her maternity leave was over.

Farhadian wrote in a Facebook post, as quoted by Israel21c: “There are many exciting civil initiatives at the moment, this one touches my heart in a special way: hundreds of women from all over the country are opening their souls and freezers, offering breast milk to babies whose mothers cannot breastfeed them…Those who breastfeed or pump know from what deep place such an offer comes from.”

Christians Standing in the Gap

Christians also stepped up and stood alongside their Jewish brethren. Christians around the world donated their money to Israeli organizations and the IDF. They donned their Star of David necklaces and IDF sweatshirts in solidarity. Churches around the world prayed for Israel each Sunday and held special prayer vigils. They organized peaceful protests and marches, proudly waving Israeli flags.

Michio Nagata/bridgesforpeace.com

Bridges for Peace played a leading role in the October 7 aftermath. Hours after the massacre, we delivered over 1,000 bags of food and clothing to Sderot and Ofakim, communities on the Gaza border that had been hard hit. We sponsored 200 displaced families and supplied school kits for children from displaced families to continue their education. We visited families in mourning, listened to their stories and cried with them. We arranged for 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs.) of supplies to be airlifted from the United Kingdom to Israel, purchased six bomb shelters for two Jewish communities in the line of fire and purchased an ambulance for the Israeli emergency services. As the calls for help continue pouring in, we keep answering.

There are countless more stories of beauty amid the ugly war. both within and outside Israel. These dark times allow the light in people to shine brighter, and they highlight the beauty and resilience of the Jewish and Israeli people—and the love of those who stand with them.

Photo Credit: Click on photo for photo credit

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