On The Front Lines:
"Without Emuna, We Couldn’t Last A Day"
By Chaya Reinitz
sniping, rock-throwing, blockades of roads, roundabout routes, police and
military blockades are daily fare for hundreds of thousands of citizens
throughout Yehuda, Shomron, and the Gaza Strip * Dozens of shluchim operate
there, sometimes at great personal danger and enormous self-sacrifice, in order
to encourage, illuminate, and warm hearts * We spoke with five shluchos who live
in hot spots, who agreed to share their experiences and feelings with us.
Ettia – Kiryat Arba
Ferber – Gilo
Kirshenzaft – Neve Dekalim, Gaza
Nachshon – Kiryat Arba
Rubin – Alon Moreh
does the terrible security situation affect your daily life?
Ettia: We hardly ever travel to
Yerushalayim or places outside of Kiryat Arba. If we have to travel, we go in
armored buses rather than private cars.
Kirshenzaft: We live only a kilometer
away from the front. The Arabs mostly shoot at military positions. We feel like
we’re in Lebanon. We constantly hear explosions from both directions.
Rubin: Everything has changed.
Traveling is limited. We daven for Hashem to protect us and strengthen
us. Without emuna, we couldn’t last a day.
Nachshon: We try to continue our
routines while strengthening our spiritual life. Because of the situation, the
neighbors and I started an additional Torah class. Often, when we hear of an
attack, we get together and say Tehillim. We’re hanging in there by our
teeth, but we’re hanging in there!
Ferber: Our lives have become very
tumultuous with every incident. After the Arabs attack the neighborhood, the
army responds with noisy explosions that don’t accomplish anything. There’s
no fire, no smoke, and they’re apparently using blanks as opposed to live
ammunition. The noise sometimes lasts into the middle of the night, and disturbs
the residents here who want to sleep in peace. The cycle repeats itself daily,
and nobody stops the Arabs.
speaking, life goes on as usual. At night it isn’t pleasant to go about the
dark streets. The police stop cars and people and question them about where they’re
going. In my work at the mikva I sense a decline in usage, since the
evening is the time of unrest.
you personally suffered from Arab aggression?
Ettia: Of course. We were stoned a
number of times. There was shooting, too. When there’s shooting, you have to
Kirshenzaft: As I said, in Neve Dekalim
we only hear and see the war, but on trips home and outside the Gush, there are
lots of stones and shooting. Reactions differ: some run, some help, some shoot
back, some call the army... We have a Chitas in the car, so we’re not
Rubin: Not me personally, but my
husband has. Arab aggression tests us, for we have to decide whether to hold a
Torah class in a particular yishuv because of the dangerous trip. The
present situation has led us to understand tangibly how life is run by hashgacha
pratis at every moment and every second of our lives.
Nachshon: Because of the security
situation and the fact that I recently gave birth, I rarely leave the house, so
I’m not likely to be affected by Arab aggression. On one of the few occasions
that we traveled from the center of the country to Kiryat Arba, the trip took
two extra hours because a road was closed due to Arab disturbances.
Ferber: Thank G-d, our house was not
hit, since the Arabs are shooting in another direction. But there are streets in
Gilo that are regularly shot at and suffer damage to life and property. An
ambulance recently went down the street and everybody was scared. Afterwards we
heard that a bullet had passed right near a child’s head, as a result of which
she fainted and the mother went into shock.
mothers, wouldn’t you want to raise your children in a safer place?
Ettia: There is no safer place in the
world and there is no other place that can ensure our safety. We are shluchim
of the Rebbe who live with emuna and try to disseminate Yiddishkeit
as much as possible.
Kirshenzaft: There is no safer place in
the entire country! When the tankists asked the Rebbe whether to go to
Netzarim in order to do mivtzaim there, the Rebbe said that whoever was
afraid shouldn’t go. My husband wrote a letter to the Rebbe complaining that
they don’t want to go and the Rebbe immediately referred to it in a sicha,
in which he spoke about Queen Esther who went to the king knowing the danger
involved, but it was something that had to be done.
Rubin: I won’t deny that I’ve
thought of the danger, but just today I heard on the news that in Tzfas they are
worried because there aren’t enough secure shelters, in Yerushalayim there is
shooting, and in Tel Aviv they are afraid to go to the malls and ride on buses.
The same is true for Yaffo, Acco, Chadera, Natzeret, and Ramle... So where is it
safer? It’s clear to me that if we leave here, the Arab aggression will follow
us to the center of the country.
situation is difficult, and I don’t see the children and grandchildren enough
since I don’t allow them to come under the circumstances. But we try to be
strong and hope that Hashem will help us soon.
