From Rejection to Love . . . of Israel, Chabad Inspires Israelis Who Leave

From Rejection to Love . . . of Israel, Chabad Inspires Israelis Who Leave

by Rebecca Rosenthal - Los Angeles, CA

May 8, 2008

Editor’s note: On its 60th anniversary, Israel is greeted by world public opinion with a barrage of hateful criticism. 

Nothing new there.

There’s probably also nothing new about the fact that some of the loudest voices among those questioning Israel’s right to exist come from within our own people.

For many Jews, it takes a connection to Judaism to gain an appreciation for the miracle of Israel. In this feature, looks at how one Chabad-Lubavitch center reaches out to Israelis who've left Israel, and imbues them with a Torah-inspired recognition for the miraculous events of 1948, and a love for the Jewish people who devote themselves to the defense of Israel. 

( Born, raised and drafted in Israel, Tzahi Itzhak Armoni made his first visit to the Cave of Matriarchs and Patriarchs, one of Judaism’s holiest sites, a few months ago when he accompanied the rabbi from Chabad Israel Center in Los Angeles.

“Had you told me five years ago that I would go there, with a rabbi, I would never have believed you,” Armoni said.

Together with Rabbi Amitai Yemini director of Chabad Israel Center, Armoni, a real estate developer, journeyed to Hebron to bring supplies to soldiers serving in the embattled city. They did the same for families and soldiers in other hotspots in Gaza and Sderot.

Chabad Israel Center has been sending funds to Israel throughout its quarter-century plus of operations. Five years ago, as the news from Israel – daily bombings, raids, attacks – got worse and worse, Rabbi Amitai and Fayge Yemini stepped up their activities.

With the backing of their community, they do more than send hundreds of Purim packages to soldiers. In the winter, Chabad Israel Center delivered 2000 fleece jackets to platoons stationed in Kochav Yaakov, Gaza and Hebron. Using Israeli manufacturers to sew and embroider the jackets with the platoons’ insignias doubled the impact of the much appreciated fleece wear.

“The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that helping someone with their material needs is actually a spiritual form of service,’” said Rabbi Yemini.

In Armoni’s case, helping Israelis with their material needs augmented his own spiritual journey. His story is familiar to those who’ve formed communities around Chabad’s centers for Israelis around the world. In 2003, he wrote a check for a Chabad program. The next year, he hung up on the Chabad fundraiser. “My conscience wouldn’t be quiet,” Armoni said, and he collected money from friends and family to make up the difference. Rabbi Yemini called to say thank you. This time Armoni did not hang up.

“The more I learn about Torah, about the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the more I feel that every Jew is responsible for another. It’s the meaning of the Rebbe’s push for loving a fellow Jew as yourself.”

As mind frames change from anti-religious to spiritually in touch, the desire to help those living in Israel grows, says Mrs. Yemini. Viewing Israel through the lens of Torah teachings makes a real difference.  Initially, “they see themselves as citizens of Israel, the place they were born and where their families live. To see Israel as a holy land, to understand why we cling to it—that’s different.” 

She’s seen Israelis so glad to be far from the daily strife of their homeland only to become key supporters of Chabad’s work for Israel.

On a visit to Sderot, the center’s Crisis-in-Israel funds paid a $2000 grocery debt run up by a mother whose job dried up when the missiles started falling. As this article goes live, Chabad Israel Center’s latest project, funded largely by Israelis living in southern California, is nearly completed. At the soldiers’ request, Chabad financed building of a shaded rest area for troops serving in Gaza.

Next, the community plans to give ten children from Sderot respite from the missiles lobbed at their homes and schools with a summer at the center’s Gan Israel camp in L.A. 

Armoni, who now keeps a kosher home, observes the Sabbath and sends his children to Jewish day schools, expects to take part in the fundraising for that goal, too.

“I am in a very different place now,” said Armoni. “It is priceless helping the soldiers, but I am also helping myself by finding my roots.”

Submit a comment

1000 characters remaining.
Chabad Lubavitch Worldwide

Candle Lighting Times

If you do not provide a specific location, the system will select an address nearest the center of whatever town, city, region or postal code you provide.

Lubavitch International

Lubavitch International