Editor’s Note: As part of our Federation’s Partnership2Gether (P2G) initiative, members of the Richmond Jewish community – Melissa Brownstein, Marvin Daniel, Josh Goldberg, Seth Kaplan, Cathy Plotkin and Daniel Staffenberg – traveled home to Israel Jan. 14-18. We witnessed firsthand how our fundraising initiatives are aiding Israelis in their recovery, coping, and rebuilding efforts following the October 7th attacks. This post was authored by Cathy Plotkin, JCFR Past President, and Marvin Daniel, Chair of the Israel Emergency Campaign’s Interfaith Outreach.
We began our day in a moshav (village), actively demonstrating solidarity through “hands-on” support by helping a farmer care for his strawberry crops. We meticulously removed leaves to ensure sunlight reached the berries. This action stemmed from the aftermath of the conflict, leading to the absence of Palestinian and Thai workers, the primary agricultural workforce in Israel. As a result, extra hands were desperately needed.
Much of our day revolved around the Israeli volunteer efforts addressing the aftermath of the terrorist attack.
Thousands of volunteers from across Israel tirelessly work to cope with the challenges faced by residents displaced from kibbutzim and towns adjacent to Gaza. The challenges are feeding, housing, transporting, and, most importantly, educating the thousands of school-age children who moved with their families to hotels and other accommodations in “safer” parts of the country.
This massive operation relies entirely on donated time. The government is cooperating but, understandably, primarily occupied elsewhere.
Later, we met with retired Israeli General Israel Ziv, who provided a comprehensive overview of the conflict. He expressed initial concerns about the capabilities of the young soldiers and reservists but affirmed their remarkable performance.
Assuring us that the job would be done thoroughly and safely, he emphasized Israel’s commitment to adhering to the “laws of war” and safeguarding the lives of innocent Gazans.
Following these sessions, we met with Major Libby Weiss, the spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces. She updated us on the conflict’s status, asserting with utmost importance, “Israel WILL win this war; it is an existential imperative!”
The day’s focus then shifted to the hostages—136 individuals still held by Hamas, about whom little is known. Visiting Hostage Square was a surreal experience, marked by increasing days, hours, and minutes of captivity.
A mix of sadness, hope, and haze covers the square as families tell their stories, advocate for their release, and honor the fallen. We heard from the family of David Evyatar, who, like our beloved Hersh Goldberg-Polin, was taken from the Nova Music Festival. They spoke of the remarkable volunteer effort supporting hostage families, encompassing mental health counseling, healthcare, advocacy, legal aid, media coordination, and message sharing.
They thanked us for listening, sharing their stories, and helping keep the hope that they would return home alive soon.
Several more photos from Day 2
Let us all pray for a safe return!
To read more on the P2G Mission, visit www.jewishrichmond.org/israel-emergency