Mishloah manot for Sderot

For many looking to show support for Sderot residents, Purim has presented the perfect opportunity.

hamantaschen 88 (photo credit: )
hamantaschen 88
(photo credit: )
The difficult situation of the residents of Sderot and surrounding areas hasn't left Israelis indifferent. In Jerusalem alone, dozens of initiatives, whether private, public, large or small, have taken shape to express solidarity with the Kassam-beleaguered development town. For many looking to show support for Sderot residents, Purim has presented the perfect opportunity. One such Purim-inspired initiative was organized by Hayerushalmim (The Jerusalemites), an ad-hoc volunteer group of 20- and 30-somethings that works on behalf of the capital's youth. Starting at 7 this morning, Jerusalemites are leaving for Sderot to celebrate Purim there. "Like everyone else in the country, we were thinking about what we could do to help the people of Sderot," says co-founder Efrat Behar, a student at the Hebrew University and a waitress in a downtown restaurant. "We thought that we had to find a way to send a message to the people [of Sderot], and especially the children there, that they are not alone, that this country is one and united," says Behar. "It is unbelievable how easy it was to get more people to help. In fact, we spend many hours on the phone responding to dozens of [Jerusalem] residents who call us to propose their help. It's incredible and it is so heart-warming," she says. Behar, who formed the group two months ago with two of her acquaintances, Kfir Netanel and Hila Asher, says that their "love of Jerusalem" is what unites the group. After brainstorming ideas for what they could do to help Sderot, the group decided to focus first on Purim. "Since it is a happy occasion, we thought what could be better than to organize a real Purim festival for the children of Sderot and their parents," recalls Behar. The call was sent, says Behar, and the response was massive: "Everything is done on a volunteer basis - the costumes, the flyers, the mishloah manot, the presents, the clowns, the jugglers, the storytellers, the musicians - a long list of performers who will take to the road this Friday and bring some joy and solidarity to Sderot." Behar says that she was not really surprised by the response from Jerusalemites. "Jerusalemites are special people," she says. "We love this city and we want to do things to make it an even better place for us to live in. We want to see here more community life, more activities. We have the strength to show our sympathy to others who are now going through hard times, like those in Sderot," concludes Behar, as she hurries to answer another phone call from a prospective volunteer. The group, which includes a core of 40 people, gathers more participants every day. At the beginning of the week, hundreds were expected to join the convoy this morning to Sderot, where participants will put on a Purim carnival and read the Megila. Expressions of solidarity for Sderot have also come from Kikar Safra. Earlier this week, the municipality sent Sderot's residents mishloah manot and presents along with a delegation from the municipal Youth and Social Department, which organized a Purim party in the center of Sderot, with young dance, music and theater performers from Jerusalem. "We met youth from Sderot who took part in the event which we ran with lots of sympathy for them as they are going through a very hard time," recall event organizers Yoram Braverman and Benny Katz. Also in Monday's convoy were volunteers from the Civil Guard and the National Parents Association, who came along to cheer up the people of Sderot, says Braverman, adding that the municipality is ready to continue solidarity initiatives as long as needed. On Wednesday, the Education Department also jumped on the solidarity bandwagon: Some 4,000 mishloah manot, prepared by kindergartens all over Jerusalem, were distributed to the children of Sderot. The large-scale initiative was the brainchild of Ruthi Gispan, a kindergarten teacher in Ramot Eshkol, who has made it an annual tradition to send mishloah manot prepared by her class to various organizations in the capital. This year, however, she wanted to spotlight Sderot. After consulting Education Department head Dvora Givati, Gispan soon found herself at the head of a citywide initiative. The baked goods convoy was delivered to Sderot in a specially decorated truck on Wednesday, with a blessing from Mayor Uri Lupolianski in each basket that read: "With love from the children of Jerusalem to the children of Sderot." "We are not replacing the state, but people have to show solidarity with deeds," says a municipal Youth and Social Department employee, who joined Monday's convoy to Sderot. "It's not enough to feel sorry for them [Sderot residents] while we watch them [on TV] running from the Kassams," he continues. "We have to do something because the worst is to feel that you are alone in this horrible situation. We've [experienced terrorism] in Jerusalem, we know the feeling." Buses will leave from Teddy Stadium at 7 a.m. and from Binyenei Ha'uma at 7:30 a.m. Arrival in Sderot is scheduled for 9 a.m. Activities in Sderot, including Megila reading, will take place until 1 p.m. Efrat Behar can be reached at: 050-966-0019.