Israel has suffered many tragedies this year but last month, catastrophe was narrowly averted when residents of an apartment building in Holon were evacuated mere hours before it collapsed in front of their eyes. 36 families were left homeless and fled with only the clothes they were wearing but Israel365 jumped into action, bringing together its community of lovers of Zions.
Early Shabbat morning on September 11, residents of an apartment building in Holon heard a loud crash. Most residents were still asleep but when Liran Cohen tried to leave for synagogue, he couldn’t get his door to open. He tried everything, but the door wouldn’t budge. He called the Holon Fire Department, who responded by dispatching a team of firefighters to the scene. The firefighters checked the situation and broke down the Cohen family’s door. Upon entering the living room, they noticed a massive crack and immediately realized that the structure of the building was in dire condition. The firefighters ordered the immediate evacuation of all residents from the building. Many residents were unable to open the doors to their apartments, becoming trapped inside. On Sunday afternoon, 30 hours after the residents left. Blessedly, no injuries were reported but the evacuation had been carried out with such urgency that all of their belongings now lie under the rubble. Despite escaping death, the former residents are hard-pressed to begin life anew with literally just the clothes on their backs.
The head of Israel365, Rabbi Tuly Weisz was grateful for the opportunity to help channel the love and goodwill of the Israel365 community to these families in their time of need.
“It is an honor and a special privilege we take seriously to act as the humanitarian first responders to Israelis in their time of need,” Rabbi Weisz said. “Thanks to our community and all the Christians who love Israel, as soon as the building collapsed, we were on the scene to help. In addition to the countless basic necessities the families needed, we took the people to buy clothes to replace what they lost. We took the kids out to buy bicycles to add a little sweetness to their lives.”
“The generosity of the response was touching,” Rabbi Weisz added. “Our sages teach that words and actions that come out from the heart, enter directly into the heart. This is a heart connection from the nations to Israel. The people who benefitted from this generosity asked me with tears in their eyes to thank our people, our community. And to bless them for blessing Israel.”
Rabbi Weisz brought the residents together and surprised them with a 2,000 NIS shopping spree at a mall to help replace some of what they had lost.One resident was so touched by the gift of the bicycle for her son that she called to thank him.
“This began as a miraculous case of Divine Intervention with Hashem preventing a horrible disaster,” the resident said. “Everything that followed was a gift from God and from people who care. I was deeply touched to see someone acting, to put it simply, as an emissary from God,” she said. “You showed up out of nowhere, unexpected, in our hour of need. It was like a hug that we would like to return, if not in action then in words, to you and everyone who stands behind you.”
One resident, Noa Yehezkel, was about to be wed. All of the preparations for the wedding, the invitations, wedding dress, accessories, and wedding bands, were lost in the building collapse.
The incident is reminiscent of an incident in June in which a 12-story apartment building in Surfside, Florida collapsed suddenly in the middle of the night, killing 98 people, making it the third-deadliest structural engineering failure in United States history. Israel is still reeling from a year of deadly events. In April, on the holiday of Lag Ba’Omer during the annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai on Mount Meron, 45 people were killed and over 150 injured in the worst peacetime tragedy in modern Israeli history. The next month, 2 people were killed and over 160 injured when bleachers in a synagogue in Givat Zeev north of Jerusalem collapsed.
The effort to help is ongoing and more information is available at the Israel365 website.