Randi’s story

Randi’s story

Igal Iloz, right, from Ofakim, shown here supporting a lone soldier from Greater MetroWest, was about to be deployed to Gaza in 2014. Igal was killed on Saturday.
Igal Iloz, right, from Ofakim, shown here supporting a lone soldier from Greater MetroWest, was about to be deployed to Gaza in 2014. Igal was killed on Saturday.

Randi Brokman of West Caldwell and her husband, Oron, are in Israel; they went to spend the holiday of Sukkot and visit with relatives and friends. On Oct. 10, Randi sent the following thoughts:

I am in Haifa together with most of our family, including nieces and nephews and their young families. We were supposed to be together only for Shabbat and Yom Tov but in this situation, we have stayed on (12 of us altogether) since there were sirens and missiles in Tel Aviv, Holon, and the area. The TV news is on all the time; the texting and stories are being shared as they come to light. They are so sad, frightening, and moving. We are hearing about the heroic actions of so many during this horrific situation. And of course the sharing of family members and friends who have lost loved ones.

From Haifa we hear airplanes high above. The government has warned Hizbullah, and yesterday terrorists made a few attempts to come into Israel from the north. The reports were that they were eliminated, but residents in the northern area were advised to go into their secure rooms. Last night the government advised all residents to prepare for 72 hours without electricity, water, and food, so Oron and our family members did the supermarket run and found that toilet paper and water were sold out, along with dry goods. But we are the lucky ones. We don’t have to weigh the necessity of going out against the possibility of sirens signaling an attack, which others in Central and South Israel have to consider.

Feelings and thoughts are racing. How could this happen? How was Tzahal so surprised on so many levels? What happened to the intelligence system that Tzahal is known for? We hear anger, understanding, attempts to raise morale and volunteerism. “Nazism” is a word being used on the news all the time, when in the past nothing could be equated with the Shoah. They are calling it Israel’s 9/11, comparing the loss as if the United States had lost 30,000 in that attack, but that does not truly describe the barbarity of the Hamas terrorists. Many speak of wiping out Hamas, others of flattening Gaza, to do what the United States did after Pearl Harbor. The hospitals have turned the covid wards into emergency wards for the wounded. Even now, at 11:15 a.m. on Oct. 10, helicopters are flying over Haifa, most likely bringing wounded to hospitals in the area.

We hear talk about achdut — bringing the country together after political division for almost a year, demonstrations against actions of the government for 39 weeks. Israelis abroad are trying to return to Israel to find something they can do to help. Israeli volunteerism is evident. We went to give blood on Sunday, and people were being turned away because they could not handle the number of donors. People are organizing meals, clothing, gifts for people in the hospitals, and especially for the soldiers, and to bring necessities to central locations, mostly for soldiers.

One picture stands out: The man organizing 200 volunteers to sort and pack donated items to be sent to the 300,000 soldiers called up in 48 hours was wearing the T-shirt of the reservists who were refusing to go to reserve duty because of the political attempts to change the democracy here in Israel. Now, everyone is directed to the main goals: to change the security status in the south, maintain security in the rest of the country, support the families of those who lost loved ones or were wounded, to deal with the hostages, and to wipe out Hamas.

Gestures of support and connection are very important to the government and people of Israel. And here I will speak of the Greater MetroWest federation and its partner communities in Israel. As a past staff member with the responsibility of building connections between our community in New Jersey and the federation partner communities in Israel — Ofakim/Merchavim/Arad, Kibbutz Erez, Rishon L’Tzion, Raanana, and Horfeish — I have been in contact with my Peoplehood friends from our southern communities. These have been dark, dark days, especially for them and all Am Yisrael. Too much savagery, death, fear, devastation, and loss. We are all broken in one way or another. Everyone knows someone who has been killed or someone who has lost a loved one. Our Greater MetroWest community has not escaped from this. Our Peoplehood and Police Living Bridge Projects have lost dear friends during this attack, dedicated activists with a vision to strengthen their local communities and the greater Jewish world.

We are all filled with grief. Igal Iloz, a big man, a dear man we called the Gentle Giant, who had a big heart, was killed on Saturday. He lived in Ofakim and was a master sergeant in the Southern District, but he was above all a beloved member of his community, of the Police Living Bridge delegation, and of the Ofakim/Merchavim Peoplehood Project. He will forever be in
our hearts.

In answer to the question everyone is asking: We are safe, but we are not OK; Am Yisrael is not okay, and it will be a long time until we are.