UJA Mission to Israel: “Life has Changed”

Since October 7th, our Jewish family has been devastated by tragedy. Israelis suffered unspeakable evil, as so many died or have had their lives permanently altered. In the months since, Israelis have sought to recover from this unimaginable trauma—and our Toronto Jewish community will be working with them, every step of the way. To that end, UJA organized a recent mission to Israel, so that Torontonians could witness first-hand the impact of Hamas’s brutal attack and offer our unwavering support for our Israeli family. 

At the end of February, 23 community members boarded planes and set off on a three-day journey through Israel. The days were packed with activity, allowing participants to see the realities facing Israelis and the country’s incredible resilience. Here are some of the most important highlights from our trip.

The group met with the families of hostages, learning how they are continuing to fight for their loved ones and work for their return. It was overwhelming to hear family members’ stories, and powerful to share the love and solidarity of our Toronto Jewish community directly with them.

To learn more about the impact of UJA’s emergency grants to our partners after October 7th, we met with the team at ZAKA and United Hatzalah. Both are volunteer-based organizations, who received dollars through UJA’s Emergency Campaign. They shared details of the horrors they saw, and how they worked to respond to this unprecedented tragedy following Hamas’ attacks. 

An important part of the mission was visiting the site of the Nova music festival near Kibbut Re-im, where hundreds of young people were murdered or injured in the horrific Hamas attack. The site stands as a memorial to the massacre. Here we met with an extraordinary hero, Rami Davidian. On October 7th, Rami drove to the rescue of festival attendees, saving dozens of people through his actions. Listening to Rami’s story was a powerful reminder that amid all the pain and suffering of October 7th, many heroes emerged who took action to help others.

In addition to hearing from Israelis themselves, we volunteered with a number of organizations making a difference for those impacted by the attacks. Mission participants packed boxes of food and supplies for displaced families through UJA’s partner, Pitchon-Lev. This important charity has been fighting poverty and hunger for decades in Israel, and their work has never been more crucial. The group also volunteered at a citrus farm harvesting oranges. The agriculture industry in Israel has been greatly impacted since October 7th, as many workers were killed or have left the area, leaving crops to rot and go to waste. This small act of service is one that will help Israeli farmers survive this crisis.

The trip lasted only a few days, but it was full and moving. The group visited so many sites and spoke to so many incredible people, and truly gained unparalleled insight into the tragedy and recovery since October 7th. The experience will remain with participants for a lifetime.    As one participant said, “I feel like my life has changed from this trip and will try to do more as a Jew. Thank you for leading us, it certainly was the most meaningful trip I have taken to date.”

Thank you to everyone who joined this important mission. It won’t be our last. Our Israeli family still needs us and UJA is planning more trips for the fall. If you’d like to join us, please email Keren Levy at klevy@ujafed.org so you’ll be the first to know when dates have been chosen

Click here for more photos from the mission.