My connection to Israel
A message from Alon Shemesh, President of the Jewish Federation
Dear friends of the Jewish Federation.
As many of you know, I came to the United States at the age of 23 after serving in the Israeli army and settled with my family here in South Bend. Aside from one aunt here in South Bend, the rest of my Israeli family remains in Israel. Despite the distance that separates us, Debbie and I have always maintained a strong connection with our Israeli family and friends. While here in South Bend, we have been a host family to the many Shlichim that have come to this community. This added another layer to my family’s connection to Israel. My love for Israel is shared by my children, who have all traveled there multiple times. Emily was fortunate to spend her entire summer doing an internship in a Tel Aviv hospital. This gave her the opportunity to strengthen her connection to the country.
Like all of you, I woke up on October 7, 2023 with the news of the horrific terror attack in Southern Israel. Although the border with the Gaza strip has always been volatile, with multiple rocket attacks that made civilian life in the area miserable, Israel has never encountered a situation where a foreign army, in this case being the Hamas group, enters with thousands of armed fighters with the sole purpose of brutally killing anyone that they encounter. Many of us consider this attack as the worst event since the War of Independence in 1948. My sense of security in Israel was shattered as thousands of civilians were injured or murdered in that attack. To make things more complicated, the Hamas group has kidnapped over 250 civilians and soldiers and are holding them hostage inside the Gaza strip.
Many of my family members (including the Shlichim, which I consider as family) are currently either serving in active duty or have been drafted to the IDF because of the war. I have a niece, two nephews and multiple cousins that are all on active duty. I have been in touch with them over the last few weeks and they are all so thankful for the help and support that they have received from people in Israel and around the world. Nevertheless, they all feel a sense of despair and uncertainty to what the future holds.
I wanted to thank the community for your thoughts and prayers. So many of you have approached me and shared your concerns about my family and friends in Israel. I have been very lucky to have your support during this difficult period. Like all of you, I am very worried for the safety of everyone in that region, Israelis and Palestinians. I only hope that in the next few weeks I will have some better news to share with you.
Thanks for everything that you do.