JERUSALEM – Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky yesterday (July 10) visited southern Israel, which has borne the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza in recent days, in order to express the solidarity and support of world Jewry toward the region's residents. Sharansky toured The Jewish Agency's Ibim Immigrant Absorption Center, where he met with both staff and new immigrants living in the line as fire, as well as the cities of Sderot and Ofakim, where he met with the local mayors along with staff and volunteers from various Jewish Agency programs serving the region's residents. He also presented a local family with financial assistance from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror, which is families across southern Israel cope with the immediate aftermath of rocket attacks.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: "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."
Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi said: "At this complex time, expressions of support and solidarity from Jews around the world are a ray of light. We are happy that The Jewish Agency has accompanied the city of Sderot for so many years, through thick and thin. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky's visit, especially now, is proof of that commitment and of the saying, Kol yisra'el arevim zeh la-zeh – all Jews are responsible for one another. Hamas wants death and we want life; it wants darkness and we want light. The city of Sderot's answer is to bring hundreds of students and young families so that the city continues to develop and grow."
Ofakim Mayor Itizik Danino said: "Like its neighbors in southern Israel, Ofakim is under direct attack from terrorist groups in Gaza. It is deeply moving to receive expressions of support and solidarity from the entire Jewish people in Israel and abroad. I am grateful to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for his visit to Ofakim and for his assistance in building fortified shelters in apartments built during the 1990's. The Jewish Agency has long been a loyal partner of the city of Ofakim and today we received further proof of this longstanding friendship."
During his visit to Sderot, Sharansky visited Svetlana Fumin and her daughter Evelina, immigrants from Russia whose home was seriously damaged by a rocket from Gaza last week. Svetlana and Evelina had entered their fortified shelter—constructed by The Jewish Agency's sheltered housing subsidiary Amigour—upon hearing the Red Alert incoming rocket warning, and emerged from the attack unharmed. Amigour subsequently repaired the rocket damage with the assistance of the Ministry of Finance's Property Tax Department, and the family returned to their home yesterday, the day of Sharansky's visit. Visiting the family's newly refurbished apartment, Sharansky presented Svetlana and Evelina with financial assistance from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror. Svetlana and Evelina Fumin thanked both The Jewish Agency and its subsidiary, Amigour, for their support during the family's ordeal. Sharansky's visit to Sderot was interrupted by a Red Alert, and Sharansky observed the Iron Dome rocket defense system's interception of a rocket from Gaza.
The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror provides families affected by rocket attacks and other acts of terror with $1,300 in immediate financial assistance to help them address their needs in the wake of the attacks. It is sustained by donations from the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and other donors. The assistance is presented to the families by Jewish Agency representatives in the field, in coordination with local authorities and the National Insurance Institute. Families across Israel's south have been provided with financial assistance from the Fund in recent days. In addition to the immediate aid, the Fund for Victims of Terror extends significant supplemental financial assistance of up to $8,300 to families recognized as victims of terror by Israeli authorities.
Amigour, The Jewish Agency's sheltered housing subsidiary, has been tasked by the Government of Israel with the responsibility of constructing fortified shelters in Israeli homes within immediate rocket range of Gaza. All of the private shelters in Sderot – some 5,000 in total – were constructed by Amigour and every home in the town is now protected thanks to the company. 3,500 shelters have been constructed in neighboring towns and communities and Amigour is currently in the process of building an additional 1,400 shelters in the region. The Jewish Agency contributed NIS 44 million ($14.6 million) for this purpose.