It’s been a sacred, scary, and joyous season in Israel. This may seem like a contradiction, but in Israel it’s quite normal.
During Passover, Islamic terrorists from Gaza and Lebanon fired dozens of rockets at Israeli communities. On the second day of Passover, three members of the Dee family were murdered, executed, in a terrorist attack. They were my neighbors. That night, another Arab terrorist plowed his car across Tel Aviv’s Mediterranean promenade, killing one Italian tourist who arrived for Easter, and injuring several others.
Prayers and expressions of condolences from Christian friends across the world have been a great comfort. Many asked what more they could do so the Genesis 123 Foundation set up a fund to provide grief and trauma counseling in the schools where the Dee children attended, and where many of their friends and teachers are still grieving and in shock. To participate and send your own condolences and words of comfort, please go to https://love.genesis123.co.
Passover is a family holiday. Yet this year many families had their plans rudely interrupted, or worse. For the Dees, Passover will be forever marred by the murder of Lucy (48), Maia (20) and Rina (15). However, the tense time created other stresses that damped the festive celebration of our freedom from slavery in Egypt, with the need to defend our freedom still today. Freedom is not only not free, but sometimes comes with a terrible price. Public bomb shelters were opened in central Israel and ordered to be prepared for any eventuality. In the event of escalation families like mine were deeply concerned that our sons would be called away from family celebrations to go to defend the country.
Soldiers, like those in my son’s and son-in-law‘s combat units, and my soon to be daughter-in-law‘s intelligence unit, have been on high alert giving up additional family time. We pray that it won’t escalate further but at the moment the responsibilities of these young men and women to defend the country and our people are enormous. Israel has collectively been living on the edge.
Increased threats of war and terror also trickle down among Israelis of all backgrounds, across the country. In communities like my own, rapid response civilian security teams are on high alert for any possible infiltration or other terrorist attack. Recently I hosted a security briefing for participants in the Run For Zion program to learn about where funds raised continue to help communities be prepared for any eventuality.
We also visited a facility in Sderot, on the Gaza border, for orphans and at-risk youth. These children not only live on the front line but suffer additional trauma every time there is an escalation because they come from homes that are not safe and live in a community that too often feels unsafe. The therapies provided and love and support are essential to help them overcome the fear of life around them and the
trauma that they experience uniquely. This reality is multiplied many times throughout the country, and it is essential for us to work to invest to help these children grow up as normally as possible.
This recent season of terror, rockets, and threat of war have been particularly jarring because it’s also the season when we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, and then celebrate Independence Day, 75 years this year. Tears of joy flow with tears of sadness, and the awareness that as we say in the Passover Seder, in every generation someone rises up to try to kill us. The seeming paradox of mourning and celebrating together was highlighted in the recent Inspiration from Zion podcast with a man who celebrates the highs, but has also suffered the losses.
As I stood silently at attention during a two-minute siren at which the entire country comes to a halt in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust, down the road the Dee family was still in the midst of mourning. Amid my tears, I couldn’t comprehend how jarring this must have been for them.
During a visit a few days earlier with Rabbi Leo Dee in the week following the murder of his wife and daughter, I shared with him how many Christians had reached out to send prayers and condolences. This encouraged him deeply. He asked that I ask our Christian friends to stand in solidarity by displaying Israeli flags, so I resolved immediately that anyone who donates $75 or more will receive an Israeli flag, made in Israel.
Many pastors have taken offerings to stand with and support Israel at this time, especially the Genesis 123 Foundation’s providing grief and trauma counseling. We would like to do more of both: to encourage and support the Dees, and to help those hurting the most with necessary counseling, including teens who have just lost a friend and peer.
Nashville recently went through its own trauma, an unspeakable crime. I have been praying and in touch with all my friends there. Jewish tradition and history teach us that when we grieve together, we are stronger, and that makes our celebrations more joyous.
The Genesis 123 Foundation invites everyone to participate at https://love.genesis123.co, through which you can send your prayers and condolences, which will be shared with as many people who we are able to reach as possible.
Jonathan Feldstein, Founder and President, Genesis 123 Foundation – https://genesis123.co/