United with Israel held a solidarity trip to southern Israel, to install bomb shelters for kindergarten children and plant fruit trees donated by supporters from around the world.
On Sunday, April 28, 2013, the Jewish holiday of Lag B’omer, United with Israel held a special event in southern Israel to demonstrate solidarity with Israeli communities that have been pounded with rocket fire over the last 13 years. Nearly 100 people, including lots of kids, joined us on a hot summer-like day in the south. The day started out by visiting the grave of the Baba Sali, otherwise known as Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira, a great Moroccan rabbi and kabbalist who was known to have the ability to perform miracles. On Lag B’omer, although hundreds of thousands of Jews flock to the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron (located in the Galilee), others visit the grave of the holy Baba Sali in southern Israel. The atmosphere was very festive, full of music and joy, despite the fact that three rockets were fired towards Netivot just the evening before.
Our next stop in Netivot was the Be’er Miriam pre-school to install two bomb shelters for kindergarten classes. There, Yuli Heimovitz, Netivot’s chief engineer who is responsible for the safety and welfare of the city, addressed the United with Israel group. He asserted that presently in Netivot, most of the bomb shelters are old-fashioned and that they only exist in the “new” housing in the city. He explained that bomb shelters are completely lacking within the old section of Netivot. As a result, “it is not possible to send the children to school whenever there is an escalation in rocket fire,” Heimovitz explained. And that is why UWI installing bomb shelters that are easily accessible to both students and teachers is so critical.
Shmuel Bowman, the executive director of Operation Lifeshield attended the event and addressed the crowd. Founded in 2006 in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, Operation Lifeshield’s goal is to assist Israelis who live under fire to be able to carry on their lives as normally as possible. Bowman believes that utilizing above ground shelters could help achieve this goal for it allows Israeli families “to live as normally as possible”, with peace of mind. Above-ground shelters are able to do this in a way that underground shelters cannot for they are more easily accessible when you only have 15 seconds to run for cover and they are easily and quickly installed and can be moved if necessary. Much thanks goes to Operation Lifeshield for facilitating the delivery and installation, which were the 7th and 8th bomb shelters that United with Israel has installed in the last year.
Rabbi Ofer Maimon, a father of children who attend the Be’er Miriam Kindergarten told how a grad rocket once fell just a short distance from the Be’er Miriam Kindergarten. He explained that his children attend school as long as there isn’t a “war”, even though rockets can and do still fall. Of-course, his family worries very much each and every day about the fate of their young children. Rabbi Maimon was very thankful to United with Israel for providing bomb shelters that provide not only safety, but much needed peace of mind.
The head of the kindergarten, explained how after rocket attacks, many children suffer from shock and sometimes require hospitalization. The rockets that were fired on Lag B’omer eve, the night before this event, ruined the festive holiday for some of the children in the city.
The highlight was the actual “dropping” of the shelters into the kindergarten play areas from cranes above. As unfortunate as the situation is for the families of Netivot, the relief they felt after the shelters were positioned just a few feet from the classroom doors was palpable. Admittedly, it was very “cool” to see the shelters falling from the sky as a long overdue and much needed protective measure. It goes without saying, but nevertheless should be said, that G-d is our real Protector and our fate is clearly in His hands only. At the same time, we believe that it is our obligation to do what we can to protect ourselves in a “natural” way, not relying upon miracles. That is the Jewish way.
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Upon successfully installing the two bomb shelters, the trip moved on to a small village known as Tifrach, about 15 minutes away in the direction of Beer Sheva. In response to the 1500 rockets that exploded in Israel during the 6 day mini-war with Hamas this past November, United with Israel initiated a successful campaign to plant 1500 fruit trees in southern Israel. We are happy to report that this goal was reached and surpassed. Tifrach was the recipient of some of those trees, as the families on the trip planted over 100 olive trees in a new section of Tifrach’s large olive orchard.
Following a presentation about the importance of planting in the Land of Israel, and all of the unique agricultural Torah laws that apply specifically in the Land of Israel, we learned about this special town and its dedicated citizens. Shmuel Rappaport, the great-grandson of the revered Torah giant Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, has been instrumental in the development of this community. The residents of Tifrach combine studying the Torah with working the land. They have planted large olive tree orchards and produce their own top-grade olive oil. Soon Tifrach will be opening up a yeshiva high school that in addition to religious studies will educate youngsters about agriculture.
And then it was time to plant. Although it was quite hot in the afternoon, both young, old, and all ages in between, took their shovels and young trees and got to work. It was truly a labor of love, knowing that the Land was becoming fruitful and green, due to the generosity of Israel-lovers around the world who dedicated trees in honor or in memory of their loved ones.
While the majority of our group were American Jews who immigrated to Israel, there were several non-Jewish participants as well. One of them, Jane Marriot, who has been in Israel for over 8 months, felt that it was very important to plant trees since it helps to beautify the land despite all of the ugliness that occurs, a clear reference to the Hamas rockets. Nora Wisdom, a tourist from Dublin, felt that it was a wonderful idea to plant trees to “help Israel become as green as her native Ireland.” Catherine McBride, an Irish Catholic Irish nun who lives in Jerusalem, came to plant trees to honor a friend who passed away.
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It was a wonderful day that brought loads of smiles to the residents of both Netivot and Tifrach, as well as to the participants. The real thanks goes to United with Israel’s global community of supporters. It is due to their friendship, concern and unwavering financial support that made this very special day possible. The residents of both communities, Netivot and Tifrach, along with the staff of United with Israel, thank the wonderful people all around the world who proudly stand united with the People, Country and Land of Israel.
WE INVITE YOU TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF THIS VERY SPECIAL DAY!