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My Solidarity Visit to Israel by Lou Numkin

08/14/2014 02:41:18 PM


On July 28-30, I was one of five members (including the National President) of a Hadassah Solidarity Delegation’s mission to show support to Israel.  Immediately upon arrival we were whisked to Mea Shreya, a youth village, which was hosting families from southern Israel who wanted to get further out of harm’s way and enjoy time together swimming, playing soccer, and touring.  This facility has an award-winning school, a children’s dairy farm and vineyard, and was originally donated by the Rothschild Family. 


After seeing the area, meeting staff, and families, we visited Haifa where Hadassah had donated an elevator to a Senior Center, and actually dredged out the pre-1948 port area. Our van had to pull over so we could exit and lay on the ground a distance away as a siren was sounded alerting us to a possible incoming rocket.  Thankfully, we continued our travels to a Tel Aviv hotel shortly thereafter.  At around2:30 am, another alarm had residents running to prescribed shelters, and again, no damage to report.


Tuesday morning we headed to Beer Sheva, the largest city in the Negev with a population of 200,000.  At the entrance to the town was a beautiful park, donated by Hadassah, and the current Mayor (reelected by 92% of the vote!) is ambitiously building the second largest lake (yes, this is the desert!) in Israel as one of over 30 water elements in the city – using recycled water.  We met with Deputy and Vice Mayors in the city’s underground Situation Room, where they explained that 144 missiles fell on the city in just a few days and that there were 61 sirens since the start of Protective Edge.  Next, we planted olive trees in a park near where the lake is being excavated. 


We then headed to Sderot which was created in the 1960s as low-cost housing for disabled veterans but is now a prime target for Hamas rockets.  Being so close to the border, residents only have 15-seconds to get to a shelter after sirens sound.  Even so, Sderot has just opened a new train station and new housing and apartments are being built.  While there, we spent time in JNF’s “Big Blue Box” which is a large bomb shelter that appears like a kids’ playground – games, toys, and food keep youngsters occupied while providing safe haven.  Shortly after we departed for Tel Aviv, sirens sounded in Sderot and two nearby kibbutzim.  Enroute, we stopped at another village to see where a home had been flattened by a rocket.


Wednesday began with an informative visit to the Iron Dome (“Kippat Barzel”) battery in Ashdod.  A Brigadier General explained how the system has been so successful in minimizing the loss of civilian life.  Ashdod inhabitants have 60-seconds to get to shelters following sirens.  Once in the shelters they must remain for ten-minutes to allow missile-destruction debris to settle to the earth before returning to what they were doing. 


Leaving Ashdod, we headed to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital at Ein Karem neighborhood.  It was this 14-story tower which we had dedicated during my last stay, in October of 2012, and this time we visited wounded soldiers and their families. But first we sat with and listened to an Arab journalist from the Jerusalem Post, and his talk was enlightening.  Then we headed four-stories below ground to see one of the 20 bomb-protected, state-of-the-art operating suites which are almost ready to be put to use.  Lastly, we visited a bench – in the main lobby of the hospital – which I had dedicated to the memory of my dear parents, Ruth and Bernard Numkin z”l. 


We next headed for the Kenesset where we met with a Likud member, MK Gila Gamliel, and she informed us of a four-hour cease-fire that was to begin shortly.  Our next stop was Mount Herzl and the graves of recent IDF casualties – some of the gravesites were very fresh as the burial had happened a day before, and we held a memorial service. 


Then, we were off to visit the President of Israel.  President “Ruby” Rivlin had just written a letter to President Obama which he read to us. Former President Perez had begun a custom of visiting the shiva houses of all soldiers, and President Rivlin told us he made 27 such visits in the last few days, and was on his way to 2 more shiva visits. In closing, the President echoed what we had heard throughout our visit, “Thank You for coming and demonstrating support for Israel.”


Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782