Out & About
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The nation of Israel calls to its supporters abroad — instead of beach barbeques or morning hikes, they check in with their friends and family who live there, keep their ears tuned to the news at work and at the gym. They worry and hope and pray. And they gather, in public and in private, to show their support for the Jewish state and its right to defend itself.
On Sunday in East Hampton at the Jewish Center in the Hamptons, a group of 18 Jewish women organized an “Art for Israel” family fund-raising event to benefit Magen David Adom. On Wednesday, the Birthright Israel program, which sends young people on trips to Israel with their peers, organized an event for more than 300 alumni at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan. There was standing room only in the theater for remarks by the humanitarian and author Elie Wiesel and a journalist from Reuters who had reported in Israel, Ari Rabinovitch.
“Since Hezbollah kidnapped the solders, one word has been missing from all the discourse: peace,” Mr. Wiesel said to the crowd of newly minted college graduates, law and medical students, and young professionals.
“We believe in hope. So what are we to do?” Mr. Wiesel asked them. “We must be together. This is what we must do. Israel should never be left alone. Only when Israel is alone will the enemy triumph.”
People nodded. This is why they had come to the event: to affirm their commitment to Israel. Mr. Wiesel articulated it perfectly. “I don’t live in Israel, but I couldn’t live without it. And I don’t live in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem lives within me,” he said. One woman sketched his face while he spoke. On her pad were various renditions capturing expressions of despair and hope.
The journalist, Mr. Rabinovitch, told of his journey in recent weeks from the Checkpost intersection in Haifa to the Lebanese border. The descriptions of Checkpost brought back memories for members of the audience. “I remember Checkpost — this one restaurant, run by three brothers, had the best shwarma,” a law student, Larry Rosenthal, who went on a Birthright Israel trip in 2001, said at the reception following the talk.
Mr. Rabinovitch’s last anecdote was the most powerful: Half an hour after the ceasefire, he saw a 12-year-old boy riding his bicycle. He stopped the boy and asked, “What’s going on?” The boy, Johnny, told him this was the first time he’d ridden his bike in a month. “He said, ‘I feel safe now, but I’m not sure it’s going to last.'” After the presentations, the young crowd decompressed and reflected at the reception. Jonathan Wallach had gone on a Birthright trip for medical students. “We went to the medical training center for the army,” he said. “The mindset is totally different there. For us, we sustained one terrorist attack. For them it’s all the time,” he said.
Mr. Wallach was talking with Violetta Pinkhasov, who works at Con Edison and attends Fordham’s business school. She felt inspired by Mr. Wiesel’s words. “We are the messengers. I personally feel if there’s no Israel, there are no Jews,” she said. Supporting Israel is a passion and a calling for Ellie Burrows, who graduated from Northwestern University in June. “I’m a bit of a lunatic about Israel. I’m definitely making aliyah eventually. Right now I’m thinking about helping out with the rebuilding,” Ms. Burrows said.
Jackie Rosenthal and Jason Demby, a couple who met at another Birthright alumni event, said they like the events because they get to meet people who share their strong commitment to Israel. “This organization is different. These are people who are proactive and passionate,” Ms. Rosenthal said.
The gathering in itself was a way of showing support and expressing hope. “It’s all about Jewish unity,” a law student who is enrolling at University of Tel Aviv in the fall, Jessica Rosenraich, said. “We are coming together at a time of strife. And the fact that we can do so and celebrate life together is really in the Jewish spirit.”