This was first published on Times of Israel.
Purim is almost here. Well, not quite…but when you’re a planner like I am, then it’s almost here. So on Friday, my husband and I went to the shuk in Jerusalem to get together some of the things we need for our family costume and our Mishlocha Manot.
We had a fantastic time, as we always do at the shuk, with the sights, the smells, the sounds and the energy.
We made a few interesting observations while there.
The entire downtown area was empty. The shuk is usually bursting with excitement on Friday morning, filled with tourists, locals, shoppers and gawkers. But on this Friday, it felt like a skeleton of itself, and that was quite disheartening.
We walked around downtown as well, and found it much emptier than usual. The next night, while out to eat on Emek Refaim, we must have pointed out ten businesses that have recently closed.
The City of Gold is bleeding along with its citizens.
While this was certainly depressing, we did find something quite uplifting on Friday; something that serves as an important reminder for all of us in these difficult times.
While heading back to the car from the shuk, my husband said, “Wait a minute,” as something caught his eye.
There was a clothing store called Klafte that had a sign in the window explaining that they are a social business; they operate social programs to provide training and employment to young, at-risk women 18-25 from Jerusalem. The profits from the store cover the costs of the program and social activities for the employees.
This program, initiated by the Dualis Social Investment Fund in partnership with the Welfare Department of the Jerusalem Municipality and Elem-Youth in Distress, allows participants to learn a skill and to work with dignity.
Obviously, after reading about this, we went in to find a beautiful clothing store filled with lovely items. I found a reasonably priced purse in Klafte – and got to feel good about buying it.
While reading more about them online, I saw that the clothing is all reasonably priced and that they got their start with a very large donation of clothing from a Canadian philanthropist. They also have clothes donated by some large local Israeli clothing chains.
I’m sure that there are many programs of this sort around Israel – and around the world. I applaud people who come up with such creative ideas and ways to help people to help themselves.
This is exactly what we must start to do. Now.
We must help ourselves to help ourselves (not a typo) by getting out – going to Jerusalem – going to the grocery store – being a presence in the streets of our country, on our Land. Because while we are under very difficult pressures at the moment here in Israel, we can’t let it, or them, stop us.
We must keep helping others, like Klafte is doing with such grace.
We must keep helping ourselves by continuing to support our local businesses and our people in every way that we can.
Because empty streets mean that terror is winning. And empty businesses mean that people are hurting, that they are bleeding economically.
We have enough blood flowing; we cannot cause even more by our own doing.
While we can’t each save every store and every person in Israel, we can get out with our bodies and be a presence in our neighborhoods; and we can spend money when we have it to spend. We can send the message that while we may be scared by terror, we won’t let the terror keep us imprisoned with our fear.
Having the ability to convey that message with the simple act of movement – of being and walking and buying – is quite empowering.
We deserve to feel empowered, and to empower those around us spiritually, economically, socially and physically in whatever way we are able.
What can you do? If you live here, you can get OUT. Walk the streets. Be careful, obviously, and pay attention to your surroundings. But get out and about and continue with your regular life. If you have the money to do so, eat out in restaurants, support local businesses, go to your shuk and buy food, clothing, books. Bring care packages to the soldiers in your area. Give of your time to organizations that assist others in whatever way you see fit.
If you don’t live here, come for a visit. We were talking to a couple from Massachusetts in the shuk as they were buying halva and I wanted to kiss them. I didn’t – but you get the picture. Come for a visit, spend your time and your money here and be among us.
If this isn’t practical, then send money to organizations that are helping victims of terror, that are supporting our soldiers, that are empowering our people. Send money to a friend in Israel and ask her to buy packages for soldiers or to spend it at the local grocery store or to buy something fun in the shuk.
If you celebrate Purim, consider purchasing items made in Israel and giving those out for your Mishlocha Manot. Or, don’t give out more than two Mishlocha Manot this year. Make a donation somewhere in Israel equal to the amount you would spend on the food packages and give your friends notes saying that you made a donation in their name to strengthen Israel.
While browsing on Facebook just now, one of our runner friends in New Jersey posted a picture of himself with a t-shirt that he made. The shirt says “I Run For Tomer” to show his support for Tomer Ditur, who was stabbed on Derech Ha’avot in Gush Etzion recently. The picture was worth a million dollars to those of us who live here.
|Picture by Leslie Rosenberg of Zev Rosenberg|
Right now, while we wage a seemingly never-ending war on terror in our streets, everything talks. Our money talks. Our bodies talk. Our presence on our streets talks. Our spiritual encouragement talks.
We, each in our own way, need to find ways to start talking.