Oct 19, 2023  By Donny Cohen  Category: Blueprint Negev,

A Lifelong Message to My Children

Reflections, Mid-Flight to Israel

As I am mid-flight to Israel, just one week following my return, I am overfilled with strong emotions that I have not had in nearly a decade toward the Jewish homeland.

My family and I have been blessed to have the financial ability to make an impact in Israel and in communities specifically in the Gaza Envelope. It is commendable to support causes you believe in when it is convenient for you or politically/physically safe to do so. This trip is entirely different.

Earlier today, I thanked my wife for “allowing me” to go on this mission. I understand how hard it was for her to see me leave the family and enter a war zone, putting our children and her at risk. I am not flying to Israel to punish my family -heaven forbid. On the contrary, as I just wrote to my children, I am off to Israel to make a difference in the lives of many, including my children.

When news of Hamas’s barbaric attack broke last Saturday, my thoughts and concerns immediately were directed towards the residents of my adopted Halutza Communities and my dear friends/brothers, Yedidya Harush and Yedidya Hochman. The "Yedidyas" run the community, they are true leaders and pioneers and my modern day heroes. They built communities and businesses from nothing, turning the barren desert into fertile land and flourishing societies. I have been so incredibly inspired by them that I have allocated savings and tithings to help build the community and bring Jewish life to the area. I take tremendous pride in what has been and what will be built there.

When I finally heard back from Yedidya Harush and learned that he had entered a state of depression following the murder of two of his closest friends who fought off Hamas to protect and save the lives of many others, I felt an incredible void. How could I have deserted my friends and people and returned back to America? Is Israel only my country and my go to when everything is right? Why is it their responsibility more than mine? I immediately reached out to Yedidya Hochman to see how he was doing. He left me a voice note that sent chills thru me and caused me to leap into action. 

This mission is my leap into action. While I will be on the ground for a short time, my time will be 100% committed to my Halutza friends who need a dose of inspiration, Chizuk (strength) and a gentle reminder that steps backwards does not equal defeat but rather a call for greater commitment ahead.

When I arrive, we will be having a bbq for the men of the community followed by a deep and meaningful therapy session. Each person, myself included, will share our inner thoughts and feelings on what has transpired over the past twelve days and the impact it had on each of us. While their perspective is much more real, I believe hearing an outsiders perspective and the care and concern we have for them will be a source of healing. Many tears will be shed, tissues boxes depleted, and emotions will be running high as we utilize friendship and love to help everyone work thru their trauma and pain.

I will be presenting some ideas for the community to implement as a means of healing and support with one goal in mind: we will return to the South border and we will grow as we have never grown before. This will fuel us to do more and to get stronger and to ensure that the lives of the 1,400 already killed are not for naught.

Getting on the plane today will hopefully send a lifelong message to my children that when you believe in something or somebody, you do whatever it takes to support them, to love them and to heal them. We don’t run away when the going gets tough, we run through brick walls for the people we care about, even if we put ourselves in uncomfortable situations or even some short term pain.

I will return from this mission and I will return a stronger, more mindful and complete individual from the experience. I hope my presence, hugs, shoulders, tears and words will have an impact on not only those present with me in Israel but even those I left behind in Florida.

Photo taken in brighter days in the Halutza Communities on the border with Gaza