Contributor and commentor, Mordechai Scher sent this letter from Yeshivat Hesder Kiryat Shemonah, where he learned and where he and his wife hope to make aliyah someday.
Evil Shall Break Forth out of the North?! (Jeremiah 1:14)
Written during the 2nd week of the war
by Yair Kraus, Shiur Daled
Yeshivat Hesder Kiryat Shemonah
When war in the North broke out last week, the Haftarah – the first chapter in Jeremiah, spoke of a warning of the war that is expected to break out in the north of Israel, with ramifications on the entire population. It is hard not to see a direct link to the fighting taking place up here.
On Wednesday, Kiryat Shemonah and, in fact, all the settlements in the north of the country awoke to a new-old reality. The morning the soldiers were abducted at the border, against a background of massive bombing by the Hizbollah with Katyushas aiming at our homes, we – the Yeshivah students – realized we were somewhere we had never been before.
Over the past week hundreds of Katyushas have landed on the settlements of the north. We thank G-d for the miracles we see with our very eyes, that there have been a minimum of casualties, yet our hearts weep when we hear of the dead and the wounded in other parts of the country. We are in the midst of a war against our enemies whose sole aim is to hurt, kill and destroy us, and it looks as if it is going to last quite a long time.
From the terrace of the Yeshivah looking out at the Galilee, the Golan and the Hermon, we stood and watched as the fires raged after the bombs had dropped, the entire area enveloped in smoke. The firefighters here are exhausted from their workload and we all yearn for calmer and quieter days.
It was on Wednesday afternoon that the phone calls from concerned parents in the center of the country started coming in, “Are you coming home?” “It’s dangerous up there”, “What are you doing up there while this is going on?” and so on. The media was describing it as a war zone shrouded in smoke and echoing with explosions, but the green reality remains the same green as before and the landscape the same landscape. It is only the background noise that has changed somewhat… On Wednesday evening, all the students gathered to listen to Rabbi Tzfaniah Drori, the Rosh Yeshivah’s words of enlightenment and encouragement in light of the situation. We asked him all the questions and dilemmas confronting us as a result of life in the shadow of Katyusha bombs.
The morale here is very high and we are all eager to help and contribute to the welfare of the local residents. Never during the 30 years the Yeshivah has been in existence have we abandoned the citizens of Kiryat Shemonah. We truly believe that learning Torah and remaining here is a mission that we must carry out. Being here at this time is an integral part of our army service and here we must stay. Kiryat Shemonah must exist and survive in spite of all the dangers. If we start becoming hysterical and running away, if we don’t stand firm here in our home in the north of Israel – we will fall and collapse everywhere in Israel. We are fighting for our country now and we stand at the forefront of the fight – we will not run back home to the center of the country and evade our responsibility here. The citizens here depend on us during these troubled times and they are greatly encouraged by our presence.
No – we are not being irresponsible and we aren’t staying here because we don’t have a choice. Mainly we stay in “secure rooms”: the Bet Midrash and other rooms at the Yeshivah are protected against Katyushas and the bomb shelters are open at all times.
A great many people have left town, and for all intents and purposes, it looks like a ghost town, abandoned and desperate. But this isn’t so, not at all. The Yeshivah students who haven’t yet been called up for emergency army service have stayed (about 80 of them) and many people have chosen to remain in spite of the Katyushas. We have formed small workgroups for efficiency purposes. At the same time as we learn Torah, we offer activities and entertain the children in the bomb shelters to take their minds off their anxieties about the security situation. We distribute food and mattresses to families in the various bomb shelters, because all the shops are shut in town and many of the families have no access to food. In cooperation with the municipality, we are doing our best to supply the citizens with both their material and spiritual needs.
As we go from one bomb shelter to another, we can see the spark of light in the eyes of the children and we understand just how important it is for us to stay here and support our brethren – the residents of Kiryat Shemonah who have had to stay behind and are finding life so very hard now. The children are running out of patience and can no longer bear the stifling atmosphere in the shelters. The mothers are desperate for food and the basics as well as babyfood and diapers. The town has suddenly become deprived and dependent on the goodwill of volunteer workers.
Citizens in the center of the country and the whole world over – we are grateful to you for showing us how much you care, for your willingness to help and your involvement and sense of belonging to these people in the war zone. It is at times like these that the differences between the right and the left, the secular and the religious, blur into insignificance and we discover just how strong our people are and how powerful we are against our enemies who seek to destroy us.