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Our Strength Lies In Our Unity

Our Strength Lies In Our Unity

JJ Sussman

Many of my friends have inquired to ask how I am doing and if I am safe. I am safe. But as many have said already, we are not doing great. Many of our brothers and sisters have been murdered and have fallen in heroic battles. Many more are still being held captive. I found myself telling some of those who called the chronology of the events as I experienced them. I was not down South on Shabbat. But I believe that if we share our story, it will give my friends a slight sense of what is going on here.

For me, it started as I was about to leave for shul on Simchat Torah morning with my two young children.  We were visiting in Jerusalem. The siren sounded. We first thought it was an ambulance, but within a few seconds, we went downstairs to the “Mamad” (sheltered room) and waited the prescribed 10 minutes. Seemed a bit weird. Then we walked to Shul and spoke to some people on the way. We learned that there were rockets down south and towards Tel Aviv. We tried to Daven, but between the multiple sirens throughout the morning, we went up and down about eight times. Davening with us were some younger men, many of whom were serving in elite units and with their phones. They left relatively quickly. The rest of the day was frustratingly dreary. More rumors and news began to come in. Some Yishuvim were taken over. 

Maybe the Northern border had been infiltrated as well? The streets were quiet other than young men, many in their Chag white shirts and kippot driving to get their stuff and report to their units. One of the more poignant moments in the afternoon came when we saw a young religious man in uniform and with a big duffle bag saying a tearful goodbye to his wife and young toddler. Tears flowed. I guess this is what Yom Kippur felt like in 1973.

We also started hearing about all of the atrocities and barbaric acts committed by the Hamas infiltrators. On the local neighborhood WhatsApp group that my wife is on, usually used to ask to borrow eggs, but in these days, it has become a place to update one another on where we can volunteer or drop food off to feed our soldiers, one of our neighbors said she heard loud screaming and that someone should call the security forces to check it out. Fairly quickly, the mystery was solved. As is happening across Israel in too many homes, the neighbor of the neighbor got “the knock at the door” informing her that her daughter serving in the IDF had been killed. Tragic. Sad. Horrible.

On Sunday morning, I learned that a friend’s son had been killed. Later that day, I found out that another friend’s son was at the party and was still missing or taken captive. Anger. Frustration. How could this have happened? Many of my Gesher colleagues were called into the reserves. Some of the atrocities have hit our wider Gesher family directly, including many of our Gesher leaders.

On Monday, October 9th, I was informed of the passing of the son of my first cousin Yosef Malachi Guedalia HY”D with whom I davened on Shabbat morning. He was one of the young men who left straight to the battlefield to save those under siege. Every family in Israel is and will be affected by this in a close and personal way. He is “just one” of the hundreds who have tragically lost their lives. 

We have suffered a huge blow.  But we will prevail. Our resolve is strong. The number of initiatives to help one another is astonishing. Food deliveries to soldiers, taking down sukkahs for those whose husbands have been called into duty, volunteering in hospitals, and the list goes on. The number of stories I have heard of people flying home from their holiday vacations to join their units is inspiring. My good friend’s son who was touring Indonesia flew back via Dubai and was on his base with his unit within two hours of landing back in Israel.

As everyone in this war is directly effected by what’s going on, Gesher has decided to use our social media platforms to highlight some of the volunteer efforts taking place and thereby help strengthen morale and uplift the spirits of all of us. The campaign highlights an effort to feed the soldiers called up to battle through an organization called GrillingForIDF.

After I shared the above post on social media, I got a call from the owner of Aqua Kef near the Kinneret, who saw the post and asked if I knew the individuals behind the effort. He said, that he had to close his premises down a few weeks early and was “stuck” with frozen meat and he’d love to donate it to them. So I put them in touch, and the next day his hundreds of pounds of hamburgers and chicken are no longer frozen. They have been grilled and delivered to soldiers on the front lines.

As the war continues and the names of the fallen have been released, it’s clear that everyone in Israel has been affected in a very direct way. The numbers make it hard to fathom. I debated how to convey some of the feelings going on here with all of you, and I am not sure there is a correct way. 

As much as we can, I believe it’s important to learn about the lives of those who have passed away. In parallel, thousands of volunteer initiatives are happening from the ground up, which is heartwarming. We have decided to start a campaign to highlight some of these on our Facebook page, as we have found them to be inspiring and uplifting.

Nothing! Nothing can break our resolve. We know how to argue with one another internally, but don’t mistake that for our ability to come together and fight a common, barbaric enemy. We will win this war. We will win it together. The messages of support I have received from all of our friends and family across the world mean so much to me and to us.

Our strength lies in our unity! Am Yisrael chai. We will prevail, together.


JJ Sussman is the International Director of Gesher, where he is responsible for forging partnerships and strategic relationships for the organization. Over the last five years he has led numerous delegations of Israeli civic leaders to experience the challenges and opportunities of Jewish communities outside of Israel. JJ joined Gesher after having worked for 15+ years in Israel’s high tech industry. He is lives with his wife and six children in Modiin, Israel.