Reflections on My Mission to Israel

Recently, I returned from my mission to Israel. I was scared to go there. Not because it’s a country at war, but because I was afraid it wouldn’t be the Israel that I know and love. As we landed, the pilot announced, “Welcome home,” said a prayer for the Israel Defense Forces, and for better days ahead.

The mood on the ground was a mix of somber, angry, but also lively. When I was in Tel Aviv, I woke up early to walk on the beach and it was full of joggers — but noticeably absent were young adults playing volleyball, a hallmark of the waterfront. They are, of course, serving in the army and the reserves. At every turn there is a reminder of what’s at stake, and the price Israel pays to protect her sovereignty. Still, the bars and restaurants are active as everyone — five months in, is finding ways to normalize living in wartime.

Meeting with hostage families was heartbreaking. Mothers, brothers, cousins, friends, have put their lives on hold to keep hope alive and the world responsible for their immediate and unconditional release. You may have seen some of the images of hostages on TV like Noa Argamani, screaming for help, trapped between two terrorists who speed off with her on a motorbike. She is an only child, and her mother is dying of brain cancer, so her best friend fights for her. We met Omer Shem Tov’s mother who has been camping out in a tent at Hostage Square since her son was kidnapped at the Nova Music Festival. Kidnapped and Missing posters hang from every street corner and building. 19 of the remaining hostages are women. It is almost unbelievable.

Almost unbelievable, except we are witness to these atrocities. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on this part of our work, the requirement to bear witness. It is truly a sacred task. And, not easy. We visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza and the Nova music festival site in the south.

Bullet holes and burned homes, evidence of everyday life and what was stolen: shoes, a toaster, a swing set, open bottles of wine, everything frozen in time on 10/7.

Israel isn’t the same, it is broken in so many ways; and, still, there is no place that I’d rather be. I am so glad that I went; it was one of the most meaningful trips. I was tremendously inspired by the resilient and courageous leaders we met with, including a forum with our grantees. Barak Loozon, Ester Biro, and Lia Kazaz — all from our Israel office — are doing heroic work on behalf of all of us. May G-d protect them, and all who fight for Israel, and keep them safe and in our hearts.

We understand the importance of staying connected and informed. Explore our Israel and Community Crisis Resource hub for security, donations, advocacy, events, and more information.

Categories: Israel, Jewish Community


March 14, 2024


Joy Sisisky