Shira Klein, who participated in a previous year’s United With Israel Lag B’omer trip to southern Israel, reflects upon her experience from this moving event.
Our special Lag B’Omer trip reinforces Jewish unity and is a declaration that regardless of where we live as Jews, we are one people. It does not matter whether we live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, New York or Washington, DC, Ireland or Australia: we are all united with Israeli communities such as Netivot that are living under rocket fire.
There is no better way to express Jewish unity than to leave the comfort of one’s home in order to express solidarity with Israeli communities that are living under a constant barrage of rocket fire, even during times such as Lag B’omer where one is supposed to be joyful yet must nevertheless endure the horrors of Palestinian terrorism. In fact, during the evening of Lag B’omer this year, three rockets fell on Netivot. After enduring such a trauma, it was clear why the children of Netivot needed the support of the broader Jewish world and the international community more than ever.
One of the themes of Lag B’Omer is Jewish unity. According to Jewish teachings, Rabbi Akiva who was possibly the greatest Rabbi of the Talmud, had 24,000 students who lost their lives to a plague because they didn’t respect and love each other. The plague ended on Lag B’Omer. Rabbi Akiva’s students were all known as pious leaders whose only flaw was that they went strictly “by the book”, even at the expense of dealing kindly with one another. Each one knew that they were “right”. Even today, families that spend time arguing about “who was right” and proving to the other that they were “wrong” are missing the boat.
The kind of love for each other that is expected of Jews should have overruled any “wrong” that was perceived as having been done. Running to the Rabbi to rule on who was right rather than forgiving the other person was an attitude that just didn’t fit into the law of “love your fellow as yourself.”” Fortunately, the Jewish Nation is evolving and becoming more united. Today, we strive to correct this tragic mistake by spending less time being critical of the way our spouse or our children act, even if we know that we are “right”. Its’ just not loving!
And on Lag B’Omer we build bonfires. Instead of the power of fire being akin to destructive anger at another person, it is seen as an expression of great love and devotion to the Creator of the universe, Who created all humans and expects them to be kind to each other.
The morning was hot and the afternoon in Netivot was even hotter. The midday sun beat down in its full warmth and even the air-conditioning in the packed caravan was only a bit of fresh air. The principal described how the children who usually study in this kindergarten and surrounding school are already accustomed to running to a bomb shelter every time a warning siren goes off, giving a few seconds to reach the nearest one before an incoming missile from Gaza lands somewhere.
The problem is that the kindergarten did not have a shelter and they had to run farther to other already crowded ones. Some of the participants on Lag B’omer were children of Netivot who spoke of what they do when they are out playing and hear a siren. They run to the closest person’s house, anyone, even someone they never met, and ask to be let into their bomb shelter. Well, we were there, on behalf of United with Israel, to witness and celebrate the delivery of two dome shaped white bomb shelters to the kindergarten’s play yards. As soon as they landed from the crane truck we went inside to try them out. I could imagine children playing house in them with their dolls and saying their principal, who also has children in this kindergarten. The principal of the kindergarten would respond: “I wish that they will only have to be used as doll houses.””
Thanks to the unity expressed by the generous readers of United With Israel who donated the money to build these bomb shelters plus many more (so far a total of 12), at least the children of this Netivot kindergarten will be protected.
By Shira Klein with UWI Staff