From Israel: “The Very Beautiful People of Israel!!”

My friends, I attempt to provide accurate information regarding the war, insofar as this is possible.  At the moment, however, doing so presents a challenge: for reports are vague and conflicting, not to mention infuriating.

And so, rather than indulge in speculation and subject us all to aggravation, I have decided that this situation provides me with an opportunity to share beautiful stories about the amazing people of Israel.  


I begin with the incredible spirit of volunteerism that is alive in the country.  Both because thousands of reservists are away from their jobs, serving in Gaza and the north, and because now there are no Palestinian Arab workers from Gaza or Judea & Samaria permitted in the country within the Green Line, there is a great need for volunteers to do a variety of tasks.  This is particularly important in the agricultural sector.  Volunteers, of course, are not equipped to do construction work, where there is also a great need.

Sometimes schools take their students for a day of work at an agricultural site (as we see below); some businesses allow employees to leave their jobs for a day without losing pay in order to volunteer.   

Assistance is also needed in providing meals for families that are dislocated because of the war and living in temporary quarters.  There are people who cook, others who pack food and others who deliver it.

Credit: Education Ministry

I provide a nod, as well, to the gracious people from abroad who come either as individuals or part of groups to help us now in various capacities as volunteers.


An unusual story with regard to volunteering:  

Someone I know well, a woman in her 70s, who lives in a yeshuv in Gush Etzion, was stopped by a crossing guard as she crossed a local street and asked if she would be willing to serve in that location as a volunteer crossing guard the next day.  (Could well be that she walked that way often and the guard knew her by sight.) She agreed, but what was the story?  All of the crossing guards of the community were going for a day to pick lemons and needed to secure substitutes.


There is something else incredible going on that is not the same as volunteering to do a specific job.  This has to do with giving of oneself with a whole heart.

It goes like this:  A lone soldier – someone who came from abroad to serve in the IDF and has no family to speak of in the country – is killed in action. His immediate family will come for the funeral, but that is about all.  Word goes out on social media and perhaps a thousand people who did not know him, without exaggeration, come to the funeral to honor him.

Credit: Credit: Charlie Summers/Times of Israel


When a family returns from burying a loved one who has died fighting, it is customary for people to line the streets with flags to honor the deceased and provide comfort to the grieving family, which knows it is not alone.  Information goes out on social media with regard to these situations, as well: what streets to stand on, at what time, and for whom. Strangers go out to stand in the street.

Credit: Ynet


After Master Sergeant (res.) Shay Termin (pictured) fell during a battle in Khan Yunis, it was discovered that he had been hit by friendly fire.

His father, Avi Termin, stood by an Israeli flag and delivered a video message to the soldiers involved in the incident.  He wanted them to know that he and his family felt no anger towards them and supported them.  He invited them to come for a visit because he and his family wanted to hug them.



Basma Khir, owner of a Druze restaurant in the village of Julis, wanted to make her authentic Druze food available to everyone – including all soldiers and evacuees – in these difficult times.  She thus arranged for her establishment to be made kosher.  Shown below with kashrut supervisors, she is not the only one to have done this.

Credit: Courtesy


Piccolino, a very popular Italian restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem (which was already quite kosher), provides free meals to lone soldiers every Friday.


This was put up yesterday:

“IDF soldiers traveling to and from the battlefield in Gaza frequently stop at a popular shwarma place in Ashdod for a quick bite. This man sat there yesterday ‘working’ while paying for the meals of every single soldier who came to eat there.”



And this was another recent tweet from @dovlipman:

A BABY JEWISH GIRL WAS GIVEN HER NAME TODAY….IN GAZA! This IDF soldier missed the birth of his new daughter bc he is fighting Hamas in Gaza. But, following thousands of years of Jewish tradition, he stood in front of a Torah scroll today and named his baby daughter. Mazal tov!

Credit: @dovlipman


How special they are, how extraordinary.  And how normal for Jews.


