Rob's Shpiel

“I want to thank everyone who came from near and far to celebrate my special day with me.”
We have all said this line. In fact, I believe that it is one of the required lines handed down from Sinai by Moshe for every bar mitzvah speech. I cannot remember whether I said the line with any sincerity and will have to assume that I said it with all the sincerity that a 13-year-old has when thanking a roomful of distant relatives.
This week, we are in Israel on Federation’s solidarity mission. While recruiting for our trip, I was approached by a potential participant who asked, “Would our friends in Eshkol prefer that I go on this trip or that I send the equivalent amount of money to help them with rebuilding. I reached out to one of the survivors of the October 7 massacre who had been evacuated to the Dead Sea/Ein Gedi area and asked him the question. Without hesitation, he answered, “While we really appreciate the money, right now, we really need your hugs.”
This week, we traveled to Eshkol and the Dead Sea/Ein Gedi area to meet with friends, give hugs, hear stories, see the destruction, and bear witness. We also learned about sincere gratitude. Without exception, not a single person could emotionally hold it together while thanking us for coming. As their eyes swelled and our eyes swelled with theirs, they conveyed their appreciation for seeing that they are not and will never be alone.
We came to Israel to show our solidarity and give support. We will be returning with a better understanding, renewed purpose, and forever strengthened and changed.