SHLICHUS IN THE SNOW
December 24, 2013
Beis Moshiach in #908, Shlichus

The kind of storm that hit Yerushalayim, the Galil, the Golan, Yehuda and Shomron was something that even elderly people in Tzfas could not recall. * Snow piled up, bone-chilling cold, and above all else the loss of power, water, and phone service. * Shluchim of the Rebbe and Chabad Chassidim in Yerushalayim, Tzfas, Ariel and Miron told Beis Moshiach what it was like and about the mivtzaim they did under difficult and unusual circumstances.

By Mordechai Segal

The holy city of Tzfas endured a blizzard the likes of which it hasn’t had in a hundred years. The residents of other holy cities, Yerushalayim and Chevron also suffered from the bitter cold and the piles of snow. Like all the other residents, the thousands of Lubavitcher Chassidim who live in these three cities, as well as in Givat Zeev, Yitzhar, Itamar, and Miron remained holed up for the 72 hours that “General Winter,” who arrived from Russia, visited our area.

However, Lubavitchers in general and the shluchim in particular could not just sit next to their heaters (if they had electricity) and enjoy the warmth. They took care of the members of their community, mekuravim, and soldiers.

SOLDIER ON THE SNOW FRONT

Most of the attention was focused on Yerushalayim, the city which was besieged by the snow (how symbolic that was, since the snow began falling on the 10th of Teives when Nevuchadnetzar lay siege to Yerushalayim). In addition to the residents who refrained from leaving their homes, there were thousands who were stuck on the roads, on Highway 1 and Highway 443. 

People were stuck for many hours on the snowy highways. Any attempt to get the cars moving only caused them to get more mired in the snow. Large numbers of police, members of the Home Front Command, and volunteers exerted great effort to free them and the International Convention Center in Binyanei HaUmah was turned into a shelter for masses of people. One of the people who, until Shabbos came in, looked out for all the people there was the shliach, R’ Yosef Friedman. He began his shlichus in the Mishkenos HaUmah – Kiryat HaLeom neighborhood just nine months ago.

On Thursday night, as soon as he heard about the evacuation to the Binyanei HaUmah, he knew he had to get there in order to help out. Shlichus, after all, is done unconditionally, no matter the weather.

R’ Friedman immediately announced that any family stuck for Shabbos in Yerushalayim with nowhere to go was invited to contact the Chabad house and they would find them a host for Shabbos. Fortunately, most families were able to make it back home by candle-lighting time, but those families still stuck in Yerushalayim enjoyed wonderful hosting thanks to the families in the area.

“We prepared for a situation in which dozens of families would have to spend Shabbos in Yerushalayim and we would need to help them, but in the end, most of the families were taken to the Malcha train station and from there, traveled home.”

There was one family from Nes Tziyona who had to be extricated from their frozen car after having spent the night before in the cold. They were taken to a nearby hotel but did not have the means to prepare for Shabbos. Having no alternative, they contacted one of the shluchim in their city, R’ Asaf Altaras who contacted R’ Friedman. R’ Friedman showed up with a supply of diapers, stuff for the children, food, and making sure they had everything they needed. The children had fever and needed medication which R’ Friedman brought them as well.

The next morning, after not much sleep, R’ Friedman set out to take care of those who were frozen spiritually and needed spiritual sustenance. He went around with a few pairs of t’fillin to hundreds of people, including many religious people who did not have their t’fillin with them and couldn’t leave the Convention Center to find a pair.

Among the hundreds of people at the Convention Center was a group of 300 Boy Scouts from northern Tel Aviv who were evacuated there after getting stuck during a trip in Yerushalayim. The boys accepted R’ Friedman’s offer of t’fillin and also had discussions with him about emuna and other Jewish topics.

In the new neighborhood where he lives there were no power interruptions since the electric cables are underground. His wife was able to cook for Shabbos unlike many other residents of Yerushalayim. 

SHABBOS MEALS FOR HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS

Yehuda-Shomron was also blanketed by a lot of snow. Many yishuvim in Gush Etziyon, Binyamin, Yehuda and Shomron were without electricity and even water for several days. Helicopters from the IDF’s evacuation unit, 669, evacuated some new mothers, old people and babies who nearly froze to death. Special units also evacuated citizens who live on settlements. At the same time, the Israeli air force brought generators to Itamar which was isolated from the world for four days. 

