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Rabbi's Commentary

Traveling to a Nation Under Attack

You can follow Rabbi Eckstein’s trip to Israel’s war-torn southern border by visiting his Facebook page.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein

July 23, 2014

Dear Friend of Israel,

I just returned to Israel from the U.S. on the last scheduled flight prior to the U.S. ban on flights to Israel took effect.

On the flight, as my country endures yet another attack, I could not help but think of how the Jewish state has been forced to fight for its survival since her founding, and of all that the Jewish people have endured throughout history. Sitting there, looking into the darkness outside, I thought: How might history have been different if those Jews many years ago had their own state — a state where they had the gifts of self-governance and self-determination, where they could practice their faith openly, free from fear of anti-Semitic attacks?

That state exists now, of course: Israel. But today, Israel is under relentless attack. More than 2,000 terrorist rockets have been fired at her since July 7. Millions still live in fear of hearing a code red siren signaling an incoming rocket. As of today, the ban on U.S. flights to Israel, which was originally scheduled to last for 24 hours, has been extended an additional 24 hours due to continued rocket fire from Gaza that has landed near Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

And, most heartbreakingly, 32 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s defensive military action against Gaza terrorists. One of these, we found out earlier this week, had a close connection to The Fellowship. Staff Sergeant Jordan Bensemhoun , 22, was a lone soldier from France who lived in Ashkelon. He was a graduate of our Fellowship-funded military preparation program that assists at-risk young men and women who will soon be entering the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). We extend our deepest sympathies to his loved ones, and indeed to all the loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate price defending the country they love. These soldiers are the pride of Israel, and the entire nation grieves their loss.

Tomorrow, I will again travel to embattled southern Israel, assessing the needs of the people there and bringing a message of hope and solidarity to those who have suffered so much. I will meet with mayors and other officials; visit the homes of elderly who have been provided a critical lifeline through daily deliveries of food and other assistance from The Fellowship; visit a Fellowship-funded hospital where I will speak to IDF soldiers wounded in the terrible battles that have taken place since the launch of Operation Protective Edge.

As I travel, I will take you, my faithful Fellowship friends, with me. Every day — and especially now, during a time of crisis that is among the worst Israel has ever seen — I give thanks for your dedicated, unfailing support of Israel and her people. I ask you to continue to pray for the security of the Jewish state, for the brave men and women of the IDF, and for the loved ones of the 32 Israeli soldiers who have been killed thus far defending their country. And please pray that my trip will be successful, and that Israel will know that she is never alone — she has faithful friends standing by her.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President