"Ascent and the Terrorist War from Lebanon"

From North to South (and Back)

Rabbi Shaul Leiter


Dear Friends,

It is now the end of the fourth week of the war. Death and destruction fill the news. I am not embarrassed to say that it is very very draining even for normal people. One million people displaced. Whether someone is in emergency housing, scrambling every day for food and activities for the children and keeping your wife calm or on a mission helping others or anywhere in between, it is taking a major toll. And the government is talking about another month. And about giving up the Golan to appease Syria!?!?

I am sitting in my home office. As I write I can hear the bombs falling in Safed. Our house is shaking. My wife is shouting for me to come to the shelter. We pray for no casualties.

I have been down to Nitzanim refugee camp, up to the front, a few times, most recently two nights ago, spent yesterday in the hospital visiting the wounded, today I shall try to get to the Ari's gravesite.

The whole tourist area north of Kiriat Shemona is one massive army base, soldiers and army vehicles everywhere, the odd Teldan rental speeding to get off the roads. Bombs or artillery booming constantly. Just the sound puts you on edge.

I was there 1/2 kilometer from the front in Kibbutz Snir with 5 others helping a battalion of soldiers wrap tefilin (I alone did 50), giving out food, tehilim books and chitas books, and signing them up for a letter each in the Sefer Torah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Young men and women, really children 18 and 19 in uniforms, with automatic weapons, most already with battle experience, getting a meal before a 14 kilometer hike to their operations base for 36 hours of search and destroy missions. Truly surreal. When I said that G-d should protect them, they frowned. When I said you should be successful, they smiled and said amen. Some asked that we pray for everyone, that they should all return safely.

We have 8 cars going out, 100 would not be enough.

We also finalized supplying tefilin for the air force, 50 pair to go to staff rooms on every base, and are still working to come to a deal with the army and navy.

Today I was in the Safed hospital, the closest major hospital to the border. 18 injured soldiers arrived today, 25 yesterday. We give out bags of treats, Psalms, help them put on tefilin if they are able, a good word, asking them if they need anything. The Ascent/Chabad team are usually the first visitors for most. After the first day, family and army visitors begin arriving. We sat there with a few soldiers, called lightly injured, who had lost an eye or in some other way were maimed or disfigured for life. Moderately and severely injured are code words for something life threatening. There are so many we are sending two shifts a day, starting tomorrow erev Shabbos.

Sunday we have an Ascent staff meeting and the day after I am going back to Nitzanim refugee camp. The press has been slamming the whole situation there because it really is horrible, not humane conditions. We have 10 staff there every day, a small Ascent operation, but it is not enough. We just got an ok to run an actual Ascent seminar there. Three days of our best speakers, musicians and workshops. Space to sit thousands. We are very excited about it and hope to pull it off by this coming Wednesday. It is really just a question of getting the staff there, the audience is already captive....

Ascent is working on 5 things now and I hope you will contribute. Some people are being asked a lot, some people not at all. I apologize if this letter is an imposition. Mezuzos for bomb shelters in Safed- $3000, tefilin for soldiers who commit to using them daily (we are working with the Israel and Army Rabbanut etc, the soldiers are asked to pay 25%)-first 150 pairs $30,000 (I already have $10,000), and tehilim/chitas for distribution to soldiers, 2000 pieces- $7,000. Cars to the front, each day costs 1000$ (simple account, cakes at $2 per, x 500). Staff to Nitzanim, transportation, food, equipment, seminar- $7000. No overhead--direct to the end user.

Please help me spread the word. Tax deductable contributions from Canada go to Mizrachi Canada for Ascent of Safed. In the US to our Ascent POB, # 28, 383 Kingston Ave, B'klyn NY 11213. Israel- POB 296 Safed.UK- Friends of Ascent, 3 Sunny Gardens Parade, London NW4. Email me if you need wiring instructions, thank you for whatever you can do.

Thank G-d we are safe, were in Jerusalem for Shabbos, returned to Safed and are planning to stay. You can imagine how disorienting it is to be associated with a place for 25 years and having to rethink things, at least in the short term. Thank G-d, nevertheless, we are all busy and accomplishing a lot, even under the circumstances. There were 40 missiles in Safed on Shabbos, a few dozen every day, but boruch Hashem, only property damaged, no people. People in Kfar Giladi and Kiriat Shemona and Haifa were not so lucky. Dozens dead or injured today alone.

Besides the 3 Ascent web sites, being done from remote computers, Ascent is doing some very major things. Large educational events in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (we had 600 people in three events last Sunday, a Shabbaton this weekend in south Tel Aviv for 200, and are planning a few events with over 1000 for the coming weeks).

Then, we have set up a yeshiva, tefilin stands, classes, farbrengens, activities for children etc in the Nitzanim refugee camp, between Ashdod and Ashkelon. These are all families who have left the north because of the missiles. They have all the food they need and it is 100% safe but 7000 people and the numbers are growing, more than half children, (I hate to say it but) are living like animals and being damaged by chronic boredom, and no physical way to leave. Anyone who had where to go either never came or left a week ago. Now over a million people have been displaced but these are the ones who were the most helpless. 10 staff go there every day, working 10 hour shifts. Every event is swamped with people.

Third, we are sending out cars every day to the front to give aid to the soldiers going to battle. tefilin, letters in special sefer Torahs, food, now mezuzos, holy books, tehilims and Chitats, and of course good energy. Thousands of soldiers are being touched daily. Very important, we visit the soldiers in the hospital in Safed, the largest hospital close to the eastern front. We give out gifts, food religious articles whatever they need. Yesterday there were only 20. Today, I understand there are many more. And I mentioned before that I have also started a fund to give tephillen to soldiers if they contribute just 25%. The army will not buy them for soldiers but many soldiers are asking for them.

Finally, I have a team going from shelter to shelter in Safed, putting up Mezuzos.

Just Ascent staff themselves are a case in point. All of the staff are busy but, like me, managing your family under these circumstances is very straining. Chaya Brocha literally can not stand being out of home any more and is pushing to go back to Safed even when there is a question of safety. Ascent is still fighting with the government to get our salaries (they have issues with non-profits). It does not look good, but even if we succeed, this will not cover all of the expenses by any means. Thank you as always for all of your help. Ascent is one institution of tens of thousands of institutions and business all scrambling to survive. Only G-d knows what the future will provide.

In Safed there were only 5 alarms today, no direct hits though a few acres of forest land just north of the city is gone. As always I will keep you informed. Warm regards, Shaul

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