Standing Together: Reflections from Volunteering in Southern Israeli Communities

By Stephen Bach


As a Jewish National Fund-USA staff member, I have spent every waking hour since October 7, just like all of my colleagues, responding to the immediate and future needs of the Israeli communities devastated by that “Black Shabbat.” Recently I had the privilege of participating in one of our volunteer trips to the south of Israel near the border with Gaza. Despite my professional role, I joined this journey not as a staffer, but as a volunteer eager to lend a hand in communities devastated by the tragic events of October 7.


Every time I return from such trips to Israel, I am filled with pride for the impactful work that Jewish National Fund-USA undertakes throughout our ancestral homeland. However, this recent experience left an indelible mark on me, igniting a sense of pride unlike any other. In the face of adversity, with our people enduring trying times, witnessing firsthand the tangible difference our philanthropic community makes in the lives of Israeli communities was truly humbling. The gratitude expressed by these communities transcended words and served as a poignant reminder of the power of unity and support in times of need that our Jewish people have demonstrated for 2,000 years.


Jewish National Fund-USA’s presence in these communities is not merely temporary. We have been there before, and we will continue to stand by them long after the immediate crisis has passed.


Stephen and Renee Bach


During our trip, we had the opportunity to visit Soroka Hospital, where we received a presentation from the chief of surgery. What started as a routine session in an auditorium quickly evolved into a profound testament to the resilience and determination of the hospital staff. They recounted the herculean efforts made to save the lives of those gravely wounded on October 7. The stories of selflessness and dedication were nothing short of inspiring.


And it wasn't just the hospital staff who rose to the occasion. In a remarkable display of solidarity, the blood bank faced depletion within 12 hours. Yet, with a single call to nearby communities, an astonishing 5,000 units of blood were donated in just one day. Such an outpouring of support and response is a testament to the unwavering spirit of unity that defines Israel and our Jewish world in times of crisis.


This trip served as a powerful reminder of the strength that lies in our collective unity. Regardless of our backgrounds or affiliations, we are bound together by a shared heritage and a common destiny. In times of adversity, it is this sense of solidarity that sustains us and guides us forward.


As we navigate the challenges ahead, let us remember the words echoed by the communities we visited: “We are Am Yisrael, and we are here on our land for each other, forever.”


Together, we will continue to build a brighter future for all Israelis.


Stephen Bach is Chief Administration Officer at Jewish National Fund-USA.

read more close