For many around the world, one of the most frustrating aspects of the violence in Israel is the seeming inability to help -- even in some small way. And while we may not be able to stop the suicide bombers, we can still take action to lift Israel's spirits and help it contend with an increasingly uncertain situation.
Even if our actions do not appear to influence the overall outcome of events, at the very least we succeed in changing ourselves. And that, in and of itself, is an important victory.
In celebration of Israel's 54th birthday, we present our readers' "54 Ways You Can Help Israel" -- in no particular order. And thank you to the hundreds of people who submitted ideas.
1) Buy Israeli products and services.
With the Israeli economy suffering, go out of your way to support Israel's export trade. www.shopinisrael.com, www.usaisrael.org, www.israeliwishes.com, and www.israeliproducts.com allow you to buy Israeli products directly. www.shorashim.net is an online tourist gift shop. When in the grocery store, look for brands like Elite, Telma, Osem, and Ahava beauty products -- even if you have to pay a few more dollars for Israeli products. Ask the supermarket manager to order these items specifically. Buy Israeli wine to bring as a gift when you visit friends. Home Depot and other stores have many made in Israel products -- especially plastics. www.israelexport.org lists the names of products sold in the USA.
2) Speak out!
The next time you hear something that puts down Israel, don't wonder to yourself, "What is anyone going to do about it." No Jewish organization or Israeli consulate can fight the propaganda war on every front, so don't assume they will. You be the "anyone" and pick up your pen or keyboard and start writing. Write a piece you for local newspaper, set up information tables at your high school or college, or simply talk to people. Be a roving ambassador for Israel by explaining the true facts to everyone you meet. Even the cashier in the supermarket needs good information. You never know how your contribution may affect someone else's views. The possibilities are endless. The worst thing that one can do is to remain quiet in times like this. So do something!
3) Get the facts.
The Internet is a great resource for getting an accurate picture of what is really happening in the conflict. For daily news, visit the Jerusalem Post (http://www.jpost.com) and IMRA (http://www.imra.org.il). For crucial background information, read "Israel: A History" (by Martin Gilbert), "From Time Immemorial" (by Joan Peters), and "Myths and Facts" (by Mitchell G. Bard) -- online at http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/myths/mftoc.html.
Pray to God to bring peace to the land. Pray for Israel's leaders who need wisdom. Pray that they continue to do what is best for Israel in spite of international pressure. Pray for the safety of Israeli civilians who are targeted by suicide bombers. Pray for the protection of IDF soldiers as they root out every last terrorist. Ask God to heal Israel's wounded soldiers and civilians and to thwart future terrorist attacks. And pray for the Arabs to realize the true nature of their leadership and doctrines that teach hate and murder. Regardless of your level of observance, you can add a request for Israel to your regular (or even irregular) prayer regimen. No prayer goes to waste. You can send prayers via the Western Wall at www.thewall.org. Cry out for God's compassion -- because the gates of tears are never closed. And remember: God is in ultimate control. He has done miracles before and will do them again.
5) Phone Israel.
Pick up the phone and make a solidarity call to your Israeli friends and relatives. If you don't know someone personally, ask someone who does. Call that person in Israel and assure them that you share their pain and understand what they’re going through. Commend that person for having the courage to live in Israel now. Let them know they are not alone!
6) Protest bias in the media.
The media has a powerful influence on public opinion and government policy. When you discover a piece of bias, immediately contact the news agency and complain. Keep your remarks respectful and stick to the facts. Build a list of e-mail addresses of friends and colleagues, so when you discover bias, you can alert others to also file a complaint. There is power in the number of responses, even if your specific letter is not printed. You can join a media watch email list at www.HonestReporting.com which gives guidelines for how to be effective in contacting the media, and has over 25,000 subscribers protesting biased news against Israel.
7) Give Tzedakah.
Give some charity every day for Israel. Encourage others to give charity for Israel, too. One person wrote; “Because our church has been forced to cancel their annual trip to Israel, we are sending our money anyway to the tour guides and bus driver.”
8) Empathize with terror victims.
As you are lying in bed at night, imagine what it's like to be the sister, child or parent of someone who yesterday was full of life, and today is nothing but scattered bones and flesh. It's a mitzvah to cry and feel another's pain. Send an e-mail to Prayers-InjuredVAT@yahoogroups.com and they will send you regular updates with the names and status of people who have been injured in attacks.
9) Visit Israel.
