Photo Credit: Flash90

I am among those who have chosen – are compelled, more accurately, on pain of breakdown – to completely shut out media coverage of the war. Like someone with a life-threatening allergy, I don’t watch it, read it or listen to it unless I have been assured that it’s safe to consume.

There is no escaping the reality, however. We heard the sirens alerting us to rockets over Jerusalem and the booms that followed (after a week’s lull, they started up again this afternoon); we’ve grown accustomed to the rumble of warplanes. The switch from normal to abnormal colors every activity, routine, and interaction. Still, we are so fortunate compared to the unspeakable horrors that other Israelis, including entire communities, have suffered.


Everyone has a husband/son/brother/nephew/cousin who has been called up, and ten days in, already everyone knows of someone who won’t be coming home. The worry for my own loved ones in uniform is like a heavy knapsack I can’t take off. And no matter how careful I am to look away or close my ears to “The News,” the painful updates seep through.

Yet the same platforms that bear difficult tidings have birthed something amazing: non-stop, multifarious, fast and furious chesed everywhere you turn. For our chayalim; for their wives and children; for families evacuated from the South and relocated to hotels and apartments elsewhere, many here in Jerusalem; for elderly people alone at home; for grieving families; for kids with special needs…

Everyone is buying and collecting necessities for soldiers – underwear and socks, toiletries, head-torches, duct tape, pocket knives, batteries, fleeces and blankets, rain slickers, bandages and tourniquets, and so much more. Baby wipes are another essential, as a crude replacement for showers. (You might be surprised to learn that the army does not kit out soldiers with all they need. In addition, the massive call-up of troops has led to shortages of critical army-issue gear such as helmets and protective vests. Finally, many soldiers were called up in a hurry on Simchat Torah morning and left with no time to even change their shoes.) Some have prepared homemade challahs and baked goods; others have bought energy-rich snacks for our superheroes. Everything is being ferried regularly by volunteer drivers from ad-hoc collection points in each neighborhood to army bases across the country.

Displaced families who had to flee with no time to pack, some whose homes have been partly or completely destroyed, are being furnished with clothing and toys and baby gear and whatever else they need. Daily, volunteers respond to calls to entertain the kids at hotels housing these families. Others have joined an initiative to check in on our ezrachim vatikim (senior citizens), usually by phone but sometimes in person. Programs for special-needs kids rarely shut their doors, but this time they did – and volunteers stepped up to fill the gap and help out struggling parents, some of whom are on their own since their husbands have been called up. At blood donation sites, the waits are hours long due to overwhelming turnout.

The need is endless, and so is the response. A few of the day’s messages from WhatsApp groups coordinating chesed requests: volunteers to make soup for an impromptu engagement party being held at a nearby hotel housing evacuees from the South; volunteers to provide decorations, gifts, sweets, a photography services and more for a bat mitzvah party for a girl from the South; volunteers to sort clothing at a drop-off point and deliver items to families staying at a local hotel; donations of modest bathing suits so families can use the hotel pools; volunteers to tie tzitzit strings on hundreds of army-green pairs (underwritten by donors) under the auspices of a local yeshiva; someone driving to the North to bring a solider on a base there his tefillin.

Some have marshaled their particular talents to reach out to others. My niece, a newlywed whose husband was called up on Simchat Torah, has been offering free Pilates classes on Zoom geared to different age groups of women to help them de-stress. A neighbor of my sister’s, a doula, is offering free care to pregnant women who need help managing their stress. Teens are boosting morale by making banners and hanging them near intersections – “Am Yisrael Chai!” – and handing out free clip-on flags for cars that you normally only see at Yom HaAtzma’ut time. Kids (and adults) are making cards and writing notes of chizuk and appreciation for our chayalim.

I am not suggesting that the powerhouse of chesed which has taken the country by storm is driven by a desire for distraction from the pain and worry. This is ahavat Yisrael in action, plain and simple. Yet the benefit attaches nonetheless: Instead of signing ourselves away to becoming secondary victims of the atrocities and passing the harm down to our children, who are already processing so much, we try to find something positive to do together.

If you are looking for ways to help instead of – or in addition to – contributing to worthy organizations on the ground, ask your family and friends in Israel if you can subsidize their participation in the national chesed machine. You’ll not only be partnering to help the ultimate recipients, you’ll be empowering your loved ones to “sur may’ra v’asei tov,” to turn away from soul-crushing images of evil and do a bit of good.

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Ziona Greenwald, a contributing editor to The Jewish Press, is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two children's books, “Kalman's Big Questions” and “Tzippi Inside/Out.” She lives with her family in Jerusalem.