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My heart is in the East, but I am in London

Everything is intertwined. I’m here, an Israeli, a mother, reservist’s wife, communal worker trying to provide assistance – a Jewish woman.

​​​​Rivka Magzimoff | October 26, 2023

Rivka Magzimof profileShabbat morning, Shemini Atzeret. In the synagogue, there was a festive atmosphere, celebrations of a Bar Mitzvah, singing, and excitement all around.

After the festivities, the rabbi told of the terrible news he heard from Israel as he made his way to the synagogue. The details are not yet clear, he said, but dozens, perhaps hundreds, are dead and wounded. The entire community stopped the joyous celebrations and started reciting Psalms for healing, protection, and success.

Hearts started pounding. Next to me, there was another Israeli woman. Both of us looked at each other with a mixture of questions, fear, and worry filling our minds and hearts.

We rushed back home, unable to continue the Shabbat service at the synagogue. Two more Israeli families who had also heard rumors were already there waiting for us, and together we started piecing together the information, slowly realizing that what was happening in Israel is a nightmare beyond comprehension.

Throughout Shabbat, more Israeli families gathered at our place and we sat together, simply together, worrying and crying.

A few hours later, my husband received notice that his reserve unit is being called up, and there’s no doubt – he started to prepare. He packed his bag and looked for a flight to Israel as soon as possible. Along with him hundreds of Israelis living in the UK, upon hearing the news, started trying to reach the homeland. Flights filled up quickly, and it took another day before he could arrive in Israel and then head to the northern border.

Here in London, now, I am juggling three fronts simultaneously:

Worrying about our loved ones in Israel: my husband, my brothers, and all the families whose most precious have been stolen from them.

Ensuring that the children don’t witness the horrors; maintaining a sense of security and normality at home.

Caring for the Israeli community living in the UK.

There are approximately 100,000 Israelis living in the UK, a significant number. In fact, almost a third of the local Jewish community is made up of Israelis. As the director of the Shelanu community for Israelis here, my responsibilities are substantial. The calls keep pouring in, numbering in the hundreds. The phone doesn’t stop ringing.

Sunday was still a Jewish festival for those in the Diaspora, and the synagogues were full with people dancing with the Torah scrolls. But for us Israelis, the festival had ended on Saturday night and we immediately began working around the clock to address various needs arising from the situation.

We established an emergency assistance center for mental support for anyone who needs it. We have a team dedicated to explaining the situation, not only to the local Jewish community but especially to the broader British public. In parallel, hundreds of Israelis en route to Israel found themselves stranded in London, and we are providing them with accommodation, activities for the kids, and general support. We’ve held meetings for those who wanted to feel less alone and not face the situation in isolation.

Everyone wants to do something; everyone wants to contribute and help. Within a day, hundreds of initiatives have sprung up to assist in various areas in Israel and here in the UK. We established a coordinating body to channel all these efforts into one place for those who want to help and those who need assistance.

Our community here is strong and united, and we have amazing volunteers who have stepped up to help. There’s nothing like the strength of the Jewish people.

On the other hand – on Monday we woke up to disturbing images in the UK, reminiscent of our nation’s tragic history: Jewish-owned stores vandalized, antisemitic graffiti on the streets, and security alerts warning not to walk around with Jewish symbols, not to gather, and not to send children to school. Protests in support of Hamas in the heart of London, flyers and propaganda meant to incite.

Not just against Israel – but against Jews.

Everything is intertwined. I’m here, an Israeli, a mother, a spouse of a soldier in the reserves, a communal worker trying to support and provide assistance wherever possible and, ultimately, a simple Jewish woman living in London who feels a real threat right here.

When my husband left for Israel, I sent him with a blessing: “Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you” And as Rabbi Yosef Kara explained, “Go in your current strength, for even if you have but little strength, go and save them. Lest you say, ‘I have no strength to save,’ we say, ‘Have I not sent you?'” (Judges 6:14).

From here, we send prayers for the safety of all our brothers and sisters in Israel, sending them strength and love.

Rivka Magzimoff is a shlicha (emissary) of OTS’s Straus-Amiel institute serving as director of the Shelanu community of Israelis in the UK

Read the article on the Arutz 7 website

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