Nachshon: I have no other place! The
Rebbe gave me a bracha to live in this place. We’re living here
for seven years already. My husband works in yishuvei Har Chevron, so we
cannot get up and leave. The Rebbe gave us a special bracha to live here.
The situation is not an easy one. Traveling to Beitar is hard for my daughter.
Each time they go I have heart palpitations – about two hours a day. I tremble
because I’m afraid something will happen and I pray for them to travel in
peace. As soon as she comes home, my heart rate goes back to normal.
Ferber: This place is safe. I have no
doubt about it. We see the miracles taking place daily despite the Arabs’
efforts to attack us. Thank G-d, the damage is only to property.
are the children reacting to the situation?
Ettia: My daughter travels to school in
Beitar every day. They once threw stones at the bus and she came home a bit
shaken, but she continued going. We try to keep the children occupied so that
they think as little as possible about what’s going on.
Kirshenzaft: The children talk about it
and I speak to them. They dream about it and they play with guns. I’ll give
you an example of the thoughts passing through the head of a child in Gush Katif.
One of my children explained to his younger brother, "The Rebbe lives and
watches over us. Even if an Arab shoots, we’ll stay alive."
Rubin: At home in Alon Moreh, I have
two elementary school-age children. They were evacuating Kever Yosef,
helicopters were flying overhead all day and the winds of war blew. The children
spoke about it and even drew war pictures.
our efforts to keep things calm, the school also has activities to calm the
children. The children hardly ever leave the yishuv, but within the yishuv
they walk around securely.
children, of course, are big problems. I’m referring to the children who don’t
live at home and have to travel. At first, like everybody else, they were shaken
and afraid when they heard shooting. But with time they all mustered their
strength and realized they had no choice but to stand strong. We can’t give
in, so we are careful and go about our lives.
Nachshon: I constantly try to instill
in them the yearning for Moshiach. Whenever they hear the adults talking about
what’s going on, they come and ask, "Ima, Ima, what
happened?" I answer, "We are sad that Moshiach has still not come. We
must daven for him to come today and not wait any longer." Sometimes
they will respond with: "When is he coming already?" They know that
when he comes it will be a happy ending. My big girl travels to Beitar every day
to school. When she comes home, I ask her how the trip was. She answers, "Baruch
Hashem, they didn’t dare throw stones at us." She once told me,
"You know, they threw stones but it didn’t hurt us; it went back to
Ferber: When the shooting starts, the
children rush to the window to see bullets flying. One of the windows faces Beit
Jala. But we are not in the area where they are shooting.
daily life we see the effects of the situation. In pictures they draw, for
example, we see the army and the Arabs shooting. The colors are black and red.
My two-year-old daughter gets up in the middle of the night from the noise and
half-asleep she says, "The Arabs are shooting."
you experienced moments of crisis when you simply wanted to get up and leave?
Ettia: We know we have a shlichus,
so we try not to even think along those lines.
Kirshenzaft: I’ve never wanted to
leave, but there are plenty of difficult moments. It’s very hard to see my son’s
friend become an orphan, for example, but I never considered leaving. On the
contrary, we feel like one big family. We recently made a bris and our
family from outside the Gush were afraid to come. So the entire community
gathered instead of the brothers, brothers-in-law, and uncles. It’s the same
way with all the simchos; we’re one big family.
Rubin: It’s very hard for me to think
about not being here at this time. I’ve never felt like that. I’ve
always known that being here is important, but after everything that’s been
going on, I know why Hashem brought me here: simply to physically grab onto the
land. I hope that Hashem will give me strength in the future, too.
cannot say there are no crises, and that it isn’t hard for me here in
isolation from the rest of my family and friends, and it’s difficult coming
and going, but we hope the nightmare will end quickly.
Ferber: I’m actually surprised by the
question! On the contrary – welcome to Gilo! You’re all invited to come and
see how Hashem watches over us every day. It’s the safest place.
did you get the strength to deal with this and to stay?
Ettia: From Hashem.
Kirshenzaft: We see hashgacha pratis
every step of the way. I think a lot about how years ago they sent the Rebbe
the keys to the region. A key symbolizes the Rebbe’s ownership of the place.
The truth is that since then we have seen so many miracles. I don’t feel that
it’s any more dangerous here than any other place.
Rubin: It’s the daily Chumash
in Chitas that strengthens me. I’ve never "lived with the
times" as I do now. I read and learn about all the places, the promises and
tests the Avos had, and these days it is more relevant than ever.
