Update from JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman
|Day 8: Update on Operation Protective Edge and Federation Response
July 15, 2014
When we went to sleep last night, reports swirled that there would be a ceasefire this morning. Unfortunately, our hopes and prayers for a respite for Israelis from the eighth straight day of rocket fire were dashed. We woke to the news that while Israel had agreed to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire terms, Hamas had not. In fact, nearly 50 rockets had been launched overnight from Gaza as well as Lebanon, bringing the total number of rockets Israelis have endured to more than 1,150.
And so began a new day.
Today, we joined 1,000 children from throughout southern Israel at the Shefayim Water Park, where they were enjoying a day of fun far from Gaza, thanks to The Jewish Agency for Israel. By the end of the week, more than 10,000 children and teens will participate in activities like this. Their smiling faces inspired us, though we were all aware that by the end of the day they could very well be returning home to more sirens.
I don’t think there is a single person following events here in Israel who doesn’t have the number 15 etched in their mind, the 15-second warning that many Israelis have to sprint to a safe space. We are so focused on the speed with which Israelis must act that it is easy to forget what happens to those who can’t run from harm’s way.
JDC’s Center for Independent Living in Beer Sheva is the main facility serving people with disabilities throughout all of southern Israel—Jews and Bedouins. There, we heard the heartbreaking story of one client who has had to relocate into his concrete safe room. He can’t leave it, even to go to the bathroom. If a siren sounds, he’s not sure he’ll make it back in time. But with a portable toilet from JDC he can maintain his independence and dignity through long days and nights in the shelter.
The Israel Trauma Coalition is focused on providing trauma-related services to entire communities. In a briefing at one of their centers in Sderot, we learned first-hand about some of the challenging cases they are dealing with around the clock. While ITC has focused its resources and expertise in the south, they are now expanding their services to newly affected areas in the center of Israel’s most populated regions.
I continue to be overwhelmed by what our community can achieve when we all work together. We are thrilled that the Reform and Conservative movements have joined our Stop the Sirens coalition. Rabbis from both movements joined us last evening and shared with us the depth and impact of their important work throughout the country.
For all of us on this whirlwind mission, the last two days have been quite a journey. I think Deborah Corber, CEO of the Montreal Federation, summed up the experience best:
“I was somewhat ambivalent about the very idea of a ‘solidarity mission’. I worried that Israelis would view it as an opportunistic move, a ploy to get a few good photo ops, or worse: that we would be seen as voyeurs, just like the people who cause infuriating traffic jams on the highway so they can get a good look at the accident on the side of the road.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong. To a fault, every single person I’ve encountered in the 32 hours since I arrived has been grateful for our visit…by this demonstration of solidarity, by the knowledge that Jews all around the world are paying attention, are concerned, and are committed to helping them weather this storm.”
Wishing peace for Am Yisrael,
The Jewish Agency for Israel
-- To date, nearly 5,000 children from rocket-battered southern Israel will have participated in rest and recreation activities away from the line of fire organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel. More than 10,000 children and teens will participate in such activities over the course of this week.
-- These participants are in first through 12th grades and are residents of the Ofakim, Shafir, Lachish, Be'er Tuvia, Gan Yavne and Yoav regional councils, as well as recent immigrants from Jewish Agency immigrant absorption centers in Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat and Sha'ar HaNegev. All will enjoy activities at the Kiftzuba amusement park, the Israel Museum and the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem.
-- Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky met with children at a Federation-sponsored program at the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens (the Biblical Zoo) in Jerusalem and said, "Thanks to the immediate action of our partners at the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod-UIA, The Jewish Agency is able to offer a real-time response to the residents of southern Israel."
-- Sharansky added, "It is both moving and inspiring to feel the mighty fortitude of the people of southern Israel—both immigrants and native Israelis—and the powerful solidarity of world Jewry, which draw upon and strengthen one another. The Jewish Agency is proud to serve as a conduit of positive energy between the Jewish world and the people of Israel's south and we will continue to do whatever we can to support the local residents during this trying time."
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
-- See photos of the JFNA solidarity mission yesterday at JDC’s Sderot Center for Young Adults, staffed year-round by volunteers.
-- Four hundred activity kits were distributed throughout the south, and more were sent to the JAFI absorption center in Ibim as part of our collaborative work with partner agencies.
