Girls Israel Volunteer Experience
Dance for Life: A Reflection On 24 Hours Of Achdus

We live in an age where we often take what we have for granted. Life is easy. We have all of the amenities we need, and when the news becomes too much for us to handle, we can just turn it off.


Until tragedy strikes. 


Less than 4 weeks ago, thirteen year-old Hallel Yaffa Ariel was brutally murdered while sleeping in her bed in her home in Kiryat Arba. The thought is almost inconceivable. How could someone take the life of such a precious, pure soul, in cold blood, in
her own home, as she helplessly slept to get a good night’s rest for the day ahead?


While people all over the world were outraged and heartbroken by the tragedy, Hallel’s family and friends were left behind to pick up the pieces. One of these people was her dance instructor, Sari Rosenbaum. Before beginning to work with Hallel’s dance troop, Sari had worked with NCSY GIVE as a tour guide during the summer of 2014. After losing Hallel a”h, Sari knew that her dance troop needed something to help them process and get their mind off of the atrocity that had hit them. She reached out to GIVE and the planning began. Though having just arrived in Israel 4 days earlier, our NCSY GIVErs were overcome with emotion at the opportunity to do something – anything – to help comfort the friends of Hallel. We arranged to meet at an indoor bounce house in Petach Tikva, where the dance troop had been hoping to visit prior to the tragedy, and where we would offer NCSY GIVE a glimpse into Hallel’s world.


From the moment we arrived, there was an instant chemistry between our groups. Despite the language barrier and age gap, the girls engaged in conversations, laughter and many, many selfies. We jumped together on the trampolines, with the dance troop showing us their flips and acrobatics, and then returned to our meeting point to create a powerful piece of artwork together: a banner in memory of Hallel that read, “Dance for Life”. We posed for a group photo, proudly displaying our collaborative artwork and sang “Am Yisrael Chai!”, for there were no words more appropriate than a declaration that the Jewish people are here to stay. (See video here.) There were hugs and exchanges of numbers as we left that night, and the banner was rolled up and taken to Hallel’s parents as a sign of how, even in her absence, she is still bringing Jews together. 


Our GIVErs could not get over how strong these girls were, and the Kiryat Arba dance troop were just so appreciative for an opportunity to celebrate their friend’s life, rather than just mourn her loss. 


The following morning we woke up at 5 am and boarded our busses to Ben Gurion airport. Dressed in blue & white, carrying hand-made posters that read “V’shavu vanim l’gvulam”, we prepared to join with hundreds of Jews in welcoming the newest arrival of Olim to Israel on their Nefesh B’nefesh flight. The dancing and singing was all-encompassing, the sense of belonging was palpable, and in that moment, everyone in the terminal felt like an anxious family awaiting the arrival of a loved one, eager to embrace their relative and shout out “welcome home!”. What a tremendous experience to be a part of, especially on the heels of our program the night before. Despite the terror, the hardships and the uncertainties, these olim knew that there was no place in the world they would rather be than in our homeland, Israel. Their choice to make aliyah speaks loudly and clearly: we are not afraid and will never stop fighting for our land and people to be one. 


To drive the message home, we ended our day of volunteering with our first visit to the Kotel. Prior to entering the Kotel, we stopped to reflect as a group on the gravity of this Holy site. How many of our great grandparents yearned to be able to walk where we are walking? How many millions of people lost their lives defending their right to be a Jew? How many pure souls have been taken from us so that we can stand here today?


We live in scary times. The world is a complicated place and is only getting worse. The pain, the hate, the disregard for human life is unbearable. And yet, despite it all, we stand at the Kotel and pray. We pray for peace. We pray for the young Ethiopian soldier
to our left and the older chassidic woman on our right. We pray for a time when thirteen year old children do not need to attend their friends’ funerals. We pray for a time when all of the Jewish people have the confidence to uproot their comfortable lives and return home. We pray for the safety of Israel so that with all of the anti-semitism in the world, the Jewish people always have a place to come home to. We pray for our past. We pray for our future.


It is 3 am. 


I cannot sleep because my mind is still racing from the high we have been on for the last 24 hours. From destruction to rebuilding, we have started on an incredibly emotional journey for which there is no turning back. We are the next link in the chain and have
a tremendous responsibility to pass the torch.


Our charge now is clear: we must not only make sure we dance, we must make sure we dance for life.

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