Nachshon: From the Rebbe! When we see
the miracles that demonstrate that Hashem is watching over us as they shoot at
us non-stop yet we don’t get hurt – it’s very uplifting.
Ferber: I don’t need strength in
order to stay, and I don’t feel the need to leave! It is no challenge for me.
This is our shlichus. It’s just not an issue.
the Rebbe’s representatives to the areas in which you live, what messages and
activities do you focus on these days?
Ettia: We are continuing with our shlichus
of "spreading the wellsprings," encouraging the people living here as
much as possible. If people would come to perform, to dance, just simply to
encourage the residents here, we would be very grateful.
Kirshenzaft: We talk a lot about
increasing the saying of Tehillim and ahavas Yisroel. I
distributed lots of volumes of Chitas, which Anash helped us
provide. We are constantly strengthening and being strengthened, and thank G-d,
there’s fertile ground for our work.
Rubin: We are organizing new classes.
There are requests from surrounding yishuvim for programming. For
example, the other week Beis Rivka girls came and organized a variety of
activities, and now there are requests from yishuvim for them to come
again. One of the yishuvim wants us to arrange a Shabbaton hosted by a
tank that’s run by a resident of Yitzhar, Eliyahu Perjon – whom I consider a
hero – travels three times a week in the afternoon to every yishuv in
the area, providing activities for the children and Chassidic joy.
are getting ready for our Chanuka outreach to soldiers. This work is limited
because we travel less. But when we meet them we give them a printing of T’fillas
ha’derech, a Chitas, or a little gift. There’s a large military
base in the area where shluchim went on Sukkos, and they’re planning a
Chabad event near the base for Chanuka.
Nachshon: The message we convey to the
residents is that we have no one to rely on except our Father in Heaven.
mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah Nachshon, enters the lion’s den. She goes to Tel
Romeida and helps the women there. We increase Torah classes, encourage
additional prayer, and constantly instill the idea of "Only Moshiach"
and "HaPitron HaYachid" (The Only Solution – Moshiach).
wrote a letter to the head of the council for an armored vehicle to take my
daughter to school, and said explicitly that we have no one to rely on, and only
Moshiach will bring the solution. I work here at an ulpana and I talk
about Moshiach constantly. My husband says they’ll all become Lubavitchers!
They know me already and from a distance they shout, "Moshiach,
Ferber: We started a campaign called
"Chabad L’Maan Gilo." My children participated in preparing
the kits, which include Tehillim, explanatory material, a pushka,
buying a letter in a Torah, etc. We distribute these kits to the residents of
Gilo, and make house calls, especially to those homes damaged by the shooting.
There’s a huge military presence here with hundreds of soldiers, and the older
boys in the Talmud Torah Chabad put t’fillin on with them.
do you have to say to Chabad women in Eretz Yisroel and around the world?
Ettia: Stay in your shlichus and
make sure to disseminate as much Torah and Chassidus as you can, and know that
these are the final moments of Galus, the final birth pangs that come
before the birth of the Geula.
Kirshenzaft: I ask for only one thing
– achdus. I’m not asking for achdus in the government between
the Left and the Right. I am asking only for achdus among us. The world mirrors
what’s going on within Chabad, and when we are at peace, the world will
Rubin: I know it’s very difficult for
someone who is not in our situation to understand, but if not emotionally then
intellectually – increase your awareness of what’s going on. Do you know
where we are on the map? Learn and live with what the Rebbe said regarding shleimus
ha’Aretz. Take an interest and express your support.
Nachshon: It seems to me that N’shei
Chabad of Eretz Yisroel is asleep. They should start doing something for their
sisters and brothers on the front. I would like some empathy. Yes, I know there
are women who are with us emotionally, but I don’t hear about anything special
the women are doing in order to strengthen us and encourage us to keep going.
good thing you can do, whether by telephone or lectures and appearances, will be
happily accepted. Perhaps there are women who are afraid to come – there’s
enough for them to do without actually coming.
Ferber: I think this is the most
fitting time for the Rebbe’s hisgalus, when there is no government and
everything is falling apart. We see clearly that no other force is functioning
at this time. The kochi v’otzem yadi (the strength and power of my
hand) expressed by the I.D.F. has fizzled out. The army does nothing; its hands
are tied. Hashem watches over us. He shows us miracles and wonders on a daily
basis, the niflaos ha’Geula. All that remains is the full hisgalus
of the Geula and the redeemer, immediately.