Update from JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman in Israel
Day 9: Update on Operation Protective Edge and Federation Response
July 16, 2014
As I send this email, I am waiting to board a plane to the U.S. at Ben Gurion Airport. Our solidarity mission has ended and we’re about to return to our lives back home. While our phones will still ring from the IDF’s Red Alert rocket hit app, we won’t have to scramble for shelter.
Millions of Israelis will, though. They are still living it.
They’re still taking cover in stairwells and safe rooms. Parents are still comforting crying children during sleepless nights in shelters. The sirens are still sounding.
Indeed, the crisis is not over. For Israelis. Or for us.
So you will continue to receive messages from “my desk,” but I will just be a messenger to convey to you the real voices of the people of Israel, the people living the situation on the ground. We are collecting their stories so you can hear directly from them.
We have also invited our partner agencies, who really have been your proxies in bringing aid to the people of Israel, to share their reflections from the field. Today, Alan Gil, the CEO of JDC, imparts his thoughts. In the next few days, we will share with you thoughts from our many partners.
May our strength as Am Yisrael continue to guide our work.
Going to work has become a traumatic experience for Yuli Gus, an expecting mother with a three-year-old son living in Tel Aviv. Every time a siren blares, she is overcome with panic, consumed by thoughts of her son running for shelter while rockets fly overhead. Did he make it to the safe room in time? Is he okay? Should I call again to make sure? She can’t get through a single work day without worrying about his safety.
Beth Steinberg and Ira Skop have had to create several plans to help Akiva, their son with Down Syndrome, deal with the ongoing barrage of rockets and subsequent sirens. Though they live just seconds from their safe room, they fear his developmental problems will not allow him to make it in time. If Akiva is too traumatized by the noise to move quickly enough, Beth and Ira have decided to throw their bodies over him and shelter him from rocket fire.
From Alan Gil, Chief Executive Officer
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
It's hard for any of us to imagine what it is like to live under constant threat of missile attack, fear permeating your being, wondering what will happen next.
Now imagine if you were a frail or bedridden 80-year-old, a person with a physical disability or a petrified child tackling challenges every day, including the loss of a parent or poverty. Now add the sirens. Add the missiles. Think of the loneliness. And keep in mind that 60-second window to find safety and solace.
Now you understand the situation for tens of thousands of Israelis in the south—and throughout the country—who face this crisis, the unimaginable, with growing needs and circumstances that require a response imbued with humanity and carried out with expert care.
Thanks to the passionate support and leadership of JFNA and the Jewish Federation system, there is a broad and deep JDC network in Israel of hundreds of emergency teams, social workers, teen volunteers and trained professionals who are reaching 10,000 elderly and people with disabilities to ensure their basic needs, including human contact; bringing smiles to the faces of nearly 20,000 children through bomb shelter recreational activities; offering a day of critically needed respite to busloads of vulnerable Israelis from heavily bombarded areas; creating a WhatsApp peer-to-peer message group among worried mothers that is ensuring they have neighbors to turn to when sirens blare; and working on a number of innovative and widely deployed online platforms that reach these Israelis in their homes and on their phones at their greatest time of need.
Today in Israel, as whenever there is a crisis in the Jewish world, we are putting into action that we are all responsible for one another. In the last week, tens of thousands of Israeli seniors, children and youth, and people with disabilities turned to the JDC facilities and staff who support them during the best of times, and were given the intimate assurance that someone was there for them at the worst of times. That someone was there because of the global Jewish community—because of you.
THE JEWISH AGENCY FOR ISRAEL
-- As The Jewish Agency continues its emergency efforts, some 400 new immigrants from France are arriving in Israel today. Undeterred by the security situation, most of the new arrivals are families, including 195 minors and 18 babies, brought on two special flights organized by The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption.