-- Yesterday, 70 of the most vulnerable children and their families from Ofakim enjoyed a day away from the line of fire at a swimming pool in Arad.
-- Portable toilets are being distributed today and over the next few days to people with disabilities. These toilets, which can be kept in safe rooms or in shelters that can be safely reached in 15 seconds, allow them to maintain their independence and dignity in times of crisis.
-- Emergency coordinators for the Centers for Independent Living in Beer Sheva and Tel Aviv are working at full steam, as are the emergency staff at the four Accessible Communities in Hadera, Rehovot, Gedera and Yavne.
-- Avi Ganon was caught in a rocket attack in Tel Aviv Monday, about which he said: “Effects reach beyond a few minutes spent away from our desks. As soon as we get back into the office all the mothers are on their phones talking to their children, checking that they're okay and reassuring them that they're alright. Often the children are in tears, there's panic...Sometimes I send staff home in order to take care of their own children."
The Israel Trauma Coalition
-- Thirteen percent of Israelis have post-traumatic stress symptoms and require trauma care.
-- The ITC has provided direct care, conducted house visits and worked with the Local Council Authorities to ensure a seamless provision of trauma care.
-- Dedicated service providers who have worked around the clock are suffering from trauma as well as professional burn-out, and desperately require both respite and self-care programs.
-- The Israeli Security Cabinet voted 6-2 to accept a ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt. Hamas rejected its terms and has continued to fire rockets at Israel. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Hamas’ rejection. Read the full text of the proposed ceasefire here.
-- Following Hamas’ rejection of a ceasefire, the IDF has resumed striking targets in Gaza.
-- Of the 1,081 rockets launched from Gaza, 845 have hit Israel and 191 heading for populated civilian areas have been intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.
-- On Monday alone, over 100 rockets were fired, 85 falling in Israel and 15 intercepted by the Iron Dome.
-- Early morning on Tuesday, 3 rockets were fired from Sinai, with 2 hitting populated areas.
-- An Israeli volunteer distributing food to IDF soldiers near the Gaza border was hit by a mortar and killed Tuesday. He was the first Israeli citizen killed since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge.
-- Two young sisters from the Negev Bedouin town of Lakiya were wounded by rocket fire Monday, one critically.
-- A rocket fired from Gaza struck a school yard in the Eshkol region. Luckily, all the children were in a shelter.
-- Many Israelis have received threatening text messages from Hamas. The message translates as, “The stupidity of your leaders has turned Israel into a firing ground and driven you to shelters. We will continue to fire at every place in Israel until our legitimate demands are answered with absolute certainty.”
-- More than a dozen Palestinian children are being treated at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon today. Their care is being funded by the Israel-based charity Save a Child’s Heart, which supports free pediatric cardiology care for Palestinians.
-- Though the Israeli stock market has remained relatively stable, damage to local businesses is already estimated in the millions. Yesterday, the Government approved a $120 million package to support impacted businesses.
-- Property damage from the conflict to date has totaled $4.5 million.
-- Though Operation Protective Edge has already cost Israel over $300 million,Finance Minister Yair Lapid promises no economic constraints on future actions.
-- A number of anti-Israel rallies have become violent. Two synagogues and a kosher market were attacked during anti-Israel demonstrations in and around Paris, with thousands calling for “death to Jews”. Two days prior, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue outside Paris.
-- Four pro-Palestinian protesters brandishing wooden sticks threatened people attending a pro-Israel rally in Los Angeles.
-- During Operation Protective Edge, the IDF has targeted over 1,576 terror targets, with both naval and aerial capabilities.
-- Watch a video of IDF Spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner speaking about the IDF's challenges in fighting Hamas.
-- Listen to a phone call recording of an IDF soldier warning residents of a Gazan home of an imminent hit. He says, “Make sure there is no one at all in the vicinity.”
-- Israel continues to allow truckloads of supplies to reach Gaza, despite the objections of many Israelis. Daniel Matari, a Kerem Shalom resident who drives a truck and went to block the transfer of goods with his own vehicle Sunday, has said that while he is unable to safely buy groceries and his child cries at night, he will protest the transfer of unnecessary goods like Coca Cola.
Listen to a recording of last night’s JFNA/JCPA teleconference with Ambassador Ron Dermer. There were almost a thousand people on the line. Thank you for your interest and support.
Read a prayer for troubled times, reproduced with gratitude to the Masorti Movement.