December 28, 2008 / 1 Tevet 5769
A short while after the IDF "Operation Cast Lead" became public knowledge, Jewish Agency Director of Community Relations, Israel Southern Region, Ofer Baram, and social worker, Ohad Drori began assisting the wounded. They offered both psychological as well as monetary support made possible by the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror. The Fund was established by the Israel Emergency Fund of the United Jewish Communities and has been supported by Jewish federations, Keren Hayesod communities, foundations and individuals.
"Already on Shabbat we began gathering information about where the missiles had landed. Today, Sunday, we visited the families that were hurt in order to gather evidence and update social workers. We also began preliminary discussions with the city councilmen at the locations that were damaged by missile fire.” Ofer explained.
It was a difficult day that began in Netivot, at the home of Moses and Sarah Alemo, immigrants from Ethiopia whose apartment building was hit by a missile while they had been sitting down to Shabbat lunch with their guests. Ofer explained to them about the Fund for Victims of Terror and informed them that by the end of the week he would return to them with a check courtesy of world Jewry. The Alemo family lives in the same apartment complex as Bebert Vaknin, who was killed by one of the two Grad missiles that scored a direct hit on houses in Netivot.
Another victim of a Grad missle attack is the daughter of the Shamila family, whom Ohad and Ofer visited: "They told us that what happened on Shabbat. Just as they opened the prayer books in their living room, the alarm sounded. Bat-El, the family's daughter, was hit by shrapnel in her stomach. The girl is hospitalized in intensive care and part of the family is with her. The house was totally destroyed. The house adjacent to them, belonging to the Idan family, was also hit and they were evacuated to a hotel in Beersheba and we established contact with them as well," Ofer reported.
Ofer and Ohad met with Haim Yellin, head of the Eshkol Regional Council, in the situation room. He filled them in about the areas that had been hit and from there they went to visit the wounded as well as those whose homes suffered damage in that area. They explained that they were offering assistance from the Jewish Agency Fund for Victims of Terror.
Ofer reported visits to a number of families. Among those who had been wounded were Moshe and Regina Schneider, new immigrants from South America. The Sela family sustained significant damage to their home from a direct hit in the bedroom. And the Schalma family, an elderly couple who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, described their experience of hearing a Kassam missile fall near their home. “We examined each situation and wrote out a report about the damage", explained Ohad.
Jewish Agency representatives on the ground have been working around the clock and have been in contact with local government and security officials.