What are the emotions and traits of Israelis in the post-7th of October world? The answer is: grief, anger, disgust, exhaustion, and fear, but also unity, courage, strength, pride, and love.
I live in Tel Aviv, around the corner from the iconic Dizengoff Square. Since October 7, the fountain at its heart has morphed into a monument of heartbreak and devotion, bedecked with memorial candles, flags, posters, photographs, and written dedications to the slaughtered, kidnapped, and fallen. Other creative installations, such as lines of empty baby strollers, and unoccupied chairs, one for each of the hostages, are on display everywhere in the country.
But art is only one expression of the need which we all feel to do something: within 24 hours of the devastation, the entire nation had unified and mobilized.
Approximately 200,000 Israeli citizens from the regions bordering both Gaza and Lebanon are now “refugees” in their own country, relocated to apartments and hotels in safer areas of Israel. They require everything: clothing, shoes, toiletries, toys, diapers, and formula. I volunteer at Dizengoff Center, one of many “headquarters” where evacuees get these needs met. Therapies such as PTSD counseling and massage are also on offer. Everything is of course free of charge.
Other causes of equal importance abound: supporting the families of those kidnapped by Hamas, and of course, caring for IDF soldiers. The drives for our heroes are endless, from flashlights to thermal underwear, from protein bars to laundry volunteers. Friends of mine are volunteering at sandwich assembly lines and restaurants, cooking meals to be delivered to military bases, as well as baking homemade cakes, cookies, and granola for the soldiers.
A whopping 120 percent of reservists have shown up for duty - both summoned and unsummoned! Many foreign workers from other countries have returned home, so volunteers have jumped in to help, especially with agriculture. This week I went to harvest sweet potatoes: it was hard work but also fun and rewarding.
Israel is now not only the “Start-up Nation” but also the “Volunteer Nation.” Am Yisrael Chai!
Brynn Olenberg Sugarman is the author of Rebecca's Journey Home.