-- 2014 has seen a dramatic increase in aliyah from France, and more than 5,000 French Jews are expected to immigrate to Israel by the end of the year. 3,289 French Jews immigrated to Israel in 2013, compared to 1,917 in 2012—a 60% increase. Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky said, "Despite the rocket onslaught against the people of Israel, not one immigrant from France has canceled his or her arrival."
THE ISRAEL TRAUMA COALITION
-- Roni Lior, the Israel Trauma Coalition’s project coordinator for Sderot and the Gaza region, pointed out that Gaza border communities have suffered 14 years of constant exposure to Kassams and other deadly rockets.
-- “In these communities, every child under the age of 14 has spent all of his life like this,” Lior said. “The effects vary, from avoidance of specific activities—like refusing to walk to school along a route where a rocket once fell—to intrusive thoughts where you feel like you’re re-experiencing the traumatic event, and hypervigilance, where everything makes you jump.”
-- ITC’s Natal has a mobile unit operating in Ofakim, Sderot and Netivot, providing individual and group therapy, while home psychological treatment for elderly Holocaust survivors is provided by ITC’s Amcha. The Selah Crisis Management Center is in constant contact with its immigrant clientele, providing house visits and telephone consultations where needed.
-- Many parents from both Gaza border areas and the Tel Aviv-Gush Dan region have been calling hotlines to seek help with children crying, vomiting, shaking uncontrollably, wetting the bed or suffering stomach pains. In response, ITC developed an informational pamphlet for parents in English and Hebrew. The RADAR Center/Negev Project Vision at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev also published “psychological first aid” guides for parents.
-- Over 600 people have been treated for anxiety so far, in contrast to 800 for the entire year of 2013. There has been an alarming increase in professional "burn-out". The dedicated service providers who work around the clock now desperately require respite programs where they can receive self-help and regenerative care.
-- Where the model Resilience Centers—the partnership of ITC, Government and local councils—have invested resources and expertise, the five local council authorities of Sderot, Hof Ashkelon, Sdot Negev, Shaar Hanegev and Eshkol are performing better than areas that had not benefited from professional support and assistance.
-- World ORT sent a solidarity mission to Israel’s south. Mission members had to huddle in a reinforced bus shelter when a red alert caught them on the open road as they neared Sha’ar HaNegev High School. Once at the school, they were able to ignore a second red alert thanks to the reinforced concrete buildings of the new campus, which World ORT helped to build.
-- World ORT Kadima Mada CEO Avi Ganon, who grew up in Beer Sheva, said, “The mayor said we were the first overseas delegation to visit his city and he welcomed our support. It means a lot to local people when they see people have come from Mexico, the USA, the UK to support them—it says something.”
-- The mission today was due to meet the more than 200 people bussed up to the Kiryat Yam region by World ORT for respite from the bombardment of their southern communities.
-- “Beer Sheva is home to World ORT’s second largest investment in Israel’s education system,” said World ORT Treasurer Shelley Fagel.
MASORTI (CONSERVATIVE) MOVEMENT
-- Due to the security situation, Ramah-NOAM summer camp, scheduled to begin July 13 in the Ben Shemen Forest, will not be able to take place at this location as per the Central Command. The movement is now planning on hosting the camp at a new location, Ramat HaGolan, in the north.
-- Respite activities for children and adults will be operated by the NOAM Garin, coordinators and senior staff in bomb shelters and at some of the Masorti communities in more secure locations. This project will include transportation, equipment and recreational activities that will be located at NOAM branches throughout the country used in times of emergency.
-- The Counseling Program will provide emotional and spiritual counseling for people suffering from stress and anxiety due to daily rocket fire, terror attacks or other emergencies.
REFORM MOVEMENT (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism)
-- Emergency activity packages are being provided for families in need and at Home Day Camps, filled with toys, activity modules and other supplies.
