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May 21, 2024

Resolve and Resilience: Israelis Face the Future

Overlooking the Old City in Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City in Jerusalem

Pain. Fortitude. Resilience. Participants in the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s eighth and most recent Solidarity Mission to Israel returned time and again to these themes as they visited with Israelis during the week of Yom Ha’Zikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Independence Day). As the group of 12 crisscrossed the country, volunteering at farms and army bases and meeting with soldiers injured in Gaza, it immediately became clear that, “Everyone is hurting in one way or another, yet their resolve to move forward is palpable,” said Sidney Pertnoy, Mission Co-Chair and Chair of The Foundation of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. “Israel is in a fight for its very survival, and they need us now more than ever,” added Steve Brodie, Mission Co-Chair and Federation Board member. “For the first time in a long time, Israelis are feeling isolated and alone as antisemitism soars around the world. We’re so glad we could help, even in the smallest of ways.”

Steve Brodie and Jeff Levine fired up the grill at a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration with IDF soldiers.

Steve Brodie and Jeff Levine fired up the grill at a Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration with IDF soldiers.

Misha Ezratti helped pick and pack produce at a farm on the Gaza border, where much of the workforce was killed or kidnapped on October 7.

Misha Ezratti helped pick and pack produce at a farm on the Gaza border, where much of the workforce was killed or kidnapped on October 7.

From Thursday, May 9 to Wednesday, May 15, participants witnessed firsthand the spectrum of emotions Israelis are experiencing as they face the trauma of October 7, the ensuing war and raging antisemitic activity worldwide. Nearly the entire group had last visited Israel as part of Federation’s Israel 75 Miami Mega Mission and were struck by how different the country felt. Israel 75 bus leaders Jeff and Dalia Levine remarked, “Who would have imagined a year later what we would be witnessing?” Even the typical Independence Day celebrations were muted, as a quiet reverence enveloped the country. “The streets were not packed with tourists who spend Yom Ha’Zikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut in Israel as usual,” shared participant Chava Mann. “The spirit of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Israel is visibly broken. And yet, we saw the incredible power and willingness of those affected most directly to rebuild and persevere.”

The group delivered toys to Schneider Children’s Hospital, a recipient of Federation’s Israel Emergency Fund, where released child hostages are treated.

The group delivered toys at Schneider Children’s Hospital, a recipient of Federation’s Israel Emergency Fund, where released child hostages are treated.

Nadine Pertnoy and Dalia Levine pitched in packing produce at a farm on the Gaza border.

Nadine Pertnoy and Dalia Levine pitched in packing produce at a farm on the Gaza border.

Mission-goers made the most of their week, and when they weren’t busy lending a hand to farmers, soldiers or displaced Israelis, they were visiting Federation partner agencies to gain a greater understanding of their critical work in a post-October 7 world. Whether they were learning about Brothers and Sisters for Israel, the extraordinary volunteer organization that coordinated the country-wide rescue and relief effort in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ terror attacks on October 7; MyWave, a surfing initiative that addresses the trauma experienced by survivors of the Tribe of Nova music festival; or Schneider Children’s Hospital, where medical professionals treat children who have been released from captivity in Gaza, the impact of Federation’s infrastructure and its ability to help those in need — efficiently and effectively — was extensive.

Bob Berrin with Dr. Ofer Merin, CEO of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, another Israel Emergency Fund  grantee

Bob Berrin with Dr. Ofer Merin, CEO of Shaare Zedek Medical Center, another Israel Emergency Fund grantee

For Misha Ezratti, the Solidarity Mission was his first, but it didn’t take long to realize that Israel is “a country of resilience and strength,” noting that it was “private individuals and well-organized, innovative groups that made the biggest impact.” His week with Federation in Israel inspired him to return home and do the same in Miami.

Sidney Pertnoy greeted Israeli President Isaac “Bougie” Herzog.

Sidney Pertnoy greeted Israeli President Isaac “Bougie” Herzog.

The Mission also offered intimate and in-depth conversations with Israeli President Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Federation’s longtime overseas partner, Major General (Res.) Doron Almog and thought leaders like noted legal adviser of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr. Tal Becker and Founding Editor of The Times of Israel David Horovitz.

Prior to the MASA Memorial Ceremony at Latrun on Yom Ha’Zikaron, participants viewed the newest panels of names of soldiers who have fallen in battle since October 7.


Prior to the MASA Memorial Ceremony at Latrun on Yom Ha’Zikaron, participants viewed the newest panels of names of soldiers who have fallen in battle since October 7.

“The range of emotions we experienced was extremely varied and often heartbreaking,” said Bob Berrin, a Federation Past President and Board member. Speak to anyone within the group and they would all tell you the same thing. Their time in Israel was simply surreal. Reciting the Prayer for the State of Israel at the site of the Tribe of Nova massacre over the unmistakable sound of explosions in Gaza only a few miles away … walking through the remains of Kibbutz Nir Oz with a former resident, who, in the face of immense grief and trauma insists, “Our stories must be told” … grieving with families at Har Herzl on Yom Ha’Zikaron whose loved ones fell in battle only a few weeks ago … memories like these will be seared in their minds for years to come.

To read about Federation’s previous Solidarity Missions, please click here.

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