In Ariel, capitol of the Shomron, R’ Sasson Carmel and R’ Shneur Lishner worked with hundreds of students in the Ariel University who were stuck there. 

Every Shabbos they host about a hundred students for an uplifting meal on campus which comes directly from Kfar Chabad. Despite the power outage, they still wanted to hold a Shabbos meal. With lots of help from Above the food arrived just minutes before Shabbos. 

The shluchim saw that there were about four hundred students and they set up for them all. The tables were illuminated by Chanuka candles that were left over from Mivtza Chanuka just the week before and they davened by heart. The meal took place in utter darkness with students eating in groups of 100. Despite the physical cold, the atmosphere was spirited thanks to the shluchim.

APPRECIATING THE LITTLE THINGS

Many kilometers from there, in Tzfas, the city was snowed in until Shabbos morning when IDF half-tracks pushed through the road and managed to enter and help many residents suffering from hypothermia. R’ Shraga Crombie, a shliach in New Jersey and originally from Tzfas, was spending Shabbos with his parents. He wasn’t impressed by the warnings of the imminent storm since he is used to it in the United States. But he soon found himself in a situation that he had never experienced before.

“When we woke up on Friday morning to snow coming down, nobody imagined what the situation would be like just a few hours later. Relatives from the center of the country still toyed with the idea of coming to Tzfas for Shabbos but soon dropped that thought. One relative, who insisted on coming so his children would enjoy the snow, was asked to bring a generator along with him in the eventuality of a blackout.”

As one blogger wrote:

“The road to the Heichal Levi Yitzchok shul wasn’t easy to get through. The snow and wind kept blowing and your feet sank into half a meter of snow. Minyanim for Mincha were held in shul and one verse of the fast day Haftora stood out for its immediate relevance, ‘For, just as the rain and the snow fall from the heavens.’

“Kabbalas Shabbos began early on this fast day (the 10th of Teives). In the middle of the davening the electricity went out. The big shul was dark and most of the men stood near the doors and windows where it was a little brighter because of the snow. The davening continued, followed by dancing and Yechi as usual. 

“On the way home, everyone spent the time guessing how long the power would be out. This time it was brief, and we had the meal with light and warmth which was not the case on the next night when we had no electricity until late in the morning. There was utter darkness, freezing cold, and uncertainty over when the electricity would be restored.

“In the morning, the snow let up a bit until it stopped entirely in the afternoon. When the clouds began to disperse, a breathtaking view of the snowcapped mountains became apparent. Likewise, the damage became visible. Dozens of trees had been knocked over, cars were damaged, and phone and electric wires were down. Throughout the day, the electricity was on and off and you never knew how long it would last. And yet, despite the unpleasantness, there was something inspiring about this long, bizarre Shabbos. We could suddenly appreciate the littlest things. All of a sudden, nothing was a given, not even a cup of tea, a heater or a working light bulb. There is much for which to be grateful.”

MIRON WAS SNOWED IN

R’ Yossi Zelikovitz is the founder and director of the chesed organization “Chasdei Shabtai,” named for his father. In Miron, where his organization operates, as in the other yishuvim in the area, there was no electricity. Tzfas had its electricity back on Motzaei Shabbos while Zelikovitz and his family spent four days without electricity, until Monday night.

At first he was sure, like everybody else, that the storm would be the usual, i.e. light snow which would disappear within a short time. But even he, born in mountainous Miron, was surprised by the ferocity of this storm. By Thursday night the snow had already piled up and then the calls started coming in. They were not caught unawares since, just to be sure, he had covered the wheels of Chasdei Shabtai’s ambulances with special chains… 

“On Friday the electricity went out and we had to make all the Shabbos preparations with the use of generators. I also tried helping people who had gotten stuck on roads in the area. We went into Shabbos exhausted, without electricity, and without hot water.”

Despite the difficulties, he helped provide medical supplies to residents in the area and distributed sleeping bags, which he got from the Home Front Command for the elderly and families that cried for help.

***

As of this writing, electricity has been restored to thousands of homes and schools are reopening. Main highways are completely open as are secondary highways. Life is slowly returning to normal and we pray for a blessed, rainy winter.

 

 

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
See website for complete article licensing information.