The highlight of this visit was seeing the children of the "Potatoes Shelter". At the Regional Council there is a bomb shelter that is under a potato factory. There the children are active with activities led by soldiers and youth workers. We delivered stickers (donated by Sandylion) and I spoke to the kids telling them how proud we are of them and glad that they have a safe place to be during these difficult times. We hope that the crisis will end soon so they can once again go to school like other children in the country.
Next we went to the High School that was hit by the grad rocket about 10 days ago. Like most places in Israel that are damaged by war or terror, the hole in the ceiling of the classroom was already repaired and that wing of the school can reopen next week if classes resume. After seeing the classroom we had a fantastic discussion with 3 students. These are bright kids that truly understand how important this conflict is for the future of the country.
Prior to Beersheva being bombed, they treated the situation like other Israelis who lived outside of rocket range. "It is happending over there". Now they have a totally different attitude after becoming a target. While they understand the attitude of Israelis in Tel Aviv because they had the same attitude before, they now know that this must stop and are in disbelief that the residents of Sderot have put up with it for 8 years.
The students expressed a wish that Jews around the world would support them. What a failure of the Israeli media. Rallies all over Canada and the world have been largely ignored by the Israeli media. After speaking to us they now know that Jews in the diaspora do care and that we are one big family. It was an enlightening conversation, one which I won't forget for quite some time.
We then went to the Trauma Centre and learned of services provided there. As we left and got into our van, the sirens went off. We had to run into the building's shelter until the all clear was given. Everyone was calm and clearly the system works since so few civilians have been killed by the rockets. We learned later that the rocket landed in an open field - Thank G-d!
After lunch we had an incredible visit to Soroka hospital. We learned about the incredible medical services provided to injured soldiers and civilians. It really is an amazing hospital. What made the visit unbelievable was meeting Zvika Bar Chai. Zvika is the father of Dvir, a soldier that was injured in Gaza at the beginning of the ground operation. Zvika is such as special person, father and Jew that words are hard to describe.
Dvir is severely injured and is in an induced coma to give him a chance to recover. Zvika spoke to us about how important it is for them to pray for Dvir, for him to serve his country and for all the support they have received. It is so hard to describe how special this man is. They are a religious zionist family that TRULY reflect the Zionism of old. His positive attitude during this difficult time is so hard to fathom. Where does he get this strength? He says he gets it from Hashem, from his family and from people like us that visit and show our support.
He believes that Dvir is strong and that he will recover. We told him that we would pray every day for just that. If you are saying Tehilim or are at synagogue and can recite a Mi'sheberach for him please do so. His name is Dvir ben Tzvikah v'Sarah. I could not hold back my tears while hearing Zvika say that he gets strength from us but the truth is we got more strength from him. He knows in his heart that Dvir will recover and it will be because of their faith in Hashem. He is a true believer: In G-d, the State of Israel and the Jewish people.
What is also amazing is the Dvir's sister gave birth to a baby boy last week. They decided to have the bris at Dvir's bedside in the ICU at Soroka. What a way to mix simcha with worry. Incredibly, Dvir's sister, in recognition of Dvir and the Bar Chai's commitment to Israel and the Jewish people, named the baby Amichai. The name is actually a short version of Am Yisrael Chai. What a testimony to Dvir's courage and the family's belief in our people.
Lastly we met with the Mayor of Beersheva, Rubik Danilovich. Rubik is a young mayor, only 38 years old. He is a very impressive young man. His confidence and belief in his staff, his city and his country is infectious. He also thanked us for coming but he did so with a true sense of partnership and unity. He was part of our satellite broadcast last week and seeing the thousands at the Toronto rally has definitely affected him. He believes that our presence does make a difference. To help you don't only have to give money, but expressions of support either by physically visiting Israel or by attending rallies, writing letters etc. are also important.
Well, this is my last posting as we will be leaving for the airport in a couple of hours. What an unbelievable experience this has been. I hope this blog has helped you participate along with us.
Am Yisrael Chai.