In the first few days of war, it felt as is the entire country was paralyzed. Soldiers couldn’t get to the frontlines, civilians couldn’t leave them, and massive amounts of critical gear were dreadfully missing.

One organization that filled in the vacuum and stood up to the task was Brothers and Sisters in Arms (also known as Brothers and Sisters for Israel), a group that until October 7th was synonymous with protests against the judicial overhaul planned by Israel’s government.

But on October 7th, these volunteers turned their attention and widespread infrastructure to ferrying soldiers to Israel’s south and helping evacuate civilians from their suddenly war-torn neighborhoods, as well as organizing a command center to facilitate the varied requirements that war necessitated. 

Inside huge hangars in Tel Aviv, thousands of volunteers quickly organized formula for displaced babies, warm jackets for soldiers, furniture for families who lost their homes and even rescue operations for pets left behind.

Established in early 2023 by Ron Scherf, Eyal Nave and Eitan Herzel, three reserve soldiers who opposed the judicial overhaul proposed by the government, Brothers and Sisters in Arms spent its first few months organizing protests, roadblocks and even maritime demonstrations against the legislation. 

In the weeks following October 7th, when citizens were feeling helpless in the face of the atrocities committed in the southeast by Hamas terrorists, and fearing the repeat of such atrocities up north by Hezbollah, thousands more Israelis chose to volunteer with Brothers and Sisters in Arms. 

Volunteers joined the group in establishing preschools in hotels housing evacuees, free “stores” offering winter clothes for those who left their homes back in the much warmer fall, mobile showers for soldiers and even conducting weddings for young couples who were called up for service. Many more also went to volunteer in factories and farms in Israel’s Gaza border area to help local businesses survive during the war. 

Brothers and Sisters in Arms’ contribution to the war effort has been jaw-dropping: they helped evacuate some 3,500 people from their homes, organized 150 tons of combat support equipment that was donated from Israel and abroad, provided over 600,000 meals to soldiers and civilians down south and up north, and facilitated 300,000 volunteer days. 

The English-language logo of Brothers and Sisters in Arms. Photo: screenshot
The English-language logo of Brothers and Sisters in Arms. Photo: screenshot

Over the last few months, the organization was lauded both in Israel and abroad, receiving visits from notables such as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jerry Seinfeld, as well as local politicians.  

In recent weeks, members of the group have been organizing nationwide protests against legislation that would continue to exempt ultra-Orthodox men from military duty. They’ve also taken active part in protesting for the release of the hostages still held captive in Gaza, and against what they view as authorities’ failure to lead the war. 

Regardless of what one thinks of their politics, the people of Brothers and Sisters in Arms have demonstrated that it’s possible to be against the government but for the people. They have shown what compassion, care and responsibility for fellow Israelis can look like, and in the darkest hours of the war provided a shining light.