There are several stories like this one:

Sa’ar Berkowitz, 31, a digital media manager who volunteers at an animal shelter in Israel, was on reserve duty in a hot spot near Gaza early in the war.

“In the midst of rescuing people from deadly Hamas terror attacks, he heard howling and followed the sound to discover three abandoned puppies in the midst of an area under fire, with no mother dog in sight. 

“’The puppies were emaciated and tired and it was obvious that they had been without water and food for several days.

“Berkowitz and some of his army buddies went to Netivot to buy baby formula for the pups. He took them into his tent and hand fed them five times a day and three times at night for a week…They bunked with me in the tent and slept on me. It was a sweet respite to cuddle with soft and innocent pups in the midst of our battles with terrorists.’

He named them Nir, Oz and  Be’eri, after three of the kibbutzim that had endured the massacre and arranged rides for them to a animal care facility that managed to place them in homes.

“I hope I’m remembered well and help represent the State of Israel as having the most moral army in the world,” he said (emphasis added).

Credit: Courtesy Ilana Curiel


And the last story today about our amazing people is by far the most moving:

Ariel Zohar, of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, was just short of 13 on October 7, when the Hamas atrocities reached his home. His parents, Yaniv and Yasmin, and his older sisters, Techelet and Keshet, were all murdered, but he was spared because he was out for his daily jog.

After the funerals, he was at the home of his father’s sister, who was caring for him, when he remembered something he wanted retrieved from his family home.  There was a set of tfillin his parents had bought him in anticipation of his bar mitzvah, but there was also the tfillin set of his father, which had been given to him by his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor. His grandfather had been given those tfillin by his parents before they were killed. Ariel wanted them for his bar mitzvah.


Chaim Otmazgin is an IDF reserve commander and heads a unit of volunteers for ZAKA, which retrieves human remains with dignity to assure them a proper burial. He learned about Ariel’s request and decided to take on the mission, which was dangerous, as shooting was still going on.

“I was moved that this child, whose parents and sisters had been massacred a few days ago, spoke of his father’s tefillin that represents for him the continuity and tradition of this family who suffered so much.” 

Otmazgin received permission from the army to enter the shell of the demolished Zohar house accompanied by soldiers and was given just six minutes to achieve his goal. They quickly located the blue velvet bag containing the tefillin and prayer shawl.

“When I handed the tefillin to young Ariel that evening, he burst into tears of emotion that they had been found so that he could wear them for his bar mitzvah,” said Otmazgin.

“My crew and I have handled 700 or 800 [dead] bodies, but only when I returned the tefillin to Ariel did I cry.”


Credit: Kleinezeitung


On Thursday, December 7, Ariel had a belated bar mitzvah and was called to the Torah wearing the tfillin.

Credit: Social media

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former chief rabbi and himself a Holocaust survivor, was present at the bar mitzvah, and related this:

“I came to bless him, but I was more moved than usual…

“I stood facing him, and he recited the Kaddish, the orphan’s Kaddish. He read the Torah, and I had to bless him.

“I told him, listen, Ariel, I know this scene, and I want to tell you something personal that deeply moves me – I, too, at my bar mitzvah, had neither a father nor a mother…I became an orphan from my father at the age of 5 and a half, and at 7 and a half, they took my mother as well. And you see – it’s possible to succeed. At the age of 13, I arrived in Jerusalem and accomplished many things. It all depends on you. I will be your friend, your brother in fate; we share a common destiny.”


There are no words, my friends.  How magnificent are these souls.


I had thought that here, at the end of this post, I would talk a bit about what is going on regarding the war.  But I now think better of it and want to leave you just with these stories. The rest will follow soon enough.

I would like to suggest that, in light of Chaim Otmazgin’s connection to ZAKA, you consider making a donation.  I wrote here about volunteering. ZAKA is a volunteer organization that does sacred work.  



Keep praying to Heaven for Israel, my friends.  Pray for the strength and wisdom of our leaders, for the safety of our boys, and for the rescue of our hostages.  Pray with a heart filled with hope.


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.