Local Rabbi has a front seat as history unfolds in Israel

Local News

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When Virginia Beach-based Rabbi Israel Zoberman launched plans last month to visit his mother, Chasia, a Holocaust survivor, deadly violence was underway. Israel responded to attacks by Hamas by destroying parts of Gaza, including a high-rise office building that housed the Associated Press and other media organizations. Rabbi Zoberman weighed the risks but decided to move forward with plans to travel to Haifa, Israel. At the time, he told 10 On Your Side if the airlines were flying to Haifa, then he would take the risk.

( Photo: Regina Mobley)

“It’s so hard in so many ways right now when your fellow citizens are under attack; you never know where those rockets are going to land,” said Rabbi Zoberman in May.

Acting on faith, he booked a flight and by the time he landed, power in Israel was changing hands. Prime Minister of 12 years, Benjamin Netanyahu, was out and New Prime minister Naftali Bennett was in. Rabbi Zoberman says Bennett grew up in his former neighborhood and that connection makes him proud.

“I know that he will and the new cabinet will do everything in their power to have peace with our neighbors,” said Zoberman in a Facetime interview from a relative’s home in the northern region of Israel.

Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett shakes hands with outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a Knesset session in Jerusalem Sunday, June 13, 2021. Israel’s parliament has voted in favor of a new coalition government, formally ending Netanyahu’s historic 12-year rule. Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu became the new prime minister (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Peace is holding for now, but just last week Hamas reportedly floated incendiary balloons over southern Israel. Israel responded by attacking Hamas compounds in Gaza.

The flare-up occurred just as Israel becomes the first major country to fully emerge from the deadly coronavirus pandemic. According to a report in The Telegraph, 90% of residents over 50 years of age have been vaccinated.

Rabbi Zoberman said there is concern about travelers entering Israel, “[However,] overall there’s such a great sense of pride that Israel enjoys such a high percentage of people who have been vaccinated.”

While the virus is under control, something on four legs is literally running rampant in Haifa. Rabbi Zoberman has witnessed, firsthand, a surge in wild boar that peaked during the pandemic. He told loved ones the creatures are bold, and will snatch food and other items from packages. He even got a shot of one beast as it lumbered across a city street.

According to the New York Times, the start of the boar infestation predates the pandemic.

(Courtesy: Zoberman family)

As a member of the Virginia Beach Human Rights Commission, Rabbi Zoberman was proud to participate in annual gay pride events in his home country. “I must say it was quite an experience with blaring music and the flags waving and colors. It was love, love everywhere and when I left it I said ‘oh my God it was such a highlight,'” said Rabbi Zoberman.

(Courtesy: Zoberman family)

But nothing eclipses the moment when he embraced his mother. Both mother and son are fully vaccinated. Chasia is more than 100 years old, but her exact age is unknown.

After a somber visit to his father’s gravesite, Rabbi Zoberman reflected on his parent’s role in history.

(Courtesy: Zoberman family)

“She is a heroine soul with my father – truly these were people who went through so much but never lost their faith and hope in the goodness of humanity and God’s providence as well.”

Chasia’s birthday will be celebrated in the fall to coincide with a national celebration. Rabbi Zoberman, the founder of Temple Lev Tikvah, plans to return to Virginia Beach in early July.

(Courtesy: Zoberman family)

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