July 30, 2006

Two Million Refugees In Israel

Thousands of Israelis have been living in stuffy, poorly ventilated bomb shelters for over two weeks now. Many are elderly, some are disabled. Cramped in these living conditions, they cannot cook in their own kitchens and they cannot even go out to get money from the bank. Hundreds of thousands of others have fled the pounding rockets and headed south. And remember, Israel is a tiny country. Driving south to be out of range of the rockets of Haifa is a one hour drive. So where did all these people go? And, aside from the incessant pummeling of rockets and soldiers fighting, how can this blip of a country handle this?

If this had happened anywhere else in the world, it would be tantamount to a crisis. Israel has humbly, quietly risen to the task – and excelled.

People in the south have opened their homes to perfect strangers; every day in both the English and Hebrew papers, there is a column entitled ‘Happy to Host You,’ where people who have a spare room or a spare bed ask northerners to please come and stay. The Meir Panim organization delivers 2,000 hot meals to shelters each day at a risk to themselves. And when appeals were sent out for food, some 4,000 people called in right away.

Today I went to Mega to do a grocery shop. Outside, a young girl stands at the store entrance asking for donations for the soldiers; be it candy, toothpaste, soap.

In Nahariya, a whole yeshiva decided to stay put. In addition to learning Torah, the young men and staff volunteer at the hospital, organize blood drives and distribute food before Shabbat.

In Raanana, 200 people are now living in a religious boarding school that was empty because of summer vacation. The city welcomed them with free accommodation food and necessary supplies. And they even thought of entertainment; there was a karaoke night with the mayor himself turning up to show off his talent. And just last Friday, residents of Raanana lined up in the midday sun to give blood – and the line was so long, some had to wait hours.

And in Beersheva, the Golden Tulip hotel is offering free hotel rooms to some 600 refugees from the north. In fact, hotels across the country are offering free rooms, discounted rooms, free access to pools, and activities for the shell-shocked children.

We have been connected with a family from Nahariya that needs a safe bed to sleep in and a home to relax in; a place where the air raid sirens aren’t going all day long and where buildings are not being destroyed daily. Our cousins Tomy and Chava are still in Nahariya trying to help wherever they can. Today Chava’s office in the hospital was struck. A direct hit. Luckily it was Shabbat and she was not there. Who would target a hospital?


  1. Mordechai BookbinderSunday, July 30, 2006

    Hi Nicole and Amir - Greetings from Toronto. Your blogging has provided me with a greater sense of connectedness to Eretz Yisroel.

    All day long the news feeds scream at me how bad and wrong Israel is for what it is doing - your blog (and Alan Dershowitz's articles) help balance out the anti-Israel propaganda.

    I've heard that the sense of achdus in Israel is at an all time high - any ideas on how we can extend it over the ocean as well?

    Take care and keep writing - you're an inspiration to all of us too chicken to do the right thing.

  2. Hi guys,

    It's Julie - Matan's mom - as my siggy doesn't give away my identity. Just wanted to say that I'm grateful for your blog, as it's helping me put life there into proportion after watching too much CNN over the past few weeks (note to self: stop doing this!).

    Matan misses Shaya and I miss you all as well. But we'll be heading back there in less than two weeks; we'll have to get together. Hopefully it will be less eventful there by then.

    Cheers, Julie


Your comments are always welcome.