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Our Aliyah Chronicle

By Shmuel Katz

If you’ve followed the news over the past couple of weeks, you will know about the crazy number of fires we’ve had to deal with here. In the throes of an unprecedented 10+ days of unrelenting winds coming from the east–dry desert winds–and the delayed arrival of the seasonal rains, Israel has been bone-dry. Humidity has been in the single digits (whereas it is normally over 30%), and the vast forest lands here were easy kindling.

All this led to the “pyro-stinians” seeing an opportunity to cause more senseless destruction in their never-ending quest to terrorize us and devastate our communities. They took to the woods near settled areas and lit fires that, whipped by incredibly strong winds, quickly turned vast and dangerous. In their thirst for blood, they tried their best to trap people within rings of fire and hoped to inflict as much damage and loss as possible.

Thankfully, to date, our civil forces, infused with forces from the international community, have used their combined resources and skills to limit our losses. Few injuries have resulted from the fires. And while there has been loss and damage to property, we are grateful to all those who put themselves at risk to keep our people safe.

On erev Shabbat, the impact of one of the fires hit a bit close to home. Our son Mordechai reached out to us in the morning to tell us that one of his roommates had just heard that his home in the town of Talmon had burned to the ground. The family had been evacuated (with almost zero notice) as the flames approached, and when they returned they discovered that they had lost everything in the fire.

With no insurance, they are living on the grace of the government–which promises to fully compensate the losses of every victim of an arson fire, but who knows when that will be–and the kindness of others who have helped them financially. We are proud to report that Mordechai and his classmates mobilized themselves to go to the local malls and shopping centers with letters of certification, where they were able to raise over $5,000 in cash on Friday alone.

I had initially planned to write a forceful article this week, imploring our readers to contribute and help this family get back on their feet (and those who want to do so should e‑mail me privately). Yet circumstances changed.

After Shabbat came the news that about 20 houses in Neve Tsuf were destroyed by additional arson. When we saw the story, Goldie turned to me and said, “Isn’t that where Anat’s brother lives?” And it is. Anat Levi is our dear friend and was our neighbor in Woodmere. But then we found out that Raizi Lindenfeld lives there with her family as well. Raizi is married to Ariel Lindenfeld (who grew up in Woodmere) and is the daughter of Dr. Chanoch (Alan) and Naomi Schwartz, former Far Rockaway/Five Towners whom we’ve been friends with for almost 30 years.

So I decided to write a broader charge, springboarding off the Five Towns connections, imploring people to generously help these stricken communities quickly rebuild.

But these articles have centered and will continue to revolve around my family and our life in Israel.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about hosting my siblings and their families and my parents for our annual Sukkot barbecue. I even published a picture of my parents posing with all their Israeli grandchildren, which included all my sister’s children.

One of my nephews is currently serving in the IDF. He is a proud member of a Golani brigade, stationed near the Syrian border. He came to the barbecue in uniform straight from his post.

From time to time, I have posted pictures of him, among the other nephews and nieces. You’ve read about him by association, hearing about his bar mitzvah and some of his brothers’ activities while in the army. I will have either a child or a niece or nephew serving in the army for about 90% of the next 18 years or so.

Last Sunday morning, my sister posted a link to a story in the Israeli press which many of you may have read or heard of by now. ISIS, attempting to draw us into a Syrian conflict that would allow them to violate a negotiated truce (in the Syrian civil war) calling for them to lay down their arms, tried to attack a Golani unit at the border the prior night. The unit returned fire and called in an air strike, which they think killed the enemy combatants.

My nephew had called my brother-in-law just before they went into debriefing, simply to reassure them that he was safe, as were all the members of the unit. Once the news went public, my sister reached out to us to let us know. And there is no way to describe the feeling.

He is my fourth nephew to serve in the IDF. I know that at least some of the others saw actual combat. (I wrote about one of them in these pages, quite a few years back.) But I do not think the shock or fear gets any easier to bear. It is a reality that we face here on a daily basis.

My nephew was under enemy fire. He is a Jew, and the enemy needed to attack the Jew to assuage both his hatred and envy of us as well as his fear at a potential loss of power. He is a Jew, and Jews are always the easiest target. And so the enemy took aim at him.

We are extremely grateful to G‑d that he and his mates came through it unscathed. We are extremely grateful to G‑d that we have suffered no human casualties in this latest wave of terrorist activities. We ask that you join us in praying for the continued safety and success of our valiant soldiers of the IDF, and encourage you to support them and the unfortunates who lost all their worldly possessions in the pyro-stinian terror attacks. We hope and pray for the geulah, the ultimate redemption from galut.

Shmuel Katz, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July 2006. Before making aliyah, Shmuel was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at shmuel@katzfamily.co.il.

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