Volunteering in Israel in the wake of October 7th

Lisa Sandler (third from left) together with the organisers of the event

In a previous edition of the Cape Jewish Chronicle, we highlighted the spirit of volunteering in Israel to help the country get through the very dark period it is currently experiencing. Our focus was on Gayle Saxe, and now we share the volunteering story of Lisa Sandler, the Head of ORT Jet Cape Town, who visited Israel in her private capacity for one month to help the people and the country.

Lisa told her story at a fundraising event organised by the Gilah branch of WIZO Cape Town. As she explained, “I felt completely immobilised after the shocking events of October 7th. And, so, I felt an overwhelming need to do something. Visiting the country as a volunteer was the solution to this quest.”

Arriving on Day 66 of the conflict – during December – she spent four weeks in the country, returning to South Africa on Day 98. She found a country in deep trauma. “Speaking to people there, one has the sense that people cannot see an end to this war,” she explains. “This is one reason why it’s crucial that the citizens of Israel feel the support of Diaspora Jews and other people from across the globe. We need to show that, through working together, Israel can be stronger.” Lisa saw active citizenry on a daily basis as people across the country got involved in anything they could to help, and volunteering is yet another way of demonstrating this.

Doing a variety of jobs while in the south of the country – including packing clothing and toiletries – Lisa also spent time helping out in the agricultural sector, harvesting sweet potatoes for Leket, the National Food Bank for Israel. 

“Calling on contacts in World ORT Kadima Mada, I was also able to visit some of the incredible projects run by the ORT organisation,” she explains. She visited Kfar Silver, an ORT-run youth village and educational facility that caters for over a thousand children. Located in the south, it is in a particularly vulnerable location but, luckily, the majority of children were not there at the time of the horrific attacks of October 7th because it took place during a holiday period. “While I was glad that most of the children weren’t there at the time of the attack, it was heartbreaking for me to meet teenagers from Ukraine there. They had come there to be safe from the war in their own country, only to end up being seriously threatened by incoming rockets from Gaza and the fear of terror attacks in what should be a safe haven. There is quite obviously huge trauma among these young people,” she says.

Volunteering in Israel during this period of crisis has been a seminal event for Lisa. She encourages others with the means to do so to volunteer too. “The country needs all the help it can get,” she explains, “and volunteers will be needed for a long time to come.” She met both Jewish and Christian Zionists from all over the world, establishing new friendships with people sharing a similar need to make a difference.

Funds raised during the event go to the WIZO Emergency Fund, which provides crucial support to women, children and families affected by the ongoing crisis in Israel. Particular focus areas include:

• The reinforcement and renovation of bomb shelters and secure rooms across WIZO institutions
• The provision of psychological support services
• The provision of crisis telephone hotline services for members of the public
• The provision of food vouchers, clothing and essential needs for displaced families. In addition, tablets are distributed to school-aged children, facilitating remote learning

• Published in the March 2024 issue – Click here to start reading.

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