Features Archive

“Team Achdut” and Operation Protective Edge.

A Dream Becomes Reality

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Summer vacation – anyone who works in the field of education relies on it to recharge the batteries and to prepare for the upcoming year. This past summer in Israel, vacation and recharging were certainly not to be had as all Israelis had to cope with sirens and middle of the night trips to protected rooms. Mrs. Sharon Isaacson, Assistant Director of MMY, spent her vacation creating a new project in the Bet Shemesh area. The MMYers in the class of 5774 were very much aware of the tensions that took place in recent months in Bet Shemesh as, throughout the contentious election year, the issues at hand were discussed in Mrs. Isaacson's various classes. In an effort to raise the level of awareness towards a goal of unity, Mrs. Isaacson had created a group of students she nicknamed “Team Achdut”.The following is the email Mrs. Isaacson sent out at the beginning of the war, explaining how “Team Achdut” was being called into action and expanding its reach. The amazing results speak for themselves!

Last Shabbat, I was sitting with my family and thinking about one of our alumnae and how difficult it must be for her that her husband had been called into the army. That brought me to thinking a lot about all of the Israeli women and how they have to exercise so much mesirut nefesh when their husbands are called to combat. I was all of a sudden struck with a "unity idea" that I shared with my family and we hashed out together: "Wouldn't it be nice if I could get chareidi women throughout Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh to reach out and show support/offer appreciation to these "Neshei Chayil", whether they are chiloni, dati leumi or chareidi? Wouldn't it be beautiful if rebbetzins from the mainstream chareidi world would knock on the door of a mesorati family and bring them a home-baked cake and tell them how much they appreciate their mesirut nefesh? What a tikkun this could be for all the fighting and bad words that took place in Bet Shemesh during the year! What a tikkun it could be for the feeling that is out there that Chareidim degraded the army and didn't appreciate army service..."

We then brainstormed: "How in the world do I get a list of families all over Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh whose husbands have been called into combat? Will the chareidi women really want to do this? Etc..." All Shabbat I was pumped up and ready to find a way to make this happen.

Of course, as Sunday came, I heard a little voice inside of me saying: "It’s not so realistic... It's not my personality... I'm shy... I'll start working on this another day..." Then Esti (my married daughter) called me on the phone and I talked through the idea with her. She thought it was a great idea and was really encouraging. She urged me to make a few phone calls to find soldiers' families, and even gave me some leads. When we got off the phone, she said to me, "I'm calling you in an hour to make sure you made phone calls."  Her encouragement pushed me to start small, by just making a few phone calls to find some families of soldiers.

I spent a few days just calling and emailing. I sent an email to a forum of dati leumi rabbis in Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh explaining to them what I want to do and asking them for help in generating a list. I spoke to the head of the community center, a social worker, friends, etc. Slowly, a list was generated: A woman after birth with other small kids, a woman with 5 little kids under the age of 7, etc., all alone while their husbands are stationed by Gaza. On Wednesday, I started networking in the chareidi world and received an overwhelming response. So many women wanted to help and support. I paired up each soldier family with a chareidi volunteer who visited them with a home baked cake and offered words of appreciation and support. Then we offered each of these families home cooked meals, babysitting services, driving, shopping, etc. (offered by other chareidi volunteers). 

The results are BH so inspiring!! The families have been very touched. One family that we visited, a mother who has two sons down in Gaza, burst out crying when she saw a sweet chareidi family come to the door with a cake and warm words. They continued to have a beautiful conversation together. Another volunteer told me that the woman that she is paired up with told her that she has been in an uplifted mood all day because of her visit and that she feels she was able to share her feelings with her in a way that she wasn't even able to share with her mother. Another mother shared with the volunteer that she really isn't managing emotionally, she is taking valiums, and she really needs help!! That day I was able to find a therapist (actually several people offered) who volunteered her professional counseling services for this woman. Mi K'Amcha Yisrael!! 

This is my favorite part: Part of my list was a whole bunch of mothers from the Scheinfeld area of Bet Shemesh whose sons were down by Gaza. I figured that rather than me send women from my area in Ramat Bet Shemesh, wouldn't it be great if somehow I can get women from Ramat Bet Shemesh bet (the area near them, a VERY chareidi neighborhood) to show support to them? (Just to remind you, the seam between Ramat Bet Shemesh bet and Bet Shemesh was where a lot of hostilities have taken place in the past couple of years. That was where the tensions were most heated as some, who called themselves chareidi, took it upon themselves to harass dati leumi girls on the way to school...) I asked around to try to get a name of a contact person from that area, since I literally know no one there. 

Someone gave me the cellphone number of a woman named Yehudis. WOW, is she incredible! This is a yiddish speaking chassidishe woman from Ramat Bet Shemesh bet area who formed a group with other chassidishe woman called "Ayin Tova." They get together regularly and figure out ways to see everyone in klal yisrael with a good eye.  When I told her about my project, she told me that she would love to be involved and she suggested that she take the list of names of families in Scheinfeld, and that she and her friends are going to contact each one and get their sons name and tell them that they, a group of women from Ramat Bet Shemesh bet, are davening for their sons. Each one of them "adopted" a different soldier, and is focusing her tefillot on that soldier. They also baked cakes and kugels for the soldiers.

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I told Yehudis that their tefillot for the soldiers are so meaningful and such a tikkun for what has taken place in Bet Shemesh in the past. This woman is motivated to do whatever she can to show that her friends care and love the soldiers, that we are all part of one nation. We actually had a lot of deep conversations, and we called each other about different ideas throughout Thursday. She told me that she and her friends don't have internet, radio or newspapers, so they don't know exactly all the details of what's going on with the war, so I gave her a rundown of a lot of what's happening. I was on such a high from these conversations with her. When I heard that the troops went in for the ground operation on Thursday at 11 pm, the first thing that I did, after texting my son, was call Yehudis! I told her about the ground operation (since who knows when she would have heard about that), and told her that now their tefillot for the soldiers are so much more important!  She was so appreciative of the call!

May Hashem see all the chesed, unity, and love amongst klal yisrael, and may He hear all of our tefillot to keep us safe and bring home all of our boys safely very soon. May we merit the full Geula speedily soon!

We are all very proud of what Mrs. Isaacson was able to create in one short summer in Bet Shemesh. In addition to home visits, a summer camp for children of soldiers, run completely by volunteers, was also run. Even though the war has come to an end, the Team Achdut project will hopefully continue and raise the level of unity in Am Yisrael even in times of peace. Kol Hakavod!