A delegation of 20 rabbis from across North America toured areas of Southern Israel today as part of an emergency solidarity mission of the Rabbinical Council of America. The three-day mission, quickly organized in recent days as the violence escalated, is designed to provide affected communities and residents of Southern Israel with the assurance that their plight is not being ignored by Diaspora Jewry. Organizers say that the objective is to provide strength to those most directly impacted by the violence, as well as to IDF forces currently involved in the campaign or who are actively preparing for the possibility of a ground invasion into Gaza.
The first day of the mission, Tuesday, was spent in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, which suffered three fatalities in the first day of fighting. The rabbis made a shiva condolence call to the mourning families and visited the apartment where the attack took place. There they encountered a scene that remained in disarray and were able to appreciate the extent of the tragedy.
Rabbi Doniel Kramer from Brooklyn, New York said, “Visiting this shiva house was a truly moving experience and allowed us to assure those who lost family members that their deaths were being felt by all of Klal Yisrael.”
From there, the delegation met with Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement who shared his feelings upon being asked to bless students who are called to reserve duty during times of escalating violence. “These are types of dilemmas that we as American communal rabbis typically do not face and provide us with an even greater appreciation for what the communities here are confronting at this difficult time,” Rabbi Leonard Matanky, Vice President of the RCA said.
The delegates represented communities in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Edmonton.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, President of the RCA and rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey said, “Everyone we meet expresses their thanks that we have chosen to pick up and come but we know that it’s the people of Israel who are making the real sacrifice for their country and the Jewish people. It’s to them that we are grateful.”