Am Yisroel Chai at the Mall

By BJLife/Judy Landman
Posted on 02/14/24

Baltimore, MD - Feb. 14, 2024  - I went to the mall today, which is nothing extraordinary, however what occurred  there was indeed extraordinary.  It also happened at another mall, and again in a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike.

It was an Am Yisroel Chai moment, and one I’m so grateful I was privileged to experience.

I wear tape on my shirt, as in masking tape, almost every single day.  Before Shabbos, I place the  piece of tape by my candlesticks. On this piece of tape,  I write a number that increases as the days go by.  I don’t want it to increase.  In fact, I want to rip the tape off.  This little statement piece in the form of tape was conceived by Rachel Goldberg whose son Hirsh Goldberg-Polin was abducted at the Nova Festival and has been held hostage since October 7th.  Rachel Goldberg, who has traveled the world and spoken before the UN, is trying to bring awareness to the world about the horrible plight of the hostages of how many days they have been held by Hamas by initiating the Hostages on the Heart movement.  At its inception on January 14th, she attempted to get one million people to be a part of this movement.  I don’t know what the numbers are now in terms of followers, but I do know that  the numbers that I write on my tape tragically  keeps going up. I want them to come home.  We all want them to come Home.

I have received interesting responses to the tape, as in, “did you go on a school trip and that’s  your id number?” When I explain what it represents, the response is, “ohh…”  I further explain that this is my form of connecting to Klall Yisroel and I use it as a tefillah moment when I say Acheinu upon actually adhering  it onto my shirt. “Ohhhh…,” again.

Back to the mall and what happened there today.   I walked by those ubiquitous skincare carts that typically have Israeli’s manning it.  When I didn’t really respond to the saleswoman’s offer for a free sample, she stated, “Shalom.” OK, hook, line, and sinker. It works every time. I came back and  I explained to her that I really wasn’t interested in the product but thank you anyway.  Instead of getting the typical answer back  that I would receive  a great discount for such a wonderful product, etc.,   she stared at the tape and asked me what it was. Surprised that as an Israeli she did not know about this, I told her what it was.  She looked at me intently and said that her friends brother is a hostage.  I asked her for his name so I could daven for him. She gave me his first name, Evyatar, but not his mother’s name and she seemed confused about that.   At this point, another saleslady came around from the other side, apparently hearing the conversation.  She too looked at my tape and nodded in recognition and I think mumbled something in Hebrew to her friend.  She also explained to her friend that when we daven for someone we include the mother’s name.  Then this young woman told me that her friend is Hirsch Golberg-Polin and that’s how she knows about this movement!  I was somewhat shocked.  While I have family in Israel who are not in the IDF, and I have met other Israelis here and there, who of course have relatives serving in the army, but not such a close connection to a precious hostage.  As  my eyes clouded over, and trying to hold back the flood of tears, I pleaded with her in a mix of Hebrew and English to please, please relay the message to Mrs. Goldberg that we are all thinking of them back here in Baltimore.  And that I, as  a preschool Morah daven with my 5-year-old boys every single day, including the brocho of Matir Asurim, to which again she nodded her head.  She smiled and said that is indeed what we should be doing. They wrote the names down on a receipt I had from another store and I walked away a bit shakily thinking about the extraordinary times we live in.

A little less than a week before, was when I encountered this interaction at the rest stop. There, I met  a frum woman who I recognized from Baltimore. We exchanged “hello’s and good Shabbos,” and then she noticed the tape. This is what she said,” I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel to see that you’re wearing the tape.  I have a family member who is a hostage.”

Walking back to the car, a random woman passing by me, quickly said, “I like your hat,” and moved onward.  I forgot I was wearing my hot pink beanie (for Rosh Chodesh Adar Aleph) that had a magen david applique on it.  Was the woman Jewish?  She could be, however I don’t think she complimented the hat for its color.

Backtracking to the first time such an exchange took place was about a month ago when I took my daughter out for her winter break (before I knew about the tape) and we spent the day at Tyson’s corner.  There are a lot of Muslims there.  There are also a lot of Israelis there too as they live nearby in Virginia. (and of course working at the skin care cart, with whom we had a conversation with about the matzav!)   My daughter and I were browsing in a department store when I saw a man wearing the dog tag chain with the Hebrew inscription of “my heart is captured in Gaza,” and in English, “Bring them Home.  We nodded at each other and of course talked about the war, and all their relatives that are fighting.  I emphatically assured them  that we are all davening.  Another fellow standing nearby, who I had no idea was a Jew, said in his accented English, “Of course you pray!  That’s what you do!  Keep on praying!”

I can’t tell you to wear the tape.  I can’t tell you to wear the hot pink beanie.  What I can tell you is the impression it makes on people when you show them  you care.  And that is the call  of Klal Yisroel, along with the Koach of our Tefillah.   As we head into Purim lets “tape” in our minds and on our hearts  the mantra of K’ish Echad B’lev Echad, so that we too can experience the Nes of Purim once again with an end to this painful Galus.  Bring Them Home. Bring all of us Home.  Am  Yisroel Chai, always and forever.

Written as a zechus for our hostages.