Israelis pull together as the country faces its greatest crisis in half a century

Left, right, religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox, young and old, Israeli and Diaspora – heartwarming stories that are giving all Israelis strength during the war.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

There are many in Israel who cannot stand anymore to hear the news, the sad, the horrifying, the desperate stories that have not stopped since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on October 7 and the IDF launched  Operation Iron Swords War.

They have instead turned to Whatsapp groups and other channels of social media that have been formed to show only how much good is being done in Israel, and for Israel, with the goal of raising the spirits of both the soldiers and those whom they left behind at home.

These are just a few of the stories that are making the rounds, of the Left and the Right, religious, secular and ultra-Orthodox, young and old, Israeli and Diaspora Jews who have jumped to help in this time of need, creating ten thousand points of light in a dark time.

GENEROSITY TO REFUGEES FROM THE SOUTH

Two hundred soldiers and 70 families from the south came on Friday morning to Beit Shemesh, to be put up in several areas around town. Within hours, families from all neighborhoods had filled in the Google sheets to cook all the necessary food and donate all the linens, pillows, blankets, and towels that were needed. This story was repeated in cities throughout the country.

On an even more generous scale, several contractors have donated dozens of newly built apartments for some of those made homeless by Hamas, such as the Ampa Yuval real estate company, which allocated 50 in Tzur Yitzhak in the middle of the country. Local chains contributed basic furniture and appliances – and dozens of locals made sure to clean them all, bring in the smaller necessary items, fill the pantries, provide games and toys, and applaud the families as they walked in.

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SOLIDARITY FROM ABROAD

Pictures are being spread of the thousands of duffel bags of supplies being packed by American Jews that include everything from bulletproof vests to flashlights to hygienic products for the IDF. There was an unimaginable sight in some heavily Jewish neighborhoods in the U.S., said one person: The pharmaceutical sections in Costco stores, which have huge numbers of items in warehouse-like buildings, were completely empty. Jews had heard there was a need, and rushed to buy whatever they could find.

WHAT RELIGIOUS-SECULAR DIVIDE?

Videos abound of hareidi men and boys sitting in synagogues and learning halls creating thousands of tzitzit in army green for the soldiers. These are ritual undergarments that need strings tied in a special way to each of four corners in a laborious process. Other spiritual endeavors to help the military include Sanzer Hassidim learning Torah 24/7 in four-hour shifts to protect all of Israel from danger, and Soldier2Soldier, a group that matches a full-time Torah learner (and his family) with any soldier who wants someone dedicating their religious studies and prayers entirely to his safety.

HELPING THE SOLDIERS

Religious and irreligious people can be seen stand shoulder to shoulder singing and bringing cheer and goodies to injured civilians and soldiers in hospitals. Tens of thousands of children’s pictures wishing victory and safety to soldiers have been drawn and distributed to the troops, who in one post can be seen standing on a tank festooned with dozens of the cards. There are clips of weddings arranged on the spot in army bases so that those who thought the most wonderful day in their lives was ruined, instead have the most intensely special event as caterers bring in food and national icons come to sing to make them happy, while almost everyone but the bride is dressed in uniform.

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Innumerable restaurants are sending hundreds of portions of fresh food to soldiers all over the country every day, even if they are closed to the public due to the security situation. When several eateries in Tel Aviv heard that the religious soldiers had to go without because the meals weren’t kosher, these secular owners made the spontaneous decision to make their kitchens kosher in an intensive cleaning process so that everyone could partake in the future.

The amounts of junk food being showered on the soldiers is already legendary, with jokes going around like one coming home for the Sabbath and asking his mother, “Is there anything I can bring you from the army?” And a picture of a hugely overweight man carrying a dozen backpacks and saying, “Now I’m ready to go into Gaza!”

Practical help for the troops comes as well, and from the most unexpected places. A tank officer from the 77th Brigade told the story of his tank sitting broken down on the side of a northern road for 12 hours, and the lack of response from his chain of command for help. A civilian passing by asked if he can be of assistance, and the officer tells him, with half a smile, that he needs a lift to get to the Gaza Strip.

“Like many before him, he promised to try to help, but he looked like the last person who could do so… Two hours later, a tank transporter shows up, and we got to Gaza,” the officer said. And who was this fellow? In February, a group of reservists protesting against the government’s proposed legal overhaul stole a decommissioned tank from a memorial in the Golan Heights. “This guy, he was the one who helped us with his ‘enormous’ experience in getting tanks from one place to the next in sneaky ways, to bring our tank to Gaza!” he ended his story, adding, “Thanks. We love you a lot!”

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THE INCREDIBLE YOUTH

With almost all schools closed, the youth of the country have been in the forefront in thousands of places, doing good, and testimonials praising them have flooded the internet. They collect and distribute goods to soldiers and those who fled the south, run fun activities for young children so their parents can have a break, bake goodies for the families of soldiers to remind them they are loved and not alone, among so much more.

One particular story of selflessness took place in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Most of the cleaning staff had not come in for a day or two, and the situation was getting urgent, an employee posted. At 6:00 a.m., 150 teens from the Bnei Akiva youth movement showed up and cleaned without let up for hours.

“I’ve worked in hospitals for many years and have never smelled such a good odor everywhere, like in a hotel,” the person wrote. “It was really so touching, because cleaning is not something that people usually run to volunteer for, and here, overnight 150 youth came.”