When asked what the Australian Jewish community can do for those on the ground in Israel, Ariel, co-owner of Shuk in Sydney’s North Bondi who is currently in Israel, was emphatic in his answer – keep telling their stories and keep fighting for Israel by sharing the truth.
“From experience, we know that when something happens, we have support for two or three days. Obviously, now it’s more because it’s extreme but we just need the world to understand that this is humans here, we are good people. And we can see slowly, slowly how the media are changing their attitude,” he said.
“This is going to be a long journey. I’m here to stay, and it’s not just me. So many people have come from overseas, and no one has a ticket back.”
Ariel and his family were in Israel for an extended holiday. They never expected to be confronted with terrorism and war. But very quickly after last Saturday’s Hamas invasion, Ariel kicked into gear, working with his fellow restauranteurs to ensure soldiers and those in Southern Israel were being fed.
“The first few days were spent catching up with friends, all very optimistic and beautiful. And then within a day, it all changed. We moved to our war routine,” Ariel told The AJN over the phone from Israel.
While Ariel’s family have made their way back to Sydney, he has chosen to stay to help the war effort in any way he can, whether that’s joining his unit or helping volunteer to feed those who need.
Shortly after everything started in Israel, Ariel shared a video on social media.
In it, Ariel takes viewers through the voluntary operation mainly working out of Haachim, a bustling restaurant in Tel Aviv, owned by one of his friends Yotem. Haachim, along with several other usually non-kosher restaurants, even received temporary kosher certification from the city’s rabbinate, to ensure that every person who needed a meal could eat.
“We distributed 20,000 meals to soldiers down south. We are on our way to establish a point up north,” he explained in the video, saying the volunteers are using the resources from Haachim and from other restaurants that have come on board, but at some point, they will need more assistance. At the moment, all food and produce are being delivered to Haachim and distributed from that central point.
There are hundreds of volunteers, including many kids and families, many even coming with their own cars to help distribute.
Ariel explained to The AJN that Yotem is very efficient. “He has a lot of chef friends everywhere; all the restaurants are closed. So, we picked all these chefs and crew and brought them in. Some of them are working 24/7 because of the number of requests coming in of soldiers with no food,” he said.
For Ariel, it started for him by delivering 55 meals to his own unit. Within a day, the count was up to 5000 and very quickly climbing. Within a few days, it had grown to around 40,000 meals that were delivered. And according to Ariel, the demand is much higher, with 150,000 requests.
Ariel also described the scene on the ground, saying while the whole of Israel is banding together volunteering to help, Tel Aviv itself is very much like a ghost-town.
“Normally you cannot move in the streets of Tel Aviv, but the streets are empty,” Ariel described, explaining that this is helping their operation because the drives are much faster than normal.
In terms of the attitude there, Ariel explained that the Israeli spirit is very much alive.
“Everyone you know – older people, younger people, right wing, left wing – they’re all one.”
“Everyone you look in the villages you see garages open with people packing up boxes for people to collect. I don’t think I’ve met anyone here who’s not doing anything. It’s not necessarily moving mountains, but each person is moving one stone. And it’s enough if everyone does a little bit.”
He also said the positive stories coming out of Israel need to be shared. Like the one of his friend who raced down south and rescued eight families in Kfar Aza, getting injured by shrapnel to his head in the process. The initial hospital that he was taken to was so busy that they immediately planned to operate on him because that was the quickest way to deal with the injury. He called another friend who is a doctor, who advised him to come to his hospital. He drove there – just in a civilian car, no ambulance transfer – and for Ariel, it says everything about the Israeli mentality.
“The picture tells everything. My doctor friend taking care of my warrior friend. And they’re both smiling because they’re safe,” he said. “And there are so many stories like that. It’s the spirit of our people, and we should be proud of it.”