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Federations National Solidarity Mission to Israel
Photo by Steven Shulman

Visiting injured soldiers in the hospital
Photo by Steven Shulman

Elaine Goldstine: Report on Solidarity Mission to Israel July 21-24, 2014 Reflections from the Mission.

by Elaine Golstine, August 3, 20114




I would like to begin this report by explaining why I went on this very important mission and then I will give you a firsthand account of the 3 day visit. When I was asked if I would like to participate in a Solidarity Mission to Israel I said “sure” without a second thought. As a senior staff person in the Winnipeg Jewish community and given my love for Israel I felt it was very important to show the citizens of Israel that we the Jewish community of Winnipeg care. How did I feel before going? On the one hand I was confident when I told people I was going. However there were people who said I was crazy! I have been on Solidarity missions before and I thought that it would be fine. I was admittedly nervous.



I have been fortunate enough to go to Israel 14 times but even with that experience this was a trip that I will never forget. How would I describe the experience? It was on the one hand an emotional roller coaster and on the other hand very inspiring. The people of Israel are very strong, positive and determined. Are they worried….. yes, but having spent four inspiring days with them I can tell you without any hesitation that they share a deep resolve to deal with this situation and nothing is going to stop them.




Day1. July 21, 2014

I arrived at my hotel room in Tel Aviv. The plane came in an hour late as the airport was closed for a short time due to rocket fire all over the country. During check-in I was given instructions on where the bomb shelters are and that, if necessary, I have approximately one minute to get to the shelter. This is the first time these instructions were given to me in all the years I have been coming to Israel.


We had dinner with the Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici. After thanking us for coming she began to describe the mood of the country. This war is like no other, there are hundreds of tunnels that were built by the terrorists. These tunnels are made of concrete and reinforced steel. To build these tunnels Hamas used aid monies that were intended for homes and schools and hospitals. Given the location of the rocket launchers and the tunnels there is a real dilemma for the IDF; they are worried about harming innocent people. She spoke about the unwavering support of the Canadian government. As a Jew she is very proud that she can represent and send the message of support from the Canadian government.



Yossi Tanuri Director General of UIA Canada talked to us about the mood of the country, and our support of the Israeli people and the government. He spoke about 7 Hamas terrorists who were caught as they emerged from a tunnel dressed as Israeli soldiers. Something did not seem right when they first appeared and the Israeli soldiers had a bad feeling so they called on their commander who advised them that the guns the “soldiers” were holding were Russian made. This fact made them realize that the "soldiers" were imposters and appropriate measures were taken to neutralize the situation which otherwise could have had disastrous and tragic results. He also told us that after consulting with the army they were allowing us to travel south the next day.




Day 2. July 22, 2014

We started our morning travels to Sderot. We had an armoured, bullet proof bus with an armed guard on board. Our guide told us that 28 soldiers had died the day before. It was a very sad day. He also mentioned to us that one of the soldiers who died was a lone soldier whose funeral was held at midnight and 20,000 people attended. A "lone soldier" is a soldier who has no family living in Israel. This particular soldier's family lives in Texas. Our group made a Shiva call. The family was so appreciative; the father broke down. They could not believe that we would come to their home to show our support. This was a very moving experience. Throughout the day we had meetings with the Mayors of Sderot and Beersheva. These meeting were held in bomb shelters. While we were meeting the alarms warning of rockets were heard. Everywhere we go as we get off bus the first thing we are told is where to go in case of a rocket attack.



The mayor of Sderot told us they received $5million from the last emergency campaign to “rocket proof” shelters and build a community centre. From funds received from the present campaign they have been able to send 10 buses of children to a community centre so they can hopefully have fun and experience a normal day. He mentioned people are not going to work because they are afraid to leave their children alone. Businesses are staying open as they are determined to NOT let Hamas win this war in any way shape or form. The mayor of Beer Sheva met with us. As Winnipeg is a “twinned” city I extended greetings from the City of Winnipeg. I expressed our support and concern. The Mayor was so touched that there was a representative from Winnipeg showing support.




 Day 3. July 23, 2014

Another emotional day. Mira Eisin spoke on the situation and also discussed some options. It seems that all of the speakers have a common theme and address the same issues. Even though the rockets being fired into Israel are an extremely dangerous and important issue to be dealt with the tunnels are most concerning. They do not appear to be able to detect the presence of the tunnels as precisely and accurately as they would want. The tunnels begin in Gaza at a school, a hospital or someone’s home. The tunnels do not have an end as they do not “tunnel up to the surface until they are ready to strike and this also makes detection difficult. They are worried that Hamas will tunnel into a kibbutz, dining hall, community centre or school and unleash their murderous ways on innocent civilians. Our first stop Wednesday morning was Barzilia Medical Centre in Ashkelon. After learning about the hospital we were informed that half the patients were released from hospital earlier than normal because there were not enough safe rooms in the hospital. They took us to bomb shelters and in one of them. There was a makeshift neonatal nursery with three sets of premature twins who were being cared for in this makeshift facility. We then visited soldiers in the hospital. There were people everywhere and the soldiers really appreciated the visit. They were honoured that we came to Israel and visited them. They expressed the fervent desire to go back to the front to help their fellow soldiers. While at the hospital we had to go to the shelter twice. During those attacks the building shook.



We visited a Yeshiva that is housing a lot of the soldiers in the area. The Rabbi spoke of how comforting it was to the soldiers to have someone to speak to when they had a few minutes to rest. They are doing such a mitzvah. We travelled to Ashdod to see the Iron Dome facility. We were told about the work that is done and the other radar equipment that is produced. While we were there the sirens rang twice. Iron Dome has been effective approximately 90% of the time. There is a misconception that Iron Dome eliminates the rockets completely but in fact it blows up the rocket and shrapnel from that explosion falls to the ground so people can still be injured from the falling shrapnel. Last stop, we visited a family of 4 with another child on the way. They wanted to tell their story. A week ago Thursday the sirens rang and they went to their safe room. The rocket was knocked down by Iron Dome but the shrapnel landed in their living room. We visited this family because they have been recipients of your emergency campaign dollars that were given to them by the Jewish Agency.



As we were walking to the bus the sirens went off again. This time we were outside. We had 30 seconds to get to the shelter. It was really scary.



In BeerSheva and Sderot they have 15-30 seconds to get to the shelter. In Tel Aviv they have 1 minute.



David Weinberg from CIJA spoke to us. We spoke about what CIJA does and there were stories of what they do in in Israel. Finally found out Air France will not be flying to or from Israel but made arrangements with El Al. Again we have to be thankful and as well ensure that the Jewish people will always be able to access the necessary resources when others are walking away.



There were people from Calgary, Winnipeg (me) Toronto and Montreal. There were 2 fathers whose sons are in the army. Jack Frieberg finally heard from his son today- our guide surprised him and made arrangements for Jack to go to the base to visit him….it was very special and very touching.

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