ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) – About one week from now will mark one month since the Israel-Hamas war began. The efforts to assist those overseas are happening from here at home.
Meredith Dragon, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, recently returned from a 48-hour mission trip in Israel.
While there, Dragon says she could feel the weight of the war. She supported families of hostages and others directly affected by the terror attacks in Gaza.
“It’s a bustling, thriving country. So, it’s sort of the quiet grief you really could feel that was palpable across the country,” said Dragon.
The trip marked her first visit back to the country since the war started. Dragon was joined by 20 other leaders through Jewish Federations of North America.
Staying in Jerusalem, Dragon spent much of her time assisting locals in Tel Aviv and Netanya.
“This trip was really specifically about standing in solidarity with the people of Israel. There’s a lot of grief and a lot of anger. With the families of hostages, the most important message people wanted to get out there was that we cannot forget there are 240 people being held hostage in the hands of terrorists, and that’s extremely scary,” said Dragon.
On her second day in Israel, Dragon says she boarded a bus to begin to head home when an alert signaled on her phone of a rocket launch in that area. The notice would temporarily move her to a bomb shelter with dozens of others, where she helped to console those in distress.
“It was really important for me to be there because of the deep ties to our Rochester community and Israel. I feel like people needed to see us. They needed a hug. And additionally, I feel like all of those families who worry day in and day out about their loved ones held hostage needed to hear that we have not forgotten them and that we are going to do everything possible to make sure they get home safely. That’s a message they needed to hear, and I was really proud to bring that message from our community,” said Dragon.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester has another trip to Israel planned for February. Dragon says she hopes to gather a group to visit in the coming weeks ahead of Thanksgiving.