Hands Across the Ocean
ZOA in the news
January 1, 2010




by Rachel Saperstein


Winter break can be a time for helping others. Even complicated logistics can work if people care. A story about a US businessman, a group of college students on tour and some very happy children from families who were expelled from the Katif Bloc.

The Jewish college students arrived in our refugee camp wearing black T-shirts with the Zionist Organization of America insignia on the front. An extra message on the back said it all: ‘ZOA for an undivided Jerusalem!’
On their winter break, these young people had come to see and learn the places and stories behind the headlines for themselves.

One of their stops was Nitzan in order to meet the people of Gush Katif. They also came to deliver duffel bags packed with toys, games, jump ropes, coloring books, crayons and balls of all sizes. This was the result of a team effort on both sides of the ocean.

Two months ago I received a call from a tour company asking me to meet a visiting ZOA group on December 28th and tell them about the expulsion from Gush Katif. I recalled that a kindly and concerned New York businessman had offered duffel bags of toys for the Gush Katif children if we could find people to bring them.” The wheels began to grind.
I called the Israel Director of ZOA. “I understand a group is coming to Nitzan in December. Will they be able to bring duffel bags of toys with them?” “I’ll ask,” he replied. “I know they are already bringing gifts for IDF soldiers.” An hour later he called back. “Yes, they will! I’ll have the group leader coordinate with the donor.”

The person working with the kindergartens gave me a list of needs.  I contacted the donor, gave him the wish list and the contact information. “Great! All that counts are the kids’ happy faces” he replied and with his partners at Amazing Savings, prepared the duffel bags. They were delivered them to the group leader at the airport.
On December 28th at 5pm duffel bags stuffed with toys were pulled out of the tour bus parked outside the Nitzan/Dekalim Community Center. Waiting inside were dozens of kindergarten children and their mother, brothers and sisters. Heart-shaped paper necklaces with the words Bruchim Habaim, welcome, inscribed in the center and decorated by the children were handed to the visitors.
With the duffel bags now settled in the center of the room the children rose to sing a welcoming song. Their hand gestures and enthusiasm brought smiles to every face.

A small Torah scroll was brought out and handed to one of our Bnei Menashe (immigrant tribe from India) children. The children formed a train with their hands on each others’ shoulders and sang Ki miTzion teytzei Torah, From Zion the Torah Goes Forth. Tears and applause exploded simultaneously. 

Now for the great moment as the duffel bags were opened and, to the delight of the children, a myriad of toys were revealed. All were shining and new; no dolls with missing parts, broken crayons, or puzzles with pieces missing. For children accustomed to getting cast-offs, this was a delight beyond words.

The following morning each of the six kindergartens received a bag of its own.

Thank you, everyone who had a part in this.  Whether you were there in person or not, you were with us in spirit.
I told the group of students: “These children were born here, in this shantytown, to parents who had lost their beloved homes and jobs.  Their parents brought new life to this land despite the edict of expulsion that turned them into homeless Jews. Their love of the Torah and the land remains unshaken.”

Hands that care can bridge the ocean..

Visit our website – www.operationdignity.com – for more information and how you can help.

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