More than 100 people gathered in an auditorium on Nov. 2 to listen to personal stories from members of the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership community.
Originally, the event had been planned to celebrate the cities’ enduring partnership. In the wake of Oct. 7, it became a beacon of solidarity. The event was held at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC. On the way in, attendees passed a sign with the distance from Baltimore to Ashkelon in kilometers and in miles.
The partnership is in its 20th year. During the past two decades, Baltimore and Ashkelon’s communities have grown closer together through sharing experiences. Now, that partnership lends strength when the two communities need it most.
“What the partnership is, is a pronounced and profound statement that we are one, that we are together, our destinies are intertwined,” Marc Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, said at the event.
Last month, Ashkelon was one of the cities targeted in the surprise attack by Hamas. Life in Ashkelon continues to remain fraught with danger.
Terrill spoke of the way the attack had impacted the Jewish community.
“We were all attacked on Oct. 7,” Terrill said.
Another speaker, Ellen Shevrin, shared the ways the partnership has changed community members’ lives. Shevrin is a past Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Kesher program participant.
“The past three-and-a-half weeks has brought us closer in our fear and our sadness,” Shevrin said. “We now text every day, sometimes more, just to show love and support. In Israel and Maryland, we laughed together, now we cry together.”
Other speakers included Harel Turkel, The Associcated’s Israel and global initiatives co-chair; Linda Elman, a Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership committee member and The Associated’s Jewish life lead team chair; Sarah Wiener and Matan Levy-Giron, Diller Teen Fellow participants with Levy-Giron being from Ashkelon; Chavi Abramson, a current teacher at Ohr Chadash Academy and Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Shevet Achim school twinning program participant; and Sigal Ariely and her daughter Gily Ariely.
Sigal Ariely is the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership director, and she lives in Ashkelon. Just over two years ago, her home took a direct hit from a Hamas rocket. But on Nov. 2, Ariely and her daughter were in Baltimore to share their experiences in both pain and perseverance.
“The many messages and calls from my friends from Baltimore and the community, asking how I’m doing, offering for me to stay in their houses has been such a source of strength and resilience.” Gily Ariely said. “I don’t know what I would do without them. Those are people who would absolutely do anything for me, and I would do anything for them. I’m so grateful that this wonderful community is so strong and supportive of Israel.”
One attendee, Richard Hantgan, said he was there because it’s important to show unity and perseverance and to support family and friends in Israel.
“Jews are one big family, at times dysfunctional, but we love each other,” Hantgan said.
Attendees also picked up yard signs supporting Israel, blue bracelets reading “Baltimore Stands with Israel” and keychains reading “Someone in Ashkelon loves me!” Blue ribbon pins were also made available in the JCC’s lobby.