January 25, 2024

Giving Thanks in Ofakim

This week in the Mishor Hagefen neighborhood of our partner community of Ofakim, about 200 people from the neighborhood came together for a Seudat Hoda’ah, a traditional thanks-giving meal, to give thanks for being alive after the terrible events that took place in their city. More than 50 people were killed in Ofakim on October 7 and the Mishor Hagefen neighborhood was the hardest-hit neighborhood.

The evening was the idea of the local residents who organized the entire evening together with the new JDC Community Resilience Center, which is supported by our Federation.  They recruited people to attend and raised money from local businesses and residents to add to the meal. While the food was catered, local families, children, and elderly residents felt so invested in this evening that many of them brought trays of food from home.

In addition to eating together with neighbors who share the same traumatic experiences, the event honored heroic police officers (pictured below) and those who were lost in the terrible attack on October 7.  There were prayers for the State of Israel, a symbolic release of yellow balloons expressing yearning for the kidnapped Israelis, and the evening concluded with the singing of Hatikva. Michal Zur, Director of Global Connections in Israel, represented Federation, offering words of encouragement and expressed the strong connection between the Jewish Federation of Metrowest and the people of Ofakim (pictured below).

The evening struck a careful balance between giving thanks for being saved and mourning those who were killed. Many people who lost family members were in attendance. It feels like all Israelis share this emotional tension, giving thanks for being alive and mourning those who have been killed.

At the end of the evening, one woman approached Yuval, a JDC professional working in Ofakim, and told him that she was so glad to take part in the thanks-giving meal since, for her, it was the first time she felt comfortable enough to leave her home and spend time with people in her neighborhood since October 7.