Tuesday, November 20, 2012

War Diary Entry Number 2 from Rabbi Mauricio Balter, of Kehillat Eshel Avraham in Beersheva.

Dear Friends:

I think psychologically, I put off writing this until the end of the day with the hope the news might be better. It is not.

Reproduced below you will find War Diary Entry Number 2 from Rabbi Mauricio Balter, of Kehillat Eshel Avraham in Beersheva. Rabbi Balter is also the president of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.

At our kehillot in the south, Shabbat services were held as usual, with more than one community finding it necessary to cram people into a bomb shelter. In Beersheva, we hope we are no more than two weeks away from the installation of a new, and larger, bomb shelter.

It is hard to imagine the emotions of people walking to or from services, knowing the siren might sound at any moment, and with seconds to find shelter.

Masorti kehillot and members from less affected parts of the country have been offering hospitality to those from areas under direct fire.Kibbutz Hannaton will host 100 children from the Neve Hana Youth Village.
Our NOAM youth have been distributing neck-warmers to troops gathering in the south, much as we did in 2009. Shirat Machar, our NOAM singing group, will be entertaining children relocated from the south to areas in the north. Two of our rabbis, Mijael Even David of Karmiel and Liron Levy of Holon, have been called to active duty. They cannot serve the IDF as rabbis, but they can serve as soldiers. We think Liron may be the first female rabbi called to active duty. May they, and all IDF soldiers, go in peace and return in peace.

In partnership with the Rabbinical Assembly, our Masorti Leadership Mission (December 3-6) will now be a joint solidarity mission. We pray that by the time of our arrival, things will be much improved. I have twice before had the privilege of leading joint Masorti-RA Solidarity missions. It is not fun to see your friends living with the threat of rockets, but it is important we be there to show our support.

Crisis does bring our community together. The Masorti/Conservative movement is joining with others to unite behind the vital work of the Jewish Federations of North America. Please make your gift here.

David H. Lissy
Executive Director and CEO
War Diary Entry Number 2, From Beer Sheva
Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Congregation Eshel Avraham

A few minutes ago Shabbat ended, and I'm sitting here writing the second entry into my war journal.
The first one I wrote four days ago, and it feels like ages ago.

I would like to share with you the experience of Shabbat. In our community, we decided to announce that the synagogue would be open for prayers and that I would be there. The idea was not to invite or encourage people to get out of the house when we are in war. I would remind you that it is the moments of moving from place to place that are the most dangerous. Because when the sirens go off, you have to quickly find cover, which isn't always easy. In these circumstances, leaving the house is everyone's independent decision.

Yesterday, at 5 PM I opened the synagogue (prayers start at 5:30). At 5:15 there was a siren. Many people who had been on their way to shul turned and went back home. In the end, we were nine people who prayed together and went home.

The night passed with tense quiet and no sirens. That is, until 7AM this morning when I got a glimpse of how the rest of the day would look.

We started prayers with three people and I thought, again we won't get a minyan. In the end, more people came and we ended up with a group of 15. During the time of Torah study, at 10AM, there was another siren. We moved quickly and quietly to the shelter (please G-d we'll be getting our new shelters in ten days). I asked the people there to tell stories of how they have been dealing with the sirens of the previous days. One of the women told of an argument she had with her mother about the possibility of going to Tel Aviv for the day on Thursay. She said, "In Tel Aviv, we can have some peace and quiet." But on that day, at 6:30PM, when they were in the middle of an art workshop, there was a siren in Tel Aviv, too.

Others told stories as well. In the end, I told my story of what happened on Thursday, when I returned from visiting my mother who is in a rehabilitation hospital. A siren sounded right when I stood at an intersection between two main roads in Beer Sheva. Following instructions, I immediately began looking for cover. I looked at the four corners of the intersection: On on corner there are two petrol stations (not a recommended place to find cover), on the second corner they are building a mall, on the third is a playground and sports equipment, and on the fourth, very far away with a high fence, was a building. What to do??? Where to run to????

The sound of the siren is piercing, and I realize that I must find cover. But there is none to be found! Suddenly I see a huge truck stop at the intersection. The driver gets out, stands between the wheels, and calls me to stand next to him to take cover. He says to me, "It's better here than outside!" I look at him and thank him. After a few seconds, I say, "What's your name?" He smiles and says, "Pinni". I say, "My name is Mauricio". I figure, in case something happens, I should know who my new friend is.

This is how we live. We are friends in our shared destiny and try to protect one another. We are not a perfect nation and there is a lot to fix. but we are definitely a nation with solidarity, and the mutual help is felt every day anew. It finds expression in many little things that we are experiencing these days.

Pinni, the truck driver who invited me to take cover next to him, is our neighbor. Yesterday, when he saw that my daughter Maya is in advanced stages of pregnancy, he went and brought her challah for Shabbat. Hundreds (I am not exaggerating) of telephone calls and emails from people around the country calling and offering to host people for a few days, people who they don't know, to find some rest from the tensions, they are all a source of tremendous pride for me, to be part of this nation and this country.

Today there is another source of worry: Reservists received their "tzav 8" orders. It's a very small country and the army is the nation itself. Neighbors, friends, acquaintances. On their behalf: Go safely and return home safely!

May the One who makes peace in the heavens bring peace to us and to all of Israel and the entire world, and say Amen.

Rabbi Mauricio Balter
Congregation Eshel Avraham
Beer Sheva, Israel

Mauricio Balter Pic

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