Israel 2024 Too Important to Remain Distant

Israel with my 10-year-old son

Departure to Israel

Israel’s brand (safety, security, intelligence, and military prowess) has been tarnished, but what has not changed is the history, the people and the sense of love and appreciation you still feel, even though the entire country is traumatized. Israel is a First World Country, and what it needs most now, is not material goods, but rather time with friends, to help them navigate through the litany of emotions that are unimaginable to process alone.

My son and I have been to Israel many times, but this was the most meaningful and inspiring trip of our lives. We saw Israel in a new light, the rebirth of a country and a time for strength and unity.

There are moments in life when fear or hesitation can prevent us from being who we want to be, but I will tell you, that those are the times when you really understand who you are and what you stand for. The incredible acts of kindness Nathan and I witnessed in Israel taught both of us that sometimes we need to push past the barriers in our minds and take bold steps forward to be all we can be.

These experiences reinforce the notion that impactful change often comes from simple ideas and unwavering commitment to doing what is needed. Whether preparing Shabbat dinner for 200 soldiers, delivering yarn and Purim gifts, or setting up a fully functioning kitchen amid conflict, volunteering demonstrates that even the most minor actions can make a significant difference in the world.

The Israeli people need us not just because it helps them physically, but because it fills their hearts to know they are not alone. Like others who recently spent time in this improbable, impossible, and indescribable land, I was ready to go on October 8, but of course, I had to be sensitive to the concerns my family, and especially my wife, had about not just me going, but also bringing our son. My fear was more about regret, and not doing what I knew I needed and wanted to do, not just for my friends and partners, but for my homeland, and most importantly, for my father, as the last two Gelbers who are here to represent his name.

But what happened after 4 days in our land was this: We both cry more easily, smile wider, laugh harder and feel deeper. My son Nathan is my little hero, coming with dad, and being all in with everything we did, even 30 hours of flying in under 5 days. October 7 had broken off a piece of my heart that I never thought would grow back. But going to Israel with my son and seeing the soldiers, our friends, and partners, has moved and changed both of us in ways I could never have imagined.

One of the concerns I had was not wanting to make anyone feel that their hand was out, but rather that our hearts were in, and I believe Nathan and I were able to convey this. In the end–wherever we are, no matter our tragedy or our fortune–we need each other.

We will continue our volunteer efforts from home and plan to return soon. Keep a lookout for our next Solidarity Mission, in October this year. Am Yisrael Chai.

This slide show will say more in a few images, than I could say in a thousand words….

Click an image below to expand and view full image and description.

A thank you from the soldiers after a delicious Shabbat dinner prepared by the Culinary Acadamy in Jerusalem.

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