-- After the Israeli government accepted the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement Tuesday, Hamas rejected the reported text, saying, "Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity." Hamas called it an initiative of "bowing and submission," adding, "It was not worth the ink it was written with. "
-- During a six-hour Israeli ceasefire, Hamas fired over 80 rockets into the country from Gaza. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, "The retaliations of the resistance will continue until we achieve all the demands of our people, and any unilateral Israeli ceasefire would be worthless."
-- Israel has agreed to a five-hour humanitarian ceasefire from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday to allow Gazans to resupply for their humanitarian needs. An Israeli delegation is en route to Egypt to attempt to formulate another ceasefire agreement.
-- As of this morning, Hamas terrorists have fired 1,248 rockets into Israel since July 8. This is, on average, over 145 rockets every day.
-- This digital visualization shows the overwhelming number and location of rocket attacks on Israel in the past eight days. The site also flashes in real time when there are rocket attacks.
-- As of 9 a.m. today, the Iron Dome defense system has successfully intercepted over 200 rockets so far, including several over Ashkelon earlier today. The U.S. Congress has backed a measure to double its funding contribution to the system.
-- Tuesday morning, shrapnel from a rocket hit a home in Kfar Shalem in Tel Aviv, where a woman in her 60s lives alone. The house has no safe room, but fortunately she was not injured. She is being treated for shock.
-- As of 9 a.m. this morning the Gaza death toll, including civilians, is reported at 212. Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, explains the difficulty in fighting terrorism in Gaza when surrounded by civilians.
-- This graphic maps the scale and range of rocket attacks onto California and the east coast of the U.S.
-- Finding shelter from rockets is more difficult outside in summer, as seen at this day camp in Tel Aviv and in this photo of children hiding at a playground.
-- Despite the ongoing rocket fire and risk to their lives, Israeli technicians have donned bulletproof vests and special helmets to repair a line that delivers power to 70,000 Gazans. The power line was hit by a Hamas rocket Sunday.
-- At 7 p.m. Tuesday night, a school for children with special needs in Rishon LeTzion was struck by debris from an intercepted rocket, destroying parts of the building.
-- The IDF struck 39 terrorist hubs in Gaza Tuesday night, bringing the total of targets hit to 1,750.
-- The IDF continues to warn Gazans in advance of strikes, yet civilian residents of Shija’iya and Zeitoun, and many in Beit Lahiya, are not evacuating their homes. The Wafa Rehabilition Center in Shija’iyah is also reported to be refusing to evacuate.
-- Israeli troops continue to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza from Israel. On Tuesday, 102 trucks entered Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
-- Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed his security council Tuesday night, recapping Israel’s acceptance of the ceasefire, Hamas’ refusal and subsequent actions: "This morning, I convened the Security Cabinet. We decided that Israel would respond positively to Egypt's proposal for a ceasefire. Hamas chose to continue the campaign and it will pay for this decision. Whoever tries to attack the citizens of Israel, Israel will strike at him. When there is no ceasefire, our answer is fire. It would have been preferable to resolve this by diplomacy and we tried to do so when we acceded to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. But Hamas left us no choice but to broaden and intensify the campaign against it. This is what we will do until we achieve our goal – the restoration of quiet for Israel's citizens while inflicting a significant blow on the terrorist organizations. These are moments in which decisions must be made with equanimity and patience, not in haste. I am determined to do the right thing and I know that you rely on me and on us to ignore the background noise and concentrate on the main task – guarding your security and your lives."
-- Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed German Foreign Minister Steinmeier Tuesday, saying, "I know that you know that no country would sit idly by while its civilian population is subjected to terrorist rocket fire. Israel is no exception… I want to thank the many world leaders, including yourself, who unequivocally condemn Hamas for the rocket fire on Israeli cities and for the clear-cut support for Israel's right to self-defense."
-- Outgoing president Shimon Peres also supports Israel’s right to protect its citizens: “There is a moral problem, but I don’t have a moral answer to it. If they are shooting at us, and don’t let our mothers and their children…have a full night’s sleep, what can we do?”