Eitan Mor, Nathan Goldin, and Norman Goldin volunteered in Israel for two weeks in January. “Israel faces an existential threat, and I wanted to help and show my support,” says Norman Goldin.
Both Goldins are physicians and hoped to provide medically related services. Instead, they reached a dead-end with the Ministry of Health and were unable to get temporary medical licenses. “We’re both Hebrew-speaking and licensed, and the hospitals were interested, but the Ministry of Health is not organized and overwhelmed. They’re dealing with an unprecedented situation,” Nathan Goldin says.
Mor, a former Major in the IDF, who has lived in Tidewater with his family since 2001, also wanted to volunteer in Israel after October 7. Like the Goldins, he couldn’t find an organization to host him. Having served in wars in Lebanon and Gaza, Mor knows the nearby Israeli neighborhoods, kibbutzim, and moshavim that were impacted by Hamas’ attack. He found that most communities had been evacuated.
The mayor of the small town (about 45,000 residents) of Netivot, however, answered Mor’s call, saying,” Eitan, we will host you, insure you, and feed you. Let’s move forward.”
With a place to go, Mor emailed some friends about the opportunity and connected with the Goldin brothers.
In the south of Israel, Netivot is located between Beersheba and Gaza, and is a sister-city to Philadelphia.
Essentially entering the war zone, the city required passport numbers to cover the three men with both health and life insurance. The city sent a cab to meet them when they arrived at the airport, provided a four-bedroom apartment, and filled the refrigerator for their volunteer guests. A city volunteer coordinator welcomed them in Netivot.
“We rented a car,” says Mor, as their activities took place in different locations.
The Israel Defense Forces provides soldiers with field rations, but individual citizens cook about 1,500 hot meals per day for soldiers and evacuees. “We flipped burgers and cut-up tomatoes,” offers Nathan Goldin, while also delivering meals, by way of their rental car, to soldiers guarding the Iron Dome platform.
“The soldiers want home-made food.” says Mor. So, they made shakshuka, meatballs, and rice and took it on a truck through fields to the soldiers.
People from all over Israel – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa – are all helping. “We are one nation and need to help each other,” says Mor.
The three from Tidewater worked in the fields, too, pruning lemon trees, weeding pineapple orchards, and picking lemons. Working beside them were students from the north, a dentist from Germany, an Israeli architect, and volunteers from France.
Israel is struggling to keep up with the number of volunteers who want to help.
“Israelis are so appreciative of volunteers. We received a universally, unbelievable reception. It’s a national depression that they’re experiencing. They’re incredibly grateful,” says Nathan Goldin.
When asked if they ever felt unsafe, Norman Goldin recounts how, one day, there was a barrage of missiles. “We had to run to a shelter, but there was no damage nor casualties. Although, I will admit, it is disturbing to have to live your life always knowing where the closest shelter is located.” Nathan Goldin adds that the people living around Gaza are used to it.
“I don’t think you’ll find a better time to be in Israel. It is impossible to overstate the support that the civilian population is giving to their civilian army. For example, we met a woman who essentially turned her house into a meals factory, serving 400 Israeli soldiers daily. This food is taken directly to the front,” says Norman Goldin.
Nathan Goldin suggests volunteering in Israel for a minimum of two weeks, if possible, partly because it takes time to acclimate to the time difference. This commitment also allows a volunteer to develop a routine, learn the area, and determine the needs. “Otherwise, you’re doing sympathy tourism.”
Norman Goldin agrees. “Don’t simply go on a bus, take a look, and leave. Do what Israelis of all walks of life are doing now, in whatever capacity will help…. whether it’s cooking or getting your hands dirty in the agricultural arena.”
Before they left for Israel, Mor asked what they should bring to soldiers as a gift. He was told headsets/hats with a light and wifi. They ordered and delivered 170 such hats as requested, giving many to the soldiers in the three hospitals they visited.
“We have seen the needs in communities,” says Mor, and they range from ovens to prepare meals to ping-pong tables in the community centers.
“People are in need,” he says. “This is the time to help our brothers and sisters in Israel.”
Eitan Mor will speak on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 7 pm at Congregation Beth El about the trip, current needs, and future plans. His presentation, A Journey of Support and Strength is open to the community. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.