As I was on a Zoom call, encouraging my Hillel coworkers to visit the quiet, idyllic kibbutz I proudly call home, a siren blared. I had 20 seconds to make it to a bomb shelter.
I felt a wave of relief knowing my children were safe in their nursery school. I told my coworkers I was sorry to leave, but I would be back in a few minutes. The irony of what I had just said about my peaceful kibbutz clashed with the “Code Red” siren. And it wasn’t lost on me or anyone else on that Zoom call.
One week later, my colleague at Hillel at Sapir College told me she had to postpone our weekly call because fire balloons were once again being launched from Gaza, meaning her children weren’t sleeping well. The explosives had also caused extensive fires in the fields around their kibbutz in Southern Israel.
Sirens, incendiary balloons, bomb shelters, sleepless nights. This is just a snapshot of our reality this summer in Israel. And let’s not forget, this is happening as we fight a global pandemic.
But another snapshot of reality is our dedicated students at Hillel Israel. They have stayed connected and have been even more attentive to the needs of our community during this challenging time. Whether driven by Jewish values, a passion for Hillel, a sense of urgency or all of the above, our incredible students are the snapshot of reality I choose to focus on as we make plans to reopen six Israel-based Hillels after the High Holidays.
Let me tell you about some of them.
Dan is delivering Shabbat care packages to students quarantined to their dorms at Hebrew University. Ariel and his peers are distributing food and produce to elderly Jerusalem residents in lockdown. Lior and some of her friends decided to continue a Hillel class offered in the spring about women and Judaism. A handful of Hillel students at Tel-Hai College are meeting with elderly residents to study the weekly parasha, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness.
Of course, I’m not forgetting our troubles. Tensions on Israel’s northern border are high. Flare ups in Gaza have been ongoing. The pandemic has ravaged our community. However, my work at Hillel Israel is what encourages me to keep going. I feel so proud to be part of a movement that cares, takes action and creates a meaningful platform for students to enrich their lives and the lives of others. I remind myself, “Walla, Zachiti,” meaning “Wow, have I been blessed.”
Daniella Fields-Elmaliach is the director of Hillel at Tel-Hai College.