"If You Will It, It Is No Dream"

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A display for the hostages in Israel.

Good morning.

I am writing this from Tel Aviv where I am with several members of the Greater Cleveland and Jewish Cleveland communities on Federation’s Humanitarian Mission for Business and Civic Leaders. We came to Israel together to see, hear, and begin to comprehend what happened on October 7, 2023, and what that means for Israel and the Jewish people.

When I returned from my last trip to Israel in February, I was struck by the difference in what is being discussed in the United States versus reality on the ground in Israel.

In Israel, there is deep pain, trauma, and isolation. There is an understanding that Israelis are still experiencing October 7 and cannot move past, for a multitude of different personal, communal, and national reasons.

In Cleveland, the discourse that had initially focused on solidarity with Israel, outrage, empathy for the victims and survivors, securing the return of the hostages, and addressing humanitarian needs started to shift to be replaced by politics.

The implications of this dissonance are devastating for the future of the Jewish people, which is why being in Israel right now is of critical importance. My plan was to write to you upon our return. But the first night of this mission was so dramatically different as we sat together in the lobby of our hotel in Tel Aviv throughout Iran’s attack – talking and texting with family, following the news closely – that I felt I should share some initial impressions with you.

First, I am incredibly grateful for the strength of partnership and alignment between Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, Jordan, and all others who assisted Israel in defending the people of Israel – and all of us – Saturday night. With Israel feeling increasingly isolated, this successful collaboration breathes hope and energy into many.

I have deep appreciation to those traveling with me on this humanitarian trip, as well as those who had just completed our Volunteers’ Mission when Iran attacked. These individuals are seeing, hearing, and feeling the pain and trauma that so many have misreported or misunderstood. Their presence in Israel is IMPORTANT beyond words.

The sustained resilience of the Israeli people is awe inspiring. “Nothing is fine” they say, and yet they continue to work so hard to repair and restore. This includes those who have suffered the most – the families of the murdered and kidnapped, as well as those who survived the brutality of October 7. Their kindness and hope for peace may feel lost, but their strength, perseverance, compassion for others hurting, and determination to make it to the day after remains intact.

Despite this strength, the people of Israel need us, and we especially need to help the children, as they are the future. We continue to hear how the Israeli children are “broken” by the direct personal impact that October 7 has had on them.

For example, we met a young teen from Netiv Asara yesterday, one of the thousands that have experienced deep personal loss and trauma. When we asked him what he thinks we should share with others, he said, “Nothing has been easy. I had to rebuild myself from scratch. My childhood has been a series of missile attacks. And each time you freeze and say this one will pass. But this one did not pass. October 7 actually happened. It’s actually a nightmare.”

We also need to bring home the 133 hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza to have any hope for the healing to begin. Our speaker today, Miriam Schler, executive director of the Sexual Assault Crisis Center said, “There is no oxygen left. They must be released.” A few days earlier, we met with hostage family members – Tal Shoham’s father and Oded Lifshitz’s granddaughter, who shared their stories. The families of hostages have NOT given up hope – and we cannot give up hope either. We must continue to pressure our elected officials to do everything in their power to bring ALL the hostages home.

Iran’s attack on Israel over the weekend was another reminder that October 7 was part of a broader conflict with Iran and its terrorist proxies. Saturday night was a reminder that when someone tells you who they are and what they intend to do to you – believe them.

So when Hamas says it hopes to repeat the atrocities of October 7 over and over again – believe them. No amount of niceties will change those who hate the Jewish people or the values of democracy.

Yesterday, a leader from Kibbutz Re’im shared her hope to return home, despite the uncertainty that lays ahead. Her vision for the future gives strength and determination to her family, her kibbutz, and all of us. אם תרצו אין זו אגדה

If you will it, it is no dream (Herzl).

Am Yisrael Chai,

Erika B. Rudin-Luria

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