Oct 20, 2023 By David Pollack Category: Blueprint Negev,
My Arrival in Israel: A Blessing and A Privilege
We arrived in Tel Aviv today with seven large duffel bags and suitcases filled with all manner of clothing and equipment and medical supplies for the Israeli army, all donated by the American Jewish community. When word got out that I was leaving for Israel, I was inundated with telephone calls and emails begging me to take a suitcase or a duffel bag or two or three at a time. El Al relaxed its normal policy and allowed each person to take an additional number of bags at a reduced $50 per bag fee to further support the defense effort. I waited for about an hour to retrieve all of my bags and, as I customarily do, headed straight through the “nothing to declare" exit area. However, upon seeing the unusual number of bags, I was immediately flagged by a customs officer and directed to the Customs Department. After about another hour and paying some duty on the items that I was bringing, I was escorted out of the building by a sergeant in the IDF border patrol.
I had two taxis waiting for me to take me to Jerusalem where I was able to deliver all of these badly needed supplies and equipment, including bulletproof vests. I should add here that the Army officer was far more understanding of the situation than the Customs officer and he regretted that the customs department was collecting tax, given what the items were. Nevertheless, he thanked me and expressed his gratitude for the hundreds and, probably by now, thousands of Americans who are coming here to help defend the country in any way they can and bringing whatever they can to help the war effort.
After visiting the Kotel (Western Wall) to recite a few prayers and Psalms for the welfare of the IDF and all of the injured and captured soldiers and civilians, I traveled to the Mount of Olives to say a few prayers at the graves of my parents. I returned to the City Center to coordinate plans to participate in relief efforts in the City of Jerusalem which hopefully I'll be able to perform before I head down south.
There is much to be done here and it is obvious even from the relatively safe environs of Jerusalem that this country is on a war footing. There is far less vehicular and pedestrian traffic than usual. Many stores are closed. The Western Wall Plaza was nearly deserted and one generally gets the feeling that people are simply hunkering down waiting for what's to come next. Israeli flags and posters abound and there is a clear sense that people are aware that despite our many differences, generally and specifically over the last year or so, the country must come together to defeat its common foe. This is a frightened country, but a very hopeful one as well. As we enter the Shabbat we pray for calm and peace. It is a blessing and privilege to be here.
Thank you to David Pollack, a civilian volunteer from New York, for sharing his experiences in Israel this past week.