Heroes in the land

We can all do our part, here and abroad.

reserve soldiers298 88aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
reserve soldiers298 88aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In 1931 the famous Israeli poet Rahel Bluestein died of tuberculosis at the age of 41. Having made aliya in 1909, she dreamed of farming the fields of Eretz Yisrael and helping bring about the renaissance of the Jewish national home. Tragically she contracted the deadly disease and was quarantined in a little room in Tel Aviv for the last seven years of her life. It was there that she wrote her most touching and beautiful poems, filled with words that would inspire generations to come. In one of her most famous poems, "To My Land" she apologized for not being able to take a rifle in hand and go out and defend her people and homeland. She wrote, I have not sung to you, my land, Nor have I glorified your name Through deeds of heroism With the spoils of war. Only a tree have my hands planted Along the quiet shores of the Jordan. Rahel, of course, did not need to apologize to her land. Though she could not carry a rifle, she proved to be no less of a Jewish hero than the bravest fighters - by planting trees and bringing a barren Eretz Yisrael back to life after 2,000 years, and of course by touching the hearts of countless Jews with her inspiring Hebrew poetry. Today, while the courageous young sons and daughters of Israel in the uniforms of the IDF fight our enemies in Lebanon and Gaza, there are other heroes, civilians like Rahel who also deserve kudos. I WORK as a Jewish educator at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. Four weeks ago a group of 26 students from Orange County arrived on our campus and began touring with us. When Hizbullah launched this war and Israel's northern towns from Haifa to Metulla came under murderous rocket fire, our students and their families faced a tough dilemma. We could not tour north of Tel Aviv and the media reported that even Tel Aviv was in range of Hizbullah's Iranian missiles. We adjusted its program and built a revised itinerary in the safe areas like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Eilat and the Negev. Though we feared the group might go home early, the courageous students and their parents showed their support for Israel and trust in us by staying on. They are still here and I believe they and all their wonderful parents deserve our heartfelt appreciation. This week the students spent a day doing gemilut hasadim (acts of lovingkindness) and tikkun olam (repairing the world): They spent the morning visiting needy elderly in Jerusalem at the Lifeline for the Aged center, and the afternoon picking vegetables under the hot Mediterranean sun for a food kitchen for the poverty-stricken in Israel. At the end of the day they donated over $300 and bought gift packages for our combat soldiers. The letters of support they put in the packages began with the words, "To our heroes." Along with the brave IDF soldiers, these students and their parents back in America have also become my heroes! THERE ARE many other stories of heroism on the home front here. Ruth Ben Meir made aliya 25 years ago from Waltham, Massachusetts. She is divorced with four children, two of whom are now in the IDF. Ruth has a full-time job in addition to raising her four kids on her own - no mean feat in the best of times. Last week, during the constant barrages of missiles, Ruth decided not just to empathize but to do something. She answered a newspaper ad asking for volunteers to house families from the North. Now Yael and Dana, a single mother and her three-year-old daughter from Kiryat Bialik, are living with Ruth's family, safe from the murderous Hizbullah rockets. Where else in the world are there people like Ruth Ben Meir, who would open their homes to complete strangers? Thousands of other Israelis have also opened their hearts to their fellow Israelis from the North. These generous hosts are no less heroes than their sons and daughters now fighting in Lebanon. When my students heard about Ruth's kindly deed, they were so touched they decided to do something for little Dana too. The kids chipped in and bought her a doll and a doll house. This week I brought the gifts to the little girl, and when she opened the wrapping and saw the contents her eyes lit up and she excitedly exclaimed, "wow!" Yael, seeing the joy in her young daughter's eyes, broke into unrestrained tears of gratitude. Just days earlier those same eyes were filled with fear at every missile explosion; now they glowed with happiness and love thanks to the kindness of heroes like Ruth Ben Meir and a group of wonderful students from Orange County. May their actions inspire us all to translate our empathy into doing all we can for the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Like Rahel the poet, our words and deeds will resonate for eternity. The writer is an educator at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel (www.amiie.org) and resides in Hod Hasharon.