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A couple of days ago, a friend of mine, Jennifer Gutman, asked me to like a Facebook page called Straight to the South to spread awareness of the plight of those living in southern Israel and to raise money to help them. In a time where I wake up feeling angry almost every day; whether it’s because I’m being woken up by a siren, waking up to some hideous media portrait of Israel, or to find out Jews around the world at various rallies have been beaten and threatened, my mild involvement in this project has been my shining light. I have taken to refreshing the GoFundMe page every time I come home and seeing new donations brings a smile to both my face and my heart.
Straight to the South started two weeks ago when Arik, an Israeli civilian, was called to his miluim (reserves) unit for the search and rescue unit of the Homefront Command near Gaza. While Arik completed important tasks like helping elderly women from their homes to a shelter during incoming rockets and clearing rubble from houses that have been hit, he realized he could and wanted to do more.
Around him he was seeing first-hand many families and soldiers who were struggling and in desperate need of help. Many people are not able to work right now and therefore not receiving paychecks, making it even more difficult than usual to afford groceries and everyday necessities. The residents as well as the economy of the south are truly suffering and have been for years because rocket attacks are so frequent. (At least 5 have been shot at southern Israel since I started the final edit on this post.) On top of this, Arik’s unit was also witnessing many soldiers from large, poor families who have no pocket money to buy anything they need. They have only what the army gives them and it really is not much.
Arik took one of his free moments to reach out to his friends Libbie Snyder and Jennifer Gutman, both American-Israeli dual citizens determined to do something to help. The three met 10 years ago doing Israeli advocacy work in Boston and after a night of brainstorming, the idea behind Straight to the South was born. Quickly, their friend Shira Kaplan joined the team all the way from Switzerland.
Since then, we have been reaching out to friends and family in the US, Canada, Israel, Switzerland, and other places throughout Europe trying to raise awareness and funds for residents and soldiers in the south.
In just two days, together we have raised close to $7,000 from various parts of the world. We are in awe and so touched by everyone’s generosity.
To start, this philanthropic group decided the most direct way to help families in the south was to pay off their debts at a local grocery store. Due to personal relationships so common in Israel, these families have often bought groceries on credit from local stores. Without working regular hours due to the escalation, many of these families have been approaching the debt limit, risking being denied groceries for their, often large, families.
With the help of a local social worker, Straight to the South has been able to pay off the debts of families in need so that next time they go to buy groceries, they will be informed that people from all over the world have contributed to help them. It is truly a wonderful and relieving moment for them. Straight to the South has also purchased grocery vouchers to distribute to families and soldiers in need. These vouchers are also helping local business stay afloat in a difficult time.
With the ever growing contributions, we are looking forward to reaching out to more families and soldiers in the coming days to prove to them the world has not forgotten them, admires their strength, and is thankful for their service and sacrifices.
For more photos and anecdotes, and to help us spread the word, please visit and like the Straight to the South Facebook page by going to Straight to the South on Facebook.
To donate and help us reach our goal of $25,000, please visit Go Fund Me.
Editor note… Brian here: I had to pause editing this for an alarm and some Iron Dome interceptions too.
Ari Playford moved to Israel in 2012 from Seattle, Washington where she received a degree in political communications from the University of Washington. In the fall she will be pursuing her masters in Middle Eastern studies at Tel Aviv University. She somehow manages to play a fair amount of volleyball and read a lot of books while spending too much time arguing with the ignorant on social media.