Stepping Up: Stories of Hope from Israel’s Civilian Frontlines – part I

It was 6:30 a.m. on October 7th when the wail of sirens pierced the early morning calm of the Simchat Torah morning. Israel was caught completely unaware as Hamas terrorists, committing atrocities unimagined by anyone, dragged us into a war we were not expecting. With 240 hostages taken across the border into Gaza, over 200 000 people evacuated from their homes, and 360 000 reservists called up for duty, the country was hit not just with a wave of grief and shock but with a logistical tornado that needed to be managed – from homing and assisting the displaced to equipping the soldiers with food, clothes, and other necessities, nothing was anticipated, and the resources were simply not readily available.

It was into this unprecedented space that Israel’s civil society stepped without a moment’s hesitation, as people from across the country mobilized to respond to the urgent needs of its citizens and soldiers. Thousands of South African Olim have been among those who responded to this call to action, determined to demonstrate their place as Israelis and to pay forward the care they received as new immigrants.

Telfed has been helping Olim in their journey to integrate and ultimately give back to society for the past 75 years. Since the start of the war, Telfed activities have expanded to include providing financial and emotional support for soldiers, evacuees, and any Oleh affected by recent events. We are proud to share the stories of South African and Australian Olim at the civilian frontlines, doing inspiring and critical work to help Israel face this existential crisis.

Kayla Glick

For Eli Rudolph and Kayla Glick, an understanding of the full extent of the October 7th attacks was slow to trickle in. Both are shomrei shabbat and with their phones and televisions off, the sirens were one of the few indications something was afoot.  While there were other hints that something more ominous had happened, it was only when the chag came out and they turned on their phones that they both realized how serious the events that had unfolded were.

The two women are connected through Shivtei Shul, a community popular with South Africans living in Ra’anana. Both made Aliyah 11 years ago, Eli with her husband and two young children (and a third born in Israel), Kayla as a tween of just 12 years old with her parents and three younger siblings. Eli has a long history of community work that started in South Africa and which has continued in Israel. She is the coordinator of chesed for the Shivtei community and works for My Israel, an organization that assists small charities in the country.

Kayla is a student at Hebrew University where she is studying Biology and Business. She had completed her first year and was enjoying the last week of the summer holiday (while also looking for an internship) when the war started and all studies were suspended. She was at a loose end, and she was determined to help in any way she could.

 

Eli Rudolph

Things happened quickly that Saturday night. Within half an hour of turning on her phone, Eli was fielding multiple offers of assistance from the community, and by the next day the requests started coming in – up to 15 a day from army bases needing food and supplies for up to 60 soldiers at a time. The donations poured in, and Kayla’s house became the collection point for drop-offs. Every day she coordinates the efforts of multiple volunteers who come past to help her pack and prepare the donated supplies which are sent out to the bases between five and six times a day (also delivered by volunteers).

Kayla converted her garage into a shop for Ra’anana’s soldiers. “We don’t want the soldiers to waste their precious time at home trying to shop,” she said. “This way they can come in, pick up anything they may need, and then spend their time with their families.” The shop offers everything from toiletries and snacks to chargers, socks, and underwear.

Both Kayla and Eli are eager to credit the people of Ra’anana with the success of the different projects. “The response has been unbelievable,” Kayla says “ People have been bringing stuff constantly.” Eli agrees “Everyone has given whatever they can, whether they are rich or poor.”

While there is no doubt that the community’s response has been generous and unquestioning, it is also clear that these two women are the tireless force that has catalysed the good intentions of a small city in the centre of Israel into a powerful force for good. “This is how we survive. We unite to get things done. We mourn together and we work together.” Eli says.

 

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