Today I offer you a special treat. My friend and neighbor, Marc Gottlieb, did the liveblogging (which he updated regularly throughout the day) for the recent Standing Together mission to "500 meters from Gaza." My intrepid daughter-in-law, Chana, went along. (Hey! Don't ask. She's a grown up! What can I say?) With Marc's permission, I am posting their adventure here, so that you can sit on the edge of your seat, like I did all day Tuesday. Don't thank me. Love is sharing.
Liveblogging Gaza Mission #3
Stay tuned as we provide updates to the Standing Together 1/6/09 Mission to Gaza.
Meet our Guest Hosts
Rami Landau is David’s son. Besides the enjoyment he gets from helping out the soldiers, he’s taking video and photographs of the mission.
Chana Eastman was married in July 2008. Her husband Josh is serving in the Golani brigade. He hasn’t been home in weeks. She’s hoping that they can find where his unit is stationed, and that he’s been rotated out of the action for today. Hey, it could happen...
Anthony Harris, originally from Scotland, grew up in Perth, Australia, and is now living in the Zayit in Efrat. Anthony, who made aliyah too late to serve, is on the mission today because, “In 2006 I had many friends from work who went up to serve in the war. I couldn’t help out last time, but now nothing could keep me away!”
Dan Leubitz just couldn’t stay away. Dan joined Standing Together on their Second Mission to Gaza on New Year’s Day 2009. Dan was born in Cleveland, Ohio and made aliyah in September 2006 from Teaneck, NJ. The last mission was so emotional he had to come back for more.
Brendan Rothschild, from Melbourne, Australia hasn’t made aliyah just yet. He served in the Nachal brigade until 8 months ago when he finished his service. He plans on making aliyah when he completes his degree. About a year ago, Standing Together came to visit him on the base during Chanukah, and he’s glad he has the opportunity to lend a hand today.
Wendy Gordon, an MSW originally from Boca Raton, Florida, now living in Beer Sheva, joined Standing Together because she felt a strong need to help directly, hands on, with the soldiers who are protecting our country. “It’s amazing how thankful they are, when it’s us who should be thanking them.”
Left for the South this morning with a car full of 500 packages including fleece masks, thermals and socks. Heading to Sderot to pick up food and personal items in the grocery.
Still haven’t been able to get to a location with decent reception. Going to try again in a bit.
In the makolet, stocking up on supplies to bring south.
Chana: Im just trying to help where I can. My husband’s doing his part, so I’m doing mine.
Heard a Qassam in the distance (11:45)
As we’re leaving Sderot on the way to Nachal Oz, we heard the Tzeva Adom (Color Red) alert. We didn’t hear anything, but we quickly pulled over to a reinforced bus shelter. Three seconds later we heard a loud explosion. For some on the mission it was their first experience in a rocket alert.
Another Tzeva Adom alert. That’s two in five minutes. How do people live like this every day of their lives?
Stopped at an artillery staging area in the middle of nowhere. We came with food and clothes, and they were most appreciative of the clothes because it’s freezing down here.
Followed the smoke about a kilometer and a half to an insertion point. They’ve been there three days straight without a change of clothes. They constantly repeat thank you. Handing out bottles of water. We changed the mood from stressed to festive, we broke the monotony of waiting. We’re taking pictures of them, they’re taking pictures of us!
Wendy: I can’t get over the range of ages of the soldiers! Young, old, and they’re all here fighting for Israel’s very right to exist. I wish there was more I could do.
At a camp now, handing out hundreds of packages of cold weather clothing to soldiers.
Soldiers are hanging around the trailer like a little cafe, very funny. Soldiers from all walks of Israeli life. They talk about where they’re from. They’re overwhelmed by individual letters, and the thousands of people from the Facebook group who showed their support and love. Two officers approached us and thanked us, just thanked us.
Anthony: Every soldier says to me “Ein milim” -- there are no words. I never knew I could bring this much pleasure by just coming to visit them, just to support them.
David: Last cold weather package handed out. 500 soldiers are sleeping warmer tonight, in clean clothes. Thousands more aren’t. Need help for more!
We’re starting mincha (evening prayers) with the soldiers. The religious soldiers and the volunteers prayed together between two tanks for safety. The sky is dark gray, filled with shadows. It really moves you to see that in the midst of it all, they stop to pray.
We’re 500 meters from Gaza right now, within sniper range. We’ve been handing out everything that we have to the soldiers who have just returned from inside Gaza. It was such an uplifting feeling to see them come back safely. Many are just young men who are experiencing combat for the first time. They appreciate what we’re doing even though it’s so little.
Wherever we’ve gone, the soldiers are polite, and it’s really a pleasure to mingle and chat with them.
We’re getting ready to go home. We need to leave a little earlier than planned, before it gets too dark to see how to get back.
Chana shared another vignette after she returned safely to my house. She said that one of the young soldiers sat down next to Wendy, the "mom person" on the trip. He told her that he wanted people to understand how much Standing Together's visit meant to the soldiers. "We know that everyone in the world hates us, and thinks bad things about us. We are risking our lives here; and we get discouraged when the media make us look like the bad guys, and when people believe them. And then you people come here to see us, and you bring us food and presents; and we feel loved. We feel like you understand why we are doing what we do. Thank you so much!"
Photos used by permission from Marc Gottlieb and Abba Richman