Go to Israel on vacation, to study, or to visit family. Encourage your local organizations to sponsor trips -- study tours, religious tours, Bar/Bat Mitzvah tours. It can be for 3 days or 10 days. Spend as much money as you can afford in order to help the economy. Hotels, stores, restaurants are lacking tourists -- precisely what the terrorists seek! Talk to others about the beautiful landscape of Israel, about the unique feeling of thousands of years of Jewish existence in Israel. Visiting Israel will show Israelis that you really care, and will make a tremendous difference to your own sense of connection. Make your motto: “Tourism against Terrorism!”
10) Fly the Israeli flag.
Put an Israeli flag in front of your home, church, etc. Let everyone know that you are proud of Israel. Put an "I Support Israel" bumper sticker on your car. Wear a combined American/Israeli flag pin on your lapel. If you can’t find an Israeli flag, make one yourself, or ask your kids to draw one, and display it in your car window or office.
11) Conserve energy.
Dependence on Arab oil drives much of the pro-Arab sentiment throughout the world. American foreign policy is also heavily influenced by the need for imported oil. To conserve energy, take simple measures like making sure your tires are properly inflated, using compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home, and buying energy-efficient cars and appliances. What about hanging up those car keys and walking or riding your bicycle for a change? If millions would cut down on fuel consumption, the Arab clout would change. Also, don't visit gas stations who import oil from Arab countries. On a public policy level, urge your political representatives to allow drilling for oil (while taking appropriate measures to protect the environment), and to pass energy conservation measures.
12) Recognize the God factor.
With all the practical efforts to help Israel -- media watch, education, economic assistance, political lobbying, etc. -- don’t forget the spiritual component! The very existence of the Jewish people after 3,500 years -- and the return to the land after a long exile -- is miraculous. Understand the significance of Abraham’s covenant with God. Each of us, on whatever level of observance, must strive to connect.
13) Send flowers.
You can show family and friends in Israel that you are thinking about them by sending flowers. This is a double-mitzvah -- it can also save a flower shop from going out of business because of the weakened Israeli economy. You can pay by credit card over the phone or via email. One Jerusalem florist, an Oleh from the UK, can be contacted at email@example.com.
14) Rally for Israel.
Hold a rally in your city. When thousands of people turn out for a public display of support, it affects all segments of your community -- the politicians, the media, general public opinion. And most importantly, it engenders unity and pride within the Jewish and pro-Israel community.
15) Know your enemy.
The Arab world tends to say one thing in English, but a very different message in Arabic. Blood libels and fabrications of Israeli-sponsored massacres are common. Memri (www.memri.org) provides important translations of the Arabic media. And the Center for Monitoring Impact Peace tracks Palestinian compliance with peace agreements (www.edume.org).
When we stop arguing amongst ourselves and work together, then we can stand united against the enemy, and the Almighty with us. Jerusalem was destroyed because of people speaking negatively about each other, so that is the way we can rebuild Jerusalem. Let us abstain from saying (or listening to) anything bad about any Jew, any group of Jews, or even the Israeli government unless it is constructive critique. The only way to stand against our enemies is to become one with each other -- to lay down our differences and work together.
17) Holocaust education.
With the rise of anti-Semitic incidents around the world, and the state-sponsored anti-Semitism in Arab countries, it is important to see the warning signs before a crisis happens. Learning about the Holocaust helps us appreciate the depth of anti-Semitism and its root causes. Excellent information is online at www.anti-semitism.com. Squelch all anti-Semitic language everywhere you are. Stand up against this terrible hatred -- no matter what the consequences.
18) Visit your Congressman.
Form a concerned citizen’s group, and then make appointment to sit with your Congressman for an hour in his Washington office. Then rent a bus and go! He will see how seriously his constituents are about the Mideast issues.
19) Educate the Palestinian public.
With all the hatred in the Palestinian media, textbooks, etc., an entire generation is being raised for war, not peace. Find ways to introduce democratic values into Palestinian society. Jews cannot realize their dream for peace until the Arabs desire the same.
20) Strive to be a better person.
Be nice to fellow Jews and fellow human beings. Before you go to sleep each night, go through your day, review your behavior, and resolve what you can do better. By setting an example of higher Jewish moral and ethical standards, we can strengthen the nation of Israel and by extension, the State of Israel.
Ultimately, the reviving of our devotion to the Almighty is going to bring about the reviving of the land, and our people as a whole. If we can elevate ourselves even a little, it can arouse the Almighty's compassion and Jewish lives can be spared. Each individual who does teshuva brings Israel one step closer to redemption.
22) Post on the web.
