Blogging the War: Solidarity in Time of War

by Brian on July 23, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Friday, July 21, 2006. The link is here.

While tourists are leaving, Lois and Larry Frank head to Haifa.


At a time when so many others are canceling
their trips, and when many immigrants already in Israel are being urged
by family to “return home,” what on earth possessed the Franks to fly
to Israel at the height of the war?

“We wanted to show our
solidarity with Israel,” Frank said. “And we wanted to have a better
understanding of the situation, so when we talk to people about what’s
going on here, we’re not just parroting some public statement.”

Franks have not been alone. Upon their arrival, they immediately joined
a solidarity mission of 30 North Americans put together by the American
Jewish Committee. This week, the group traveled up and down the coast
of Israel, from Haifa to Sderot, to get a first-hand look.

went to Sderot near the Gaza border and met the mayor. We saw the
missile damage in the areas of several schools,” Frank said. “We also
went to Ramban Hospital in Haifa and met with victims of the railway
station attack. We met a family with eight children in Nahariya who’s
home was hit. Their home was gorgeous.”

How did you know it was such a nice home?

we went to go see it. The missile went straight through the roof and
dropped into the living room. It was a miracle no one was killed.”

Weren’t you nervous going to Haifa in the midst of a war?

were people on our bus who had a tremendous anxiety level. We were
stopped for two hours on the highway. I’ve never seen Americans so
ready to subjugate their Type A personalities in this way, to say –
it’s OK, this is what we’re here for.”

The bottom line, Frank
said, is that she trusts “the Israeli government to say if you
shouldn’t go there, to Haifa, and they didn’t say that.”

What were her impressions of the war zone?

was like a ghost town. There wasn’t a car moving, not a person walking
on the street. Everything was closed down. We had dinner at the Dan
Panorama (in Haifa’s trendy Carmel district) and several times we had
to all go down into the bomb shelter.”

Was the feeling in Sderot similar?

at all. Haifa has sirens that give you two minutes to get to a bomb
shelter. In Sderot, the warning is only 12 seconds. If a missile had
come down on us as we were standing there, I wouldn’t have known what
to do. There’s a tremendous sense of vulnerability in Sderot that you
don’t have in Haifa.”

The Franks are no strangers to Israel,
having visited the country over 40 times before – five times alone in
2006. Larry Frank ran a successful manufacturing business in Atlanta;
the couple, who have four children, now own a holiday apartment nearby
one son Rabbi Adam Frank who lives with his wife Lynne and two children
in Jerusalem’s Baka neighborhood.

Rabbi Frank, who grew up in
Atlanta and attended school in town – from the Hebrew Academy, to
Riverwood High School and then Emory University – is now the spiritual
leader of Moreshet Avraham, a Conservative congregation in the heart of
Jerusalem. He said he wasn’t worried about his parents coming at this

“I guess I’m good at compartmentalizing things,” he said.
“I figure they have a greater chance of being injured in a car accident
than getting hit by a missile.”

Growing up, the Franks were as
staunch a Zionist household as you’re likely to find anywhere. Larry
Frank’s mother, Rae Frank, was regional president of the southeast
region of Hadassah and Lois is now national chairman of the Jewish
Council for Public Affairs, as well as being active in the Conference
of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the American
Jewish Committee.

Solidarity with Israel is not just an
afterthought for the Franks. Rabbi Frank said he originally moved to
Israel at the height of the suicide bombing campaign – davka as
Israelis would say, that is, in spite of what would seem to be common
sense. “It was during the second intifada and I felt it was just too
difficult for me to be in America at that time,” Frank said.

and Larry Frank never stopped visiting either, despite the violence
that has kept Israel in perpetual headlines. But Lois Frank says that
being here during the current war has really opened her eyes.

the States, I didn’t understand the goals of this operation. The media
made it seem like it was collective punishment against the people of
Lebanon. But I’m not hearing anyone say ‘crush them, punish them.’
There’s real compassion. That’s what you hear from the man on the
street. It’s not what CNN tells you.

the Franks willingness to head to Haifa, Sderot and other front lines
is inspirational, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities for
visitors and residents in Israel alike to help beleaguered communities.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship for
Christians and Jews (IFCJ) has been organizing its members to provide
“emergency assistance to cities under attack.” And the Livnot
U’Lehibanot organization sent out a message to its large mailing list
on Thursday asking for volunteers to come to the city of Safed where
Livnot staff have been struggling to “prepare and serve meals to as
many people as they can who are living in bomb shelters.”

also is asking for volunteers to “help out with elderly citizens who
are on their own, play with children and whatever else needs to be
done.” While Livnot acknowledges that “we cannot guarantee anyone’s
safety, we can promise that you will play a huge role in serving the
people of Safed and all of Am Yisrael in a time of need.” A festive
Shabbat is planned for this weekend with guest Rabbi Avi Weiss from the
Riverdale, New York Hebrew Academy.

Calls to action from
organizations like Livnot and the IFCJ only strengthen supporters like
Lois Frank who says that, as important as her family’s expression of
solidarity with Israel may be, what’s even more impressive is Israel’s
internal solidarity. “As self-critical as this society is, they’re
together on this one. It’s tremendously inspiring,” Frank said. “This
is the ethos of Israel and it makes me very proud.”

The photo displayed on the main blog page for this post is from the “Support Israel” stream on Flickr, maintained by Michael Hoffman, who heads up Hoffman Media Group in Chicago. Add your own photo to Flickr using the tag “supportisrael2006” to support this innovative Israel support group.


But not everyone is
staying home. Lois and Larry Frank of the Sandy Springs neighborhood of
Atlanta didn’t even have a trip to Israel planned. “We spent all of
last Saturday discussing it, and on Saturday night, we got on a plane,”
Lois Frank said.

Fifty percent of tourists
who had planned a trip to Israel during July and August have either
cancelled their trips or simply not shown up, according to statistics
published this week by the Israel Incoming Tour Operator Association.
The estimated loss as a result of the war with Hezbollah comes to $400
million according to the association.

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