See event photos at end of article
On Sunday, July 20, 2014, people from across community came together to stand with Israel in a rally at the Jewish Community Center, organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors.
Rabbi Stanley Miles, noting that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, opened the rally by asking people to join in singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and closed it with “Hatikvah.”
The program included psalms, prayers for peace as well as a song asking for peace, “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu;” and “Am Yisrael Chai.” Cantors Sharon Hordes and David Lipp led all the singing.
Jewish Community of Louisville President and CEO Stu Silberman called for a moment of silence to honor the memories of the 13 Israelis and 65 Palestinians killed that day by the time the rally began. Louisvillians of all faiths came together, he continued, “to show Israel that the Louisville community stands with her efforts to provide the same freedoms to her citizens as we enjoy in the U.S., including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and not stand by as Israelis pursue the shortest path to a bomb shelter.”
Senior Vice President and COO Sara Wagner introduced Dafi Chen, the shlicha (Israel emissary) working with the JCC summer camp this year. Chen had planned to recite Psalm 121 in Hebrew, but just before the rally, she learned that a friend with whom she had served in the IDF had died in the fighting. Wrapped in an Israeli flag and choked with emotion, she thanked everyone for coming. To see so many people showing support for Israel “means the world to me,” she said.
She spoke of her shock at losing her friend and her concern for her many other friends who are “in the IDF or in the bomb shelters. I wish that we didn’t have to do this – didn’t have to be in this situation – going pro or against anything. I wish we could just say peace and live in peace. And I wish that one day we won’t have any more young people standing in my position right now, crying for their peers who died protecting their country.”
Keren Benabou, a veteran of the IDF who served for six years, also spoke. She asked everyone to do something for her: “When you go home tonight, hug your kids. Call your mom; tell her how much you love her. ” Her own summer, she said, is awesome. Her children are at JCC Summer Camp, but her nieces in Israel are in bomb shelters, their camp programs canceled.
Benabou said her nights are peaceful, but her mother “wakes up to the sirens” and has to run to a staircase with two little ones because her building doesn’t have a shelter.
“I don’t know if anyone can imagine what it’s like to have Hamas digging tunnels to go underneath to the settlements and cities, just like ours, with bombs, for just one purpose – to kill Jews,” she continued.
Benabou, too, lost a friend in the fighting. For many people, those are just casualties of war, she explained, “but for us, those are kids and faces and stories and sons and daughters.”
Ralph Green, in urging the community to support the Jewish Federation of Louisville’s Stop the Sirens Campaign, reminded the crowd that over 2,000 rockets had already fallen on Israel by the time of the rally, and most of Israel’s population has had to spend time in bomb shelters or safe rooms since the onslaught began and missiles have hit from Be’ersheva in the south to Haifa in the north.
The Jewish Federation of Louisville is participating in the Jewish Federations of North America Stop the Sirens Campaign, he explained, and the government of Israel has asked Jewish Federations around the world to provide humanitarian support to the people of Israel, and he called upon everyone present to support the effort.
The funds raised by this campaign, Green continued, would provide some respite for children who have been spending time going in and out of bomb shelters by providing “camps, classes, activities and diversion” to help relieve stress.
The dollars would also help the elderly and infirm, for whom the siren warning doesn’t provide enough time to reach safety, so they must live in the shelters. In addition, food, medicine and other necessities must now be delivered to many of these people as the centers where they usually go are closed or inaccessible. New immigrants also need extra help.
In addition, a successful campaign would ensure there is help available to those who sustained physical damage to their homes and businesses and emotional trauma, as well as to hard hit communities.
The children at camp have responded by making games and collecting candy to fill care packages for children who have to spend time in bomb shelters. (See story) Green called on everyone to participate in this campaign.
Rabbi Josh Golding recited Psalm 20 that calls out to God for help in times of trouble; Rabbi Gaylia Rooks shared a prayer for peace, with parts in Hebrew, English and Arabic; and Rabbi Michael Wolk led the recitation of prayers for Israel and the Israeli Army.
To make your contribution to the Stop the Sirens Campaign, go to https://jewishlouisville.org/stopsirens; call the Federation office, 238-2739; or send a check to Jewish Federation of Louisville, 3600 Dutchmans Ln., Louisville, KY 40205, with Stop the Sirens marked in the memo line.