Photo Credit: David Cohen / Flash 90
Israeli children and firefighters participate in a drill that simulates a fire in a kindergarten following a rocket that lands in the northern Israeli town of Amuka, April 2, 2024.

While the war continues, for many in our communities, just getting through each day has been an act of heroism.

This war has exacted an immense toll, both psychological and logistical, on the home front here in Israel. With hundreds of thousands of reserve soldiers called up for operational duty over the last several months, entire communities have been turned upside down as families adapted to the absence of husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters.


In the face of these overwhelming challenges, ordinary people have stepped up as extraordinary heroes to keep our society functioning. These are the unsung heroes who may not make international headlines, but whose selflessness and perseverance ensure our resilience in the toughest of times. They are the heroes our children so desperately need.

Look no further than our teachers, who “soldiered” on to provide a nurturing environment and daily routines for our children despite the chaos and concern for loved ones on the frontlines. When children from border communities ended up being thrown into classes in whatever town they were taking refuge in, teachers bent over backward to make these students feel welcome and part of the class, without missing a beat. In my child’s school in Efrat we had several of these families at the beginning of the war, most have returned home, but there are plenty of places where the students from border towns are still part of school systems that they were not enrolled in prior to the war. School principals, afternoon daycare providers, and teachers became second parents, offering reassurance and stability to these students, and to all the others when it was needed most. I recall several times that air raid sirens sounded during school hours with students in class or at recess. The teachers were forced to explain what was happening to dozens of frightened children across the country. More recently, teachers had the difficult task of explaining the difference between air raid sirens, and memorial sirens for Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron so that the students wouldn’t worry when those annual sirens sounded. Throughout it all, the teachers and principals instilled a sense of pride in our children for the soldiers who were away fighting the war, supporting those children who have parents in the thick of the conflict.

Then there are the ‘milu-Immas’ – a new term coined for the wives of reservists. These everyday heroes of the homestead were suddenly turned into single parents overnight. These modern-day Devorahs took on all household responsibilities while grappling with the severe anxiety of having their partners in harm’s way. With whatever grace they could, they supported their spouse in the military, kept their homes running, and their children fed, and still found the strength to somehow support one another through the most difficult months that our country ever faced. I recall an initiative that took place in Efrat, in which women in the community took it upon themselves to cook for other women whose spouses were in the army. They cooked daily meals for each other, when they had the strength to do so, they cooked for their friends, and the favor was later returned. Those women, and some men as well, who didn’t have enlisted spouses enlisted, cooked even more and made sure that every family with even one spouse in the IDF received a warm meal every Shabbat, and some, every day. Efrat was not unique in this. These things happened in many towns and cities across the country. The strength of these Milu-Immas is an inspiration to us all.

In every community, chessed heroes emerged – volunteers who cooked meals, ran errands, and lent emotional support to families impacted by the fighting. They opened their homes, gave of their time, and embodied the Jewish value of communal responsibility.

We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the rescuers – the paramedics, police officers, and firefighters who risked their lives to protect us. Many dropped everything when called to reserve duty, only to return to their life-saving work during short reprieves without even taking any of the downtime for themselves. Their dedication knows no bounds.

Across Israel, social workers and therapists became the salve for wounded psyches, counseling those traumatized by rocket fire, anxiety over absent loved ones, and the haunting echoes of war. These are very real stressors that have affected every person in the country in some way or another. I myself know several couples who divorced as a result of the stress from the war, while other people have attempted, or committed suicide. The social workers and therapists who are helping us process the unimaginable with patience and care while taking on even more psychological stress themselves are doing the work of God.

Shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and service providers became the givers, offering discounts and freebies to those enduring economic hardship from the conflict. Their acts of kindness reminded us of the inherent goodness of people in the darkest of times.

And in temporary housing from the north to the south, refugees from the most intense fighting are persevering with grit and hope for a return to their homes and lives. Some are facing inordinate financial strain and burdens that were thrust upon them by the conflict and are no fault of their own. They are each struggling to deal with the fallout, and those assisting them are true angels. Some organizations have rallied around them, and some individuals, many of whom fall into categories that I have outlined above. These are true examples of the Jewish principle of loving one’s neighbor like yourself – ve’ahavta l’reacha kmoacha.

To all of these heroes among us – you showed us all that even in the darkest of times, there are points of light. You were beacons of courage, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to the resilience of the Jewish people, and you are the heroes who our children need. You are not talked about in the media that is overrun by the politicos, many of whom have failed us and continue to fail us. You are the glue that holds this country, and each and every community in it together.

You may not have been the ones to fight the enemy face-to-face. But in your own ways, you waged the battle for hope, unity, and the perpetuation of a just society worth fighting for. You supported our troops both in action and in attitude and gave them not only what to fight for, but what to come home to. You are the real reason that Israel is the fifth happiest country in the world, in spite of the war.

Don’t doubt for a second that our children witnessed your heroism firsthand. They did. And while there may be more Purim costumes of soldiers next year than of social workers or milu-Immas, nevertheless you deserve every accolade that can be thrust upon you. Through your actions, you taught our children the most invaluable lesson – that we can overcome any obstacle through faith in each other and the power of our values.

You were the heroes we all needed. Your examples will forever inspire us to meet the challenges of today, tomorrow, and every day after that with the same ferocity of purpose that you have displayed for the past seven months. To each of you, I, and I’m sure the entire nation, says thank you.

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Raphael Poch works as the Senior PR and Marketing Manager at Aish, is a freelance journalist, volunteers as an EMT and lives with his family in Efrat.