kiryat shmona volunteer .
(photo credit: Dan Izenberg)
This is a first-hand report from a Jerusalem-based director of the volunteer group Livnot U'Lehibanot, who has been helping with the group's volunteer effort in Safed and has a son of his own fighting in Lebanon.
"Twenty more food packages," yells David, the foreman for Livnot U'Lehibanot volunteers, to the people sitting in the dining hall. Within 10 minutes the packages are ready.
Asher, a volunteer from Rehovot who came with his car, takes a crew of volunteers to the homes of a new list of Safed residents received from the city emergency services headquarters. The count of families helped today is up to 130.
Our day had started with a visit to the Safed Home Front Command army officers, who allocated another 11 bomb shelters to Livnot. (This is after Livnot made 18 bomb shelters habitable last week). Later, the city engineer asked us to clear out the rubble from the girls' school which taken a direct hit and whose top floor might need to be taken apart altogether.
Twelve crews of volunteers visited close to 130 people, including 100 elderly. The elderly, whose caretakers left them alone, have no one from the municipality to care for them. Upon returning for lunch, the volunteers reported that they had bathed people, cleaned their homes, taken them to the doctor, picked up their medicine, joined them for a dialysis treatment and did their shopping.
One lady had spent the morning attempting to open her bottle of eye-drops. Another needed to talk about her fears when the siren went off, and the feeling of helplessness she had when hearing the rocket explosions.
After dinner, we called the officer in charge of the wounded soldiers in the hospital, and proceeded to make care-packages for the soldiers. Thirteen volunteers went to the hospital. "Don't put socks in the packages," instructed the officer, "because one of the soldiers lost a leg, and the matter might be sensitive."
Tamir, a Nahal solder who hails from Beersheba, gave our volunteers a first-hand report from the front. "They fired a missile into the door," he reported, "and then four Hizbullah fighters tried to get into the house we occupied to kill someone and kidnap a body or a live soldier. It was the quality of our men and their determination to win the battle that made the difference. I finished all nine magazines and all my hand grenades on them, while I was already wounded. We killed all of them, and as soon as I'm better, I would like to go back to my chevre" - his IDF colleagues.
Tamir told us,"Kol Hakavod to you all for coming to visit us at this time." For us, it was a true lesson in humbleness. Here is a boy who put his life on the line, thanking us for coming to visit.
As I've been writing over the past hour, the siren has sounded six times and we've heard at least 30 Katyushas falling in the Safed area. But in general life goes on. We take shelter behind a thick wall or in the downstairs room, and as soon as it is over we get on with our missions... until the next siren.
Yesterday, when we heard that my own son, Matan, was coming out of Lebanon for a few days, regrouping and stocking up, we bought a mountain of pizzas, a whole bunch of snacks, fruit and cold drinks and made our way to the border community of Shtula to meet his unit. The soldiers seemed well-rested and fed, and were cracking jokes about Hizbullah.
When the loudspeakers called for everyone to take shelter, the soldiers did not even bother to leave the shaded area, and the only reminder that we are at war was the big boom that sounded outside my car on the way in. It was so loud that my left hand, resting on the car door, was sent flying from the reverberations.
"My soldiers are the best in the entire army," the baby-faced Captain Itamar, commander of my son's paratroop unit, said to me. "Although we lost one of our officers a few days ago, our spirits are very high and we are ready to go in and do the job."
"I trust you," I told him as I gave him a big hug, "that you will do all you can to look after my son and the other soldiers."
I also told him I was bringing him blessings from the entire people of Israel, including our brothers and sisters overseas, adding: "Those snacks and pizzas are sponsored by them."
I told the soldiers about the phone calls I have been getting every day from our friends from America. These friends are planning to come in the next few weeks, and help Livnot with our war effort.
As we were leaving we saw some of the soldiers covering their faces with camouflage paint, readying for the next mission.
The writer is director of community service volunteers for Livnot U'Lehibanot in Jerusalem.