There are hundreds of Palestinian websites devoted to spreading propaganda -- with pictures of starving Palestinian children and sites with blood dripping down your screen describing the “horror of massacres orchestrated by the fascist Israelis.” Pro-Palestinian activists have flooded chat rooms, bulletin boards, and online comments sections. Speak up against individuals who spread lies, against the mobs who bomb synagogues in Europe, and against those who preach intolerance in our schools and universities. Be strong and take heart in the knowledge that all decent people are on Israel's side.
23) Make a small repair.
If you’ve had an argument with someone, simply forgive them, and then ask God to forgive His people.
24) Donate blood.
When you are in Israel, donate blood. With all the recent attacks, there is a great shortage. To give blood is to give life, and shows a deep solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people.
25) Fight child abuse.
Palestinian children are being brainwashed into sacrificing their lives for the promise of “martyrdom.” A group called SICK - Stop Inciting Children to Kill (www.operationsick.com) is trying to stop this child abuse.
26) Support Israeli citizens.
Show Israelis your support, love and friendship by writing letters, postcards and e-mails to everyone you know. Become an e-mail pen pal to someone in Israel.
27) Thank God for His many miracles.
Read the Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) to see how almost every day suicide bombers and attacks are averted. And thank God!
28) Organize an Israeli products fair.
In Denver, Christians and Jews have come together under "ActionIsrael" to sponsor what is called "Ben Yehudah Street in Denver." Shop owners in Jerusalem send some of their inventory and it is sold for them. This helps Jerusalem merchants keep their shops open and provide a living for their families during this terrible time. Thousands turned out for the first effort, and another is scheduled for April 21 at the JCC in Denver.
29) The merit of a mitzvah.
Before you do any one of the 613 mitzvot, have in mind that God should use this merit to help protect Israel.
30) Support Magen David Adom.
Israel's medical emergency service is severely financially strapped and in need of ambulances. Months of terror have stretched MDA to its maximum capacity, while exposing its rescue workers to extreme danger and great sacrifice. Get your synagogue or school to start a campaign to defray the cost of an ambulance. Or contribute on-line at: www.magendavidadom.org. Jewish lives depend on it.
31) Aliyah! Make Israel your home.
You can have a great effect on what happens in Israel by living there. A large influx of educated, entrepreneurial Jews from Western countries will give Israel a major boost. Israel is the place where a Jew is truly at home and can maximize his/her Jewish potential. Start making plans to move when things quiet down (or even now if you're brave).
32) Learn Hebrew.
Call your local synagogue and find out about Hebrew classes. This will build your bond with the Jewish people and the Land of Israel.
33) Get the Israeli side.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there. When an incident happens in Israel, visit the websites of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (www.mfa.gov.il) and the Israeli Defense Forces (www.idf.il/english/news/main.stm) to get the Israeli side of the story.
34) Learn Torah.
Through the learning of Torah, the world is brought to its senses and the Jewish people are protected. Make a commitment to a specific increase in the amount of time you learn each day. Attend a class about Judaism, or pick something from the recommended reading list at http://www.aish.com/literacy/reference/recommended_books.asp. The impact of even a few extra minutes of Torah learning is enormous. And teach Torah to your children!
35) Contact the president.
Call or email President Obama daily or weekly, to commend his support for Israel in the common fight against terrorism, and respectfully urge him to allow Israel to take vigorous action to defend itself. Write a short, personal email with a subject line like: "Thank you for standing with Israel." Every call, letter, and fax is counted. Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the White House comment line at: 202-456-1111, or 202-456-1414.
36) Support Israeli soldiers.
Write a letter and express appreciation for their self-sacrifice in valiantly defending our people and our land. You can even send a care package to a soldier with a holiday gift, etc.
37) Fight terror.
For the civilized world to survive, terrorism must be stopped. Some would appease Arab countries who supply oil. Call on your government leaders to make policy decisions based on what is morally correct, not economically expedient. Show people the PBS video documentary: "Jihad in America" by Steven Emerson. It’s a real eye-opener.
38) Distribute literature on college campuses.
There is an urgent need to counter the virulent wave on anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses. Print and distribute literature on campuses highlighting Israel's humanitarian achievements, democracy and ethnic diversity. One group working on this front is www.israelactivism.com
39) Recite Psalms.
