My Visit to Israel; Heroes, Sirens, and Broken Hearts

Sunday, 5 November, 2023 - 1:45 pm

 Israel Solidarity.JPG

Dear Friends, 

“Libi bamezrach, v’anochi besof maarav,” my heart is in the East, but I am at the end of the West. These are the poetic words of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, referencing Jerusalem from his place of residence in 10th century Spain—and these words strongly represent how I, and many of us diaspora Jews feel right now.

Two weeks after the war broke out, I, and some of my rabbinical colleagues felt a calling to bring the love and support of our communities here in Florida to our brothers and sisters in Israel.

The Naples and Marco Island community rallied together with donations, supplies, and handwritten cards. I arrived at the airport laden with 25 duffel bags of gifts, including iPads, G-shock watches, and ceramic armored vests for the IDF. I felt as if I was bringing my whole community along, if not in person, then in spirit and encouragement.

Upon arriving in Israel, our first visit was to a small-town hotel where the Israelis of Kibbutz Aza had been relocated to.

Kfar Aza was a small Israeli farming community with beautiful green grass and tidy home gardens. Just under 800 people lived there, mostly families and young children. The residents tell me that in good times, Kfar Aza was a slice of heaven on earth.

On Simchat Torah, October 7th, they woke up to hell. 70 Hamas militants stormed the small community, starting from the side where the youngest families lived, and went on a 48-hour murderous rampage.

By the time we arrived, the community had held funerals and were sitting shiva for 52 friends and family, from babies and children to Holocaust survivors. They were praying for another 13 who are either kidnapped to Gaza, or still missing.

My heart hurt. The people of Kfar Aza were sitting outside in many circles. In each circle another family sat mourning their loved ones, as friends struggled to pull them through. I sat with them. There were no words to say that would heal such a wound, but at least I could sit shoulder-to-shoulder and bring the love of our community from miles away.

Then we went to visit the headquarters of families of the kidnapped victims. I spoke with mothers whose children were taken by Hamas terrorists. It was soul-crushing. Each family hugged photos of their loved ones and begged us to do everything we could to bring their children and parents home. I promised we would lobby our senator and congressmen, and hand signs everywhere. I knew our community would. On Shabbat we have a poster of kidnapped victims on every chair, and our congregation prays for each and every one.

We visited the city of Sderot, where dozens of residents were killed by terrorists, and the locals still live under constant rocket fire, with less than 15 seconds to get to safety. Amongst the many other important causes we donated to, I brought donations from our community to the Chabad center which is a massive bomb shelter and became the city War Room, with a warehouse of food to deliver to each home.

We met reserve soldiers who have everyday jobs like you and me and left their wives and children at home to fight for their security.

In Be’er Sheva, on our way to Soroka Hospital, we had to run off the bus and lay flat on the floor while a missile was exploded by the Iron Dome overhead. At the hospital we met heroes of Israel, who continued battling to save as many lives as they could, even after being shot multiple times. I delivered gifts, read the personal cards our community sent along with them, and heard the same words again and again, everywhere we went.

“Thank you for coming. Thank you for bringing your love and showing that we are one people.”

After a heart-wrenching and nonstop four days, I returned to Florida, but my heart remains in the East. I’m humbled that our community trusted me on this important mission to bring their love, donations and huge gifts to our family in Israel, and I know that from here, we will continue to support them, and do everything we can for the safe return of the 241 hostages.

Our community donated huge amounts to soup kitchens, victims of war, and security needs in Israel. We continue to receive many requests for vital supplies that are needed there, urgently. To continue contributing, visit:

Join us for an unforgettable evening of music and solidarity: Six13 A Cappella Concert in Support of Israel! Tomorrow night Monday, November 6 at 7:00 pm.

Your presence could truly make a difference as we want to show our strength in numbers. It's more than just a concert; it's an opportunity for us to stand together, celebrate our heritage, and support one another. This event is a chance for us to come together and show our strength as a community. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

We are one nation, under one God, and we will rise from this together.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  


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