When “proud Chabad member” Ari Simones first learned about Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, he thought immediately of his family members and friends living throughout the Jewish state. Within days, his cousins and younger brother were called from the reserves to join the frontline.

Recounting it all before a standing-room-only crowd at Chabad of Arizona, Simones paused to tamp down the emotion before adding that in all the chaos and misery of Israel’s predicament there were also surprises that “amazed and inspired” him, happy surprises that he chose to focus on.

For example, his family and friends have been resolute in their determination “to stand firm” while simultaneously keeping a sense of normality in their communities by telling “pleasant jokes” about the kids having time off from school even while rocket sirens blared in the background. The amount of donations and broad support from around the world has also heartened him because “it’s what Israel needs, now more than ever,” he said.

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