There is a time-honored custom for Jews to gather and recite Psalms in times of distress. King David wrote stirring words that seem to be written for our exact situation today! You can set up a schedule to say a few Psalms every day (recommended are Psalms 20, 83, 121,130 and 142), or organize a group of friends to share saying the entire book together. Rabbi Elyashiv in Israel has requested that all Jews worldwide take 15 minutes out of their hectic daily schedules to say Psalms. You can say them in Hebrew or English, and a free downloadable translation is available at www.artscroll.com.
40) Reach out.
At such difficult times, Jews need to reach out to one another. Invite an unaffiliated Jew to Shabbat dinner. People are open to their heritage and feel the need to connect.
41) Register and vote.
Elected officials analyze voting registration and voter turnout carefully, and make decisions accordingly. If you are not already registered to vote, contact your local Board of Elections and ask for a voter registration application, and be sure to vote in the upcoming elections.
42) Invest. Buy stocks on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Help Israeli companies obtain venture capital funds. You can even buy an Israel Bond for as little as $136. (www.israelbonds.com)
43) Stop carnage on the roads.
Work to end the terrible traffic accidents in the land of Israel which claim 600 lives each year. It is absurd that while we fight against terror, there are tragedies which are completely in our own hands and we refuse to take the necessary steps to stop them.
44) Sponsor educational forums.
Offer a crash course in the Mideast conflict at your local JCC, synagogue, or community college.
45) Show both sides of the refugee issue.
In conversations and in the media, emphasize how the Arab states have mistreated the Palestinians -- refusing to grant them citizenship in order to keep the "refugee" issue an open wound. Raise the issue of how 600,000 Jews were driven out of Arab lands during Israel's independence and forced to abandon their property, with no right of return or compensation ever extended to these Jewish refugees.
46) Hold governments accountable.
Write and call (and boycott if necessary) any governments that are complicit in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activities. Educate the public about the inconsistency of the European Union stand. Why would democracies -- who support human rights -- not speak out against virulent Arab hate speech? Protest at the consulates of those countries who have minimized the anti-Semitic activities taking place in their countries.
47) Help Israel get better spokespeople.
Palestinian spokespeople are persuasive and articulate, but Israeli spokespeople are sometimes less so. Compile a list of Israeli spokespeople, and run an on-line poll, asking people to vote for their favorite. Then inform the Israeli government of the results, so they know who to get the networks to interview in the future. Israelis need to know how they come across to the American TV viewer!
48) Get a clear definition of terrorism.
September 11 united the civilized world against terrorism. Concerned citizens should agree on a strong definition of terror, one that encompasses September 11 terrorists and also suicide bombers. Once agreed upon, there should be a mass campaign to get Congress and the White House to make this definition official -- to the point of using it to dictate policy. Once everyone is clear about what is “terrorism,” support for Israel will grow much stronger. And let Congressional leaders know that you do not agree with the double standard that has been set in fighting terror -- one for America, another for Israel.
49) Hold pray rallies.
Communal prayer is more powerful than any individual can muster. The New York community is holding a massive pray gathering on Sunday, April 21 at 2:30 p.m. in Manhattan, on Water Street between Wall St. and Broad St. More info at www.TefillaGathering.org
50) Support Israeli artists.
With tourism virtually non-existent, many Israelis who depend on it for their livelihood are suffering. If you're going to buy a gift, try to buy a work (piece of art, clothing, jewelry etc.) by an Israeli artist. In Los Angeles, Victorian Rose in Brentwood Gardens has unique jewelry and other works by Israeli artists. She can be reached at 310-826-9102. You can also visit www.ArtofIsrael.com
51) Sign up for solidarity.
www.our-support.com is a website to enable people around the world to express support for the State of Israel. One million people have already signed up. The text will be presented to ambassadors in every country and published in the media.
52) Say the Shema.
The Shema is like the Jewish “pledge of allegiance,” a declaration of faith to One God and an affirmation of commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. It is the first prayer that Jewish children are taught to say. It is the last words a Jew says prior to death. It is the ultimate expression of Jewish conviction, the historic proclamation of Judaism's central creed. It is traditionally said twice each day: once in the morning and once at night.
53) Yearn for redemption.
The Torah tells us that for the Jews in Egypt, it wasn't until "We cried out to God, that He heard our voice and saw our affliction." We had to hit rock-bottom, to see there was no other option but to turn to God. If need be, God will bring every force against us, and strip us bare of every possible escape, in order to bring us the realization that He is the only answer we will ever have. Actively yearn for the redemption and the coming of Moshiach. This conflict will probably not end till he comes, so we must work hard to make it happen now!
Get a group of friends together and spend one hour brainstorming for more ideas how you can help Israel.
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