The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Partnership2Gether platform (P2G, previously known as Partnership2000 and P2K) has become the paradigm for successfully partnering global Jewish communities directly with Israeli communities. New Orleans is paired with Birmingham, AL and Rosh Ha'ayin, Israel in a three-city person-to-person partnership. Here are perspectives on what's happening in Israel from our sister city neighbors.
A message from Monica Levy (pictured, second from the left), from our sister city, Rosh Ha'ayin:
On the 7th of October 2023, our morning took a sudden and alarming turn when my 88-year-old mother-in-law, residing in Tel-Aviv, woke us up at 6:30 AM. She urgently informed us that she was in the staircase of her building, as the sound of sirens filled the air.
With haste, we switched on the TV, and from that moment onward, it was evident that our lives would never be quite the same. People often speak of our resilience as a nation, and I have no doubt that we will navigate through these challenging times. Yet, I must confess that we are far from being alright, we really are not ok!
Our children, Noa who is 26, Maya who is 23 and Gal, 21 were all at home with their respective partners when the events unfolded, and it became immediately apparent that a war was upon us. I didn't grow up in Israel; I only made Aliya at the age of 18, so I had never experienced a real war before. Witnessing an entire country being called up for reserve duty was a new and disconcerting experience for me.
My daughters sat in the living room as their boyfriends received calls from their units, and by noon, they were both on their way to fulfill their duties (and they have not come home since). Meanwhile, we sat in the living room, tears flowing down our cheeks, trying to grasp the inexplicable reality before us.
Then, we began to see the names of their friends, former students of mine, sons and daughters of friends on social media —some had tragically lost their lives, others were initially reported missing but were later confirmed as casualties, and others reported kidnapped. The funerals and going from one Shiva to another without finding the right words to console, because there simply are no words… was just heartbreaking….
One of the most difficult moments for me was when Maya’s boyfriend, stationed in the South, woke up with stomach pains and remained at the base instead of going out for training. He called Maya to let her know that she could come visit him. She obviously did not hesitate, yet as I checked the location and realized how perilously close it was to Ashkelon, I expressed my fear and reluctance for her to go. However, after a 20-minute talk with her and a call from him, it became clear what needed to be done. She locked eyes with me and said, "I don't know when I'll get to see him again." Swiftly, I got ready, got into the car, and we drove for 46 tense minutes, my heart pounding with the hope that there would be no sirens on the way. I couldn't believe that I was anxious about driving in my own country. It was a surreal experience that I don’t think I will ever understand.
We reached the base and returned safely, but on the way back, my older daughter called to inform me that her boyfriend needed his second pair of army boots, which were at home. She asked me to accompany her because she, too, was anxious to drive alone. How could I refuse? The feeling was just like in our earlier trip. Driving to Rehovot, a city in the center of the country, had never been so scary. What if the sirens went off? Where would we take cover?
We made it there and back home, and just 15 minutes later, the sirens began. I felt a rush of relief knowing we were safely indoors. We hurried into the bomb shelter and waited for the sounds of explosions.
These are just a few snapshots of what life has become in Israel for me.
I would like to add that Gal, my youngest son, who served as a combat fighter in the navy, was officially discharged from the army on Tuesday. The navy has not yet called up many for reserve duty, so at least in that respect, I'm grateful to have him back home.
All I yearn for is for life to go back to normal…to relish the simple, often taken-for-granted joys, like walking the dog, without fear overshadowing every step.
A message from Sharon Meidoni (pictured, right), from our sister city, Rosh Ha'ayin:
We live in Rosh Ha'ayin, a city located in the center of the country, east of Tel Aviv, sister city of New Orleans. On Saturday, 10/7/23, we woke up in the morning to the sound of alarms and news clips that testified to the horror that is taking place in the settlements near Gaza, including alarms indicating a missile attack on Israel, from the south to the center. And since then, the news, in which we learn about the amount and intensity of the atrocities perpetrated by the murderous organization Hamas. And we feel that the entire country is under attack. The great fear is that the atrocities committed by the terrorists from Gaza will encourage the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, who are a few kilometers from Rosh Ha'ayin, to act in the same way. Every rocket fired into the area makes us anxious. The houses are locked, people leave the houses for a short distance, to be ready to return quickly to the houses and to a protected area. At our house, in the Midani family's house in Rosh Ha'ayin, since the incident both sons have been drafted into the army, for an unlimited time. One in the north and one in the south. And caring for them and many more of our friend's children is very difficult. And the level of anxiety is compounded by the fear of every missile that is fired, of every alarm that makes us jump and oblige us to run to a protected place, in a very short time. In order to relieve the anxiety and mental stress, every day I volunteer and works wherever possible to help and strengthen soldiers who were recruited and families who suffered badly from the murderous attack. During this period, all our personal conduct revolves around the war. There are quite a few moments of downfalls and anxieties and in between there are also moments of hope.
From Amit Zehavi (pictured, right, on her last visit to New Orleans), our Partnership2Gether liaison to our sister city, Rosh Ha'ayin:
A week since this madness began.
Still, we feel shell shocked,
We have no access to my normal tool set.
Things that should take a few minutes drag into hours.
Where did the time go by?
We keep getting distracted,
Drawn into the news,
Reading horrible testimonials on FB,
Seeing one name after another of fallen soldiers, sons and daughters of friends or people we know somehow. We are a small country. Almost zero degrees of separation.
We try to distance ourselves, we find ourselves cooking, gardening, crafting, cleaning, staring out the window.
We get beautiful messages from so many people I love and miss overseas. They see it all on TV, want to make sure we are all right. Are we??? Will we be?
Something has died, not just people. Unwritten rules have been broken, unimaginable lines have been crossed. Things we never dreamed of happened, are happening.
At moments we look at our cat and dog and envy their cluelessness, their unawareness to evil.
This week, we went to 2 funerals. 2 too many.
The pain is sharp.
Some sources of solace now:
Our circles of support: my family, Tzora the wonderful community we live in, my work at Partnership2Gether, the Jewish Agency for Israel, that makes me proud, Israeli civilians and the IDF and last, but not least our tribe, worldwide and thank you Biden!
It just started raining. We love the rain and I pray that this will be a turning point for better days to come.
Praying for all our soldiers and for those abducted. Our hearts go out to all those who suffered loss and who are worried sick.
עם ישראל חי
Dear friends in NOLA,
We are touched by your support messages & feel the solidarity from afar. What we are experiencing here is unprecedented & nothing can prepare one for such horrific acts. We are glued to the news and take personally every casualty & we worry deeply about those wounded, missing & abducted. Each & every Israeli is touched by what is happening.
Everyone we know has a son, nephew, father, brother who is now drafted into reserve duty, including Efrat's 2 sons, Amir & Gilad.
We are very concerned, afraid & anxious about what is yet to come & what our beloved Israel will look like after this is over. We are comforted by the Israeli solidarity that is being shown in many ways.
Many civilian initiatives in Rosh Ha'ayin & all over Israel are collecting supplies & food, welcoming uprooted people from the South into their homes, donating blood & money & volunteering. We are praying this ends soon & with the least damage. Thank you again for being there for us.
We feel the undivided support from overseas communities & from the US Government & it means so much to us. Hoping for better days!!!
Efrat Herman & Amit Yaniv-Zehavi