Chief rabbi praises SA letters to soldiers
Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein says the response by South African Jewish school students to his request to write letters to Israeli soldiers has been amazing and heartwarming.
“I arrived in Israel with a box of more than 1 000 letters from children of different ages from across the country. It was beautiful to read these letters the children wrote from the heart, with such love and admiration for the citizens and soldiers of Israel,” Goldstein says.
Goldstein landed in Israel on Friday, 2 February, and visited soldiers in rehabilitation wards at the Shamir Medical Center in Tel Aviv. “These soldiers had stories of tremendous heroism and resilience. Some of them had been through multiple operations, some with months to a year to a year and a half of recuperation ahead of them. It was a humbling experience,” he says.
In addition to letters from students, community members also sent messages to the soldiers and families of hostages. One person wrote “Dear chayalim, it’s not lost on me that you’re far from home, facing challenges and uncertainties most of us can only imagine. Your sacrifice, however, ensures that we can go about our daily lives with a sense of security and peace. Your commitment to the values we hold dear makes you a hero in my eyes, and I’m genuinely thankful for all that you do.”
Another wrote, “Dear hostages’ families. Know that your pain is shared by me. I wish you strength and fortitude for the days ahead. I pray that they will be with you soon.”
Says Goldstein, “Most of the letters were actually distributed on Monday when we went down south to go and see what was left from the kibbutzim that were so savagely attacked on 7 October. We visited Kfar Azar, Kissufim, Nir Oz, and others. Seeing the devastation was heartbreaking.”
With very few ways to offer help directly, many Jews outside of Israel have felt frustrated and helpless since the 7 October massacre. Turning to the tools at their disposal, the South African Jewish community offered its support and thanks. As Phyllis Grissum-Theroux wrote, “To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
Testament to Grissum-Theroux’s quote, Goldstein says, “Another part of the trip down south was to see the amazing initiatives by citizens, who have come forward to help support soldiers by providing beautiful food stations. I stopped at two of these places to meet soldiers, hear their stories, and give them the letters. All the soldiers I spoke to felt tremendous joy that children as far away as South Africa were thinking of them and were grateful to them for what they were doing for the Jewish people. It felt like they drew strength from these letters.
“It’s important for diaspora communities to reach out, as the war Israel is fighting is a war which secures an independent sovereign Jewish state. This enhances the safety and standing of Jews throughout the world. It’s so important to convey that support.”