On a windy day this past February, 44 Jewish teenagers from the New York area stood upon Har Herzl, Israel’s largest military cemetery, to gain a broader understanding of Israeli casualties and the brutal truth of fighting to protect one’s country. The teenagers were part of the Write On For Israel high school Israel advocacy program, meeting with Israeli officials, IDF soldiers, and media correspondents.
At the cemetery, the Write On For Israel chapter encountered an Israeli couple mourning the loss of their son, Erez Derie, 21, who died shortly after a military operation in 2006, in the city of Jenin.
Penina, Erez’s mother, invited the students to discuss her son’s life and the impact of his death on his family. She shared that Erez was a paratrooper and was killed just a few days before his 22nd birthday. While listening to the heartfelt sobs of his mother, she spoke of her dream to dedicate a Torah scroll in memory of her son. The students made a promise to help the family realize that dream.
The group, whose mission is to train high school students to become Israel advocates on college campuses through journalism and public speaking, decided to take on a new responsibility. “Although not the mission of the program, our students were able to connect with a grieving Jewish family,” Linda Scherzer, the Director of the Write On For Israel New York Division, said. “When Write On For Israel began ten years ago, buses were exploding in the heart of Israeli cities and yet Israel was being blamed for the collapse of the peace process. Today, while the security situation is less tenuous, Israel’s detractors continue to vilify and delegitimize the state of Israel, making the need for Israel advocates on college campus at least as great today as it was a decade ago.”
This upcoming year marks the program’s tenth anniversary in preparing Jewish teenagers for the difficult task of defending Israel on college campuses. Israel defamers have now embarked on a mission to cause Jewish students to be conflicted about their support for Israel. The struggle to remain a supporter has become increasingly difficult with events such as Israeli Apartheid Week plaguing universities across North America.
The Write On For Israel program has produced legions of pro-Israel activists on college campuses and continues to do so amidst dwindling patronage and heightened anti-Israel sentiments. The organization recognizes that the fate of the Jewish future rests in the hands of today’s youth who will grow up and become the next leaders, politicians, and reporters. “I fight for our country here in battle and you fight for our country in your schools and in the media; both of us are necessary,” the IDF general at the Golani Base told the Write On For Israel students in February.
This week marks the launch of the “Write On For Erez” summer campaign. This campaign’s goal is to raise $40,000; enough to pay for the Torah scroll which the Derie family will dedicate to their synagogue in Ma’aleh Adumim.
The Write On For Israel students hope to complete this project in time for Rosh Hashana, so that the family can look forward to a year full of blessings and Torah learning for their community. The students have raised $14,000 so far and hope to see this project into fruition to fulfill their commitment to the Derie family’s dream.
Write On For Israel believes that Israeli soldiers fight for Jews across the world to be able to have a homeland, and therefore Jews cannot turn down a plea from any of their brothers.
The following Long Island students are members of the Write On For Israel program and the “Write On For Erez” Torah project: Jonathan Beer- Woodmere, Rivka Cohen- West Hempstead, Elana Dure- Woodmere, Alison Freudman- Great Neck, Adam Hecht- Great Neck, Daniel Koas- Huntington, Ahava Muskat- Oceanside, Michael Weiss- Roslyn Heights, Aaron Wolff- Great Neck, Marissa Young- West Hempstead.
For more information about the “Write On For Erez” Torah fund, please contact Rebecca Hia at email@example.com. For more information about the Write On For Israel program visit www.writeonforisrael.org.
Rebecca Hia is a senior at the Bronx High School of Science and lives in Kew Gardens Hills, New York. She is a member of the Write On For Israel program, President of the Bronx High School of Science’s Judaic Cultural Society. She is the New York Jewish Student Union Coordinator, and a regional board member of NCSY.