Hope 4 Hanukkah – The Power of Youth and the Promise of Continuity
The events that took place in Israel a few weeks ago shocked World Jewry. Our brothers and sisters in Israel were under attack, and entire families were forced once again to spend their days and nights in bomb shelters.
Our sense of shared destiny with the Jewish people reiterated to us that we had to do something in order to demonstrate our support. Rightfully, we asked ourselves what could this “something” be. How could youth from across the world assist at a time of war? Naturally, many of us wanted to show our support by being there in person or by sending money for the Iron Dome.
Our well intended thoughts were quickly shattered by reality: Going to war without any training could cause more harm than help any situation, and a few hundred Euro would contribute little to the Iron Dome whose each missile interception costs 50,000. These were not the causes that would most benefit the situation – They would go unnoticed and make little difference to the people of Israel. We realized that as youth we needed to contribute in the ways that we know best, in ways that touch the hearts and souls of those to whom we reach out. With Hanukkah, the festival of lights and miracles, right around the corner – a real miracle is all we really needed.
We assumed that with days and nights spent in bomb shelters, parents would be unable to buy their children the customary Hanukkah gifts, and this sad fact would detract from the Hanukkah celebration.
Israel is a special place – it has been under constant threat since its establishment and this abnormality has been part of the everyday reality that its - residents call “life”. For people living in the Diaspora it’s impossible to fathom a reality in which we have 15 seconds to run for shelter in order to shield ourselves from an explosion. It’s impossible to imagine a reality in which if we were not in constant close proximity to a bomb shelter, we would have nothing to shield us from harm.
We would think that living under these circumstances, the residents of Israel would give little thought to things such as holidays and celebrations. However, the “the show must go on” – life doesn’t stop, people go to work, children go to school, and life goes on in the shadow of war. Life goes on, and it becomes normal to call family and friends with the sound of each siren to ensure that they are all right.
Throughout Europe and all over the world young people were driven by the knowledge that they had a symbolic yet important task at hand. Anxious to help, we decided to create a Hanukkah miracle of our own, where we believed it was needed most. We wanted to bring joy and laughter to the bomb shelters, and show the families that they were in the hearts and thoughts of Jews all over the world.
Our course of action was decided and the Hope 4 Hanukkah project was created: We would collect as many presents as possible from within Europe, and raise money which we would use to purchase additional gifts from shops in the South, in order to help the local economy.
We partnered with the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS), Union of Jewish Students (UJS - UK), French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), Belgium Union of Jewish Students (UEJB), Italian Union of Jewish Students (UGEI), The Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG), Jewish Community of Zurich, Habonim Dror from Amsterdam, European Jewish Congress (EJC), European Council of Jewish Communities (EJCC), WING, BBYO, Midreshet Rachel V'Chaya in Jerusalem, and some great individual supporters from Berlin. Together, we would provide the children of Southern Israel with a Hanukkah miracle of their own.
The project grew faster than expected – donations were arriving from all over the world, and piles of gifts were arriving at the Tel Aviv International airport. These were accompanied by hundreds of encouraging messages, as well as dozens of volunteers who applied to help us distribute the gifts to the children of the South.
“Hope 4 Hanukkah” became a symbol of community and solidarity for Jewish youth all over the world. It showed us how strong and powerful we can become when united.
I would like to personally thank each and every one of the individuals who contributed to this important task. Unfortunately (Or should I say “very fortunately”), these is no space for that here. Still, I would like to mention the Italian youth who have managed to fundraise 3200 Euros by organizing a fundraising campaign in Rome. They led by example and demonstrated the ability of youth to mobilize people in a short time period in order to contribute to an important cause.
Hundreds of new immigrant children living in absorption centers have spent more time in bomb shelters then the outdoors of the country that they have longed to see for years. They certainly needed love and attention. We decided to visit as many absorption centers as possible and to bring them toys, books and many beautiful gifts, which were donated over the past weeks.
The money collected was spent according to lists made up from requests from Absorption Centers and day care facilities across the South. Toys were purchased from independent toy stores in the South of Israel, who themselves offered significant discounts and free supplies to help with spreading the holiday spirit. The students of Midreshet Rachel V'Chaya donated a significant amount of self wrapped gifts to the project with their toys going to help families under the care of Maslan, the Negev Domestic-Violence Support Center.
By the beginning of Hanukkah we managed to collect over 5000 Euros and hundreds of presents were waiting to be delivered. We were excited to be the ambassadors of students from all over the world and to bring the light of Hanukkah to the children living in the south of Israel.
We were welcomed everywhere very warmly and all the children were incredibly happy to play with us, sing with us and light Hanukkah candles with us. We thought we are giving the presents, but in fact we have goten so much love and joy from them, which brought real light to our Hanukkah as well.
For more articles about the project: http://bit.ly/XDRp20 and http://bit.ly/UH38LY.
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