Arye Dobuler
Arye Dobulercourtesy

After the Hamas massacre of October 7, tens of thousands of Israelis from the northern and southern parts of the country were forced to leave their homes and communities and remain displaced more than eight months after the massacre. Israelis, Jews, and Zionists from all over the world have come together to help the displaced, through donations or volunteer work.

Jerusalem resident Arye Dobuler has been engaged in such volunteer work since October 7. He spoke to Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about the efforts to ensure those displaced as a result of the attacks by the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations have the support and aid they need as they wait for it to be safe to return to their homes.

Arye said that his first instinct upon learning of the massacre was to go back to the IDF. "Prior to October 7th, the army was trying to save money as well as become leaner and more tech-reliant. They closed the armored battalion that my infantry company was attached to about 6 months before. I was over 40, so I was released from reserve duty while the younger guys were assigned to other units that they were able to train with and integrate with."

He said,"Motzei Simchat Torah, I called my platoon commander and told him I was packing my bags and coming back. But he said, 'Where are you going to? There is no more unit, you are not in the reserves anymore. Jerusalem needs armed combat-trained civilians and you're a man of action, I'm sure you'll figure out what needs to be done there.'"

That was when he decided to devote himself to volunteer work. "When he said that, I knew exactly what would be needed. I knew people's desire to help would be larger than their logistical abilities. The moment evacuees began arriving, I went from hotel to hotel (over 30 of them) and asked each what EXACTLY they needed. Down to their favorite soaps and shampoos, and the sizes of their shirts etc… I did the best to fill all requests."

"I started a Facebook group called 'Jerusalem Helping Others.' Myself and others post volunteer opportunities there. I do everything from bringing supplies to evacuees and soldiers, cooking and making sandwiches, to putting together carnivals and birthday parties at the hotels, to sitting and doing arts and crafts with evacuees of all ages, or just letting them vent. I play games with them and sometimes take them on walks of the area. Etc… Anything that they need!" he said, adding, "I thank and appreciate all the many other volunteers who also give of their time, money, and effort. I know I am just one of many, and they're all doing great work."

In Aryeh's experience, most of the families who were evacuated from the south have returned home or found more permanent accommodations, while nearly all of the evacuees from the north remain at the hotels they were evacuated to at the beginning of the war. "I am working with the same people from up North, from the first day they came here. However, most of the people from down South have either returned home or rented apartments. Currently, in Jerusalem at least, probably roughly 95% are from up North. Only a few Southern families that I know of stayed for various reasons."

"The main difference was only really noticeable at the start, because the Southern evacuees had more initial trauma, and were truly very frightened. They asked me over and over if they were safe, and if Arabs would storm the hotels. I spent a lot of time trying to calm people down" he recalled.

Arye said that the nature of the work volunteers like him have had to do has changed as the war has progressed. "At the start of the war, there was a great need for all basic necessities. From clothes and toiletries to toys and baby items. After those were taken care of, I moved more into taking care of their emotional needs. Keeping them busy with activities etc. I also started doing a 'Teddy Bear Hug Tour,' going around with giant teddy bears to the hotels so people of all ages can get hugs. It has proven to be a huge hit and a very good emotional outlet."

He stated that he attempts to cheer up the evacuees "in whatever way I can. Another unique project of mine is that I provide English language comics, as well as sci-fi and fantasy novels to evacuees and soldiers who want them. As far as I know, I'm the only one doing so. I got the idea from hosting now for several years a book and comic sale in Jerusalem, where I've always provided free books and comics to lone soldiers, youth at risk, and those who cannot afford them. You can get more details about this in the Facebook group (or Instagram page) Jerusalem Books and Comics."

"The evacuees appreciate all volunteers, but they especially appreciate the fact that I have become a familiar face, and a stable presence in a time of such uncertainty. After doing this now for over 8 months, in most places I go to, I feel as though I have become part of their community. It brings them another level of comfort that periodic volunteering simply cannot," he said.

Arye cautioned that well-meaning people may attempt to donate items in an attempt to help, but the items being donated may not be what is needed or even counterproductive. "People's desire to help is huge, they just don’t always know how best to direct those energies. Massive amounts of money and supplies were raised based on what people thought the soldiers and evacuees needed. Or based on a request that was no longer relevant. And people would dump mass amounts of everything from food to clothes, to toiletries, to toys and games etc…. on hotels and bases, and then they would leave. Meanwhile, the soldiers and evacuees would smile and say thank you, but they would pick through and only take what, if anything, they wanted or needed. Much of it often ended up in the garbage, as no one has storage space or the ability to transport it elsewhere. You can say, 'Oh that is a shame, someone else could really use it,' all you want, but the fact is that it happens and there is MASSIVE waste daily."

To those who want to help but are unsure how to do so or what to donate, Arye gives the following advice: "Make sure that any request you fill is CURRENT. That it is actually needed and wanted, and not because someone once heard that it was. Best to have an exact address and number for the request. Meaning (for example) to know that you are buying ten flashlights for these specific ten soldiers who still need them now. Rather than buying all the flashlights you can get, because you heard soldiers need it. If you do, there is a chance they end up sitting in someone's storage, or worse being thrown out for lack of room to store them, or simply no need for them. Another example of waste is food. Soldiers and evacuees are constantly sent sweets and other snacks. Some are enjoyed for sure, but much gets tossed. Don’t send anything unless you know it is ACTUALLY specifically wanted and needed."

Arye said that while he has helped evacuees through his volunteer work, they have inspired him "to keep reaching inside and finding the strength to keep going, even with no end in sight. Because all we can do is try our best every day."

"At first, I was really upset about not being able to go fight alongside my fellow soldiers. I had done so before and didn’t want to leave them to do it without me, but I quickly came to realize that what I was doing was important as well. My mother, of blessed memory, was a woman of valor in the truest sense. I merely try to follow in her mitzvah-filled footsteps and try my best to make her and the rest of my family proud! May the hostages be released ASAP, victory won, true peace achieved, and everyone return home safely! Am Yisrael Chai!" Arye concluded.