April 10, 2023
If the last few months were anything to go by, and Israel were to be compared to a human body, one might have thought that its vital organs coalesced at the geographical centre of the country.
The reality, as we have seen and felt in the past few days, is that Israel’s periphery communities, are no less essential to our being, to our notion of survival and community, than anyone else. In fact, it is at the margins of this small piece of land called Israel, that courage in the face of adversity, deep resilience, and compassion to all can be found. And it is at the social and geographical peripheries of Israel that the great and ongoing work of the Jewish Federations of Canada have consistently and quietly played an immeasurable role. And if we pay attention and listen, we hear the voices of the Israelis that live in these regions under attack and existential threat.
Below, in our message today Eddy Azran, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Sderot Representative, and Meytal Novidomsky, Director of the Canadian Coast to Coast Partnership, share their respective insights from Sderot and Metulla – two communities targeted in recent attacks - in personal notes from the field, much of which news coverage doesn’t reveal.
We thank them for sharing their thoughts with us and for their ongoing commitment, together with the Jewish communities across Canada to their partner communities, and to Israel more broadly.
We send our prayers to all of Israel, particularly to the Dee family who has been left shattered from an awful terrorist attack last Friday and who are in our hearts.
With hope for better times,
Notes from the Field:
Eddy Azran – UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, Sderot Representative
Today is Sunday 9/4, Passover, yesterday Saturday I was finally able to rest after three tough nights with very little sleep. In the morning, my sister who lives in Sderot with her two daughters shared with me the following:
Three crazy days, and my little one (6 1/2) keeps jumping at every little noise, "what is it?" she keeps yelping. Three days she counts the number of times the red alert siren has gone off and the times we were in the safe room. She says to her savta - grandmother - on the phone:" Savta, there was a red alert siren and then boom... and today she didn't forget to say: "There was not even one". For three days she and her 9-year-old sister do not go to the bathroom alone, did not eat in the kitchen, did not leave the safe room because there they felt safe even when it was quiet.
As for me, I hug my children, nieces, and nephews tightly and tell them that it will be okay and that this too shall pass. The truth is, that even though I try to appear strong, inside I’m pained by the fact that Sderot and its surrounding areas have suffered so intensely and so immensely for so long.
And then there is the news one doesn’t hear about: Every time you hear the phrase 'no damage and no casualties', think of Hanita Kochnik (55) from Sderot, from my class in school. Yesterday she fell down the stairs when she tried to get from her bedroom to the safe room during a red siren alert. Her face and neck are blue from hemorrhages, and she says: "I rolled down all the stairs. I thought it was the end of me. I haven't been able to move since then." The result: a broken shoulder, bruises on the body, lips, and head. And that's even before we talked about the mental scars…
In the last week alone, the Resilience Centre in Sderot supported by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, has received hundreds of first-time inquiries and, if it wasn't for Passover, we would have seen double the numbers. We anticipate a large wave of patients with the end of the holiday and the return to school.
The more talk of calm increases, the more the fear grows. Last night, a performance by Hanan Ben Ari which we were all waiting for, with an expected audience of over 5000 people, was cancelled rather abnormally by the commander of the Southern Command. This may have sounded logical on the surface, for us residents, it felt like another destabilizing event to an already fragile community.
We professionals and volunteers of Sderot are working on outreach and support for our residents, to keep them strong and help reduce stress and instability. We are sensitive to the fact that the most honed senses are those of the Sderot residents themselves, not the news commentators or journalists, that can feel what is coming and whose protective instincts are roused and ready for the oncoming inevitability, whenever it transpires. It is exhausting and impossible to keep the stress sustained. Our job is to help assuage and ensure safety prevails against, what seems like, all odds. It is immensely difficult work and mostly, tiring.
Notes from the Field:
Meytal Novidomsky, Director, Canadian Federations Coast to Coast/Etzbah Hagalil Partnership in Metulla
The last few days have been extraordinarily tense and stressful.
On Thursday, we were all monitoring the news after the first rocket attacks took place in the Western Galilee. 34 rockets were fired upon Israel, the largest number since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. We hoped that it wouldn’t affect the border in the Upper Galilee, but unfortunately, a few hours later, 3 mortars were fired from Lebanon onto Metulla, my town, my home. There was no warning or any siren to alert us since it was a short-range rocket. Terrifying.
Living so close to Israel’s border forces you to be prepared for any scenario, and the residents know exactly what they need to do in case of emergency. However, despite our knowledge and “expertise”, one never ever gets used to the stress and anxiety that rains down with each rocket and to the deafening silence in between and after.
As a mother, I can share that this was the first time that my own son told me before he went to bed, that day, that he was afraid to go to sleep. He had been playing outside when the rocket attack happened and got scared, ran home to the safe room. It took him a while to agree to come out.
Even while I am writing this message, my son is playing outside with his friends, and I just heard him explain to them “if you hear a boom, run fast inside to the safe room”.
Of course, the situation also affects the tourism in the area. Usually at this time of the year, there are many tourists in Metulla and in the region. At the news of the rockets, most tourists immediately left, and others cancelled their reservations for the weekend.
The days after were tense and still are, with event after event, constant messages from the security department in Metulla updating us, monitoring the news and at the same time also trying to avoid them to have a minute of quiet and relative relaxation. We are now back to our usual routines again and, as always, on alert for any scenario.
Hoping for quieter days and a peaceful end to the holidays. Thank you all for all the support from far away.