May 11, 2008 / 6 Iyar 5768
I write to you with mixed feelings, when joy of 60th Yom Ha'atzmaut of the State of Israel is mixed up with great pain and fury, filling all of us on the difficult events since Friday in communities of surrounding Gaza Strip, which paid a terrible price with the death of Jimmy Kedoshim Z"L, member of Kibbutz Kfar Aza on the border with the Gaza Strip.
As in past years, we in the Jewish Agency were with the residents of Sderot and Gaza-perimeter communities on Yom Ha'atzmaut. With the initiative of the Israel Region a large festive event was organized in the nearby Park Eshkol, which attracted over 4000 residents of the area, parents and children, who enjoyed artists' shows, games, arts and craft corners, and art fair and more. The event was an additional expression of our commitment, in the name of the Jewish People around the world, and our activity in the region for the sake of the residents, who for 8 years have been living with daily missile attacks which don't allow normal community and economic life in the region.
The festive atmosphere, the joy, the possibility of celebrating Yom Haatzmaut in the region like any other place in Israel, was for thousands of the region's residents an opportunity to forget even for a short time the continued security tension and all the participants in the event, from the Head of the Regional council Haim Yellin to the last of the people there didn't stop thanking the Jewish Agency and through it to the Jewish People in the Diaspora and our dedicated workers on the moving event.
But, not many hours passed before the morning of Firday at 4:30 in the morning, the first mortal shell at that day fell on Kibbutz Nahal Oz. It was the opening for dozens of mortal shells launched during the entire day against residents of the area. In the afternoon and evening the shelling was concentrated at Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where live four Jewish Agency employees: Ofer Baram, Director of public relations of Israel Region in the South; Orit Brown, Director of partnerships of Israel Department in the South; Yehudit (Idit) Asur, Assistant to Director of Sderot-Shaar Hanegev partnership with Holland and partnership of Eshkol with Mexico and north-east New York in the Israel Department; Hagit Yosha, Assistant to Director of partnership Netivot-Sdot Negev and Philadelphia in the Israel Department.
The first shell that landed at 6:40pm hit the kibbutz fence, 100 meters from the home of Ofer Baram, who was one of the organizers of the Yom Yaatzmaut festivities the previous day in Park Eshkol. At 6:47pm, the second shell fell on the kibbutz, close to where the high-school students live and around 20 meters from Orit Brown's home, who was on vacation in the north and she and her family were saved, at least this time, from the panic and nightmare. At 6:51pm, a third mortal shell fell and killed Jimmy Kedoshim while he was tending his garden. At 6:53pm, another mortal fell and injured two kibbutz members and two soldiers. This mortar fell some 30 metres from the home of Hagit Yosha.
In contrast to Qassam rockets, which by technological means developed by the IDF, allow a warning of 15 seconds, there is no way to be protected from mortal shells. They land without warning and the damage caused by them in built-up and populated areas is horrific and deadly.
Jimmy Kedoshim Z"L, aged 48, married and father of three children, made Aliyah at a young age and stayed in the Jewish Agency's youth village, was an Israeli champion in paragliding and did aerial photography. Like many of the residents of the region, he and his family were lovers of Israel, who despite the difficulties of living in the region, were determined in their stance and attached to their land.
All that day and night the residents of Kfar Aaza, like the other people living in the area, stayed in the bomb shelters and protected rooms. The emergency and trauma treatment teams assisted the Kedoshim family, members of the kibbutz and, mainly, the children and youths who have experienced such terrible trauma in this small community.
The transition from the joy of Independence Day, on Thursday, to the loss, bereavement and pain of the Friday, the very next day, has been the essence of our life here in Israel since its creation 60 years ago, and continues to this day.
The evening after Independence Day the Jewish Agency was awarded a lifetime achievement Israel Prize for the special contribution of the Jewish people in the Diaspora to the country and to Israeli society. It was a moment of great pride, joy and excitement which, sadly, passed within hours and was replaced by great sadness, pain and a sense of frustration over the sacrifices which the state of Israel continues to make on the altar of our choice to maintain a sovereign and independent national homeland for the Jewish nation in the state of Israel. Sixty years after our war of survival, against cruel enemies, the war continues.
Ofer Baram and Idit Assur were chosen this year to receive certificates of excellence, as members of the Jewish Agency’s best performing teams, at a ceremony held in Jerusalem in the afternoon. Orit Brown planned to accompany her employees, whom she recommended for excellence. None of the three were present at the ceremony. At that time, our four employees attended the funeral of their fellow kibbutz member, Jimmy Kedoshim.
May Jimmy be the last victim of this accursed war. All of us at the Jewish Agency embrace the members of Kibbutz Kfar Aza and send our condolences to the Kedoshim family, to the members of the kibbutz, including our cherished workers, as well as to the residents of Sderot and the Gaza premeter.
We pray that peace and security are quickly restored to the region, and that the local residents can resume their normal lives, raise their children in happiness and without fear, and devote themselves to a life of creativity and development, and never know war again.