It is not an easy time to be Israeli, or, for that matter, a Jew watching Israel from afar. The events of the past month, beginning with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, and culminating in what is now a massive security crisis, are heart wrenching.
There is, however, one upside: Times like this show us who we are. We would be hard pressed to find another nation as fiercely dedicated to the wellbeing of far-away "brothers and sisters" than the Jewish people.
This remarkable global Jewish family, and in particular the Jewish Federations of North America and Keren Hayesod, has once again shown the people of Israel how quickly we mobilize for each other when it matters.
- Over the past week, thanks to support from the Jewish Federations of North America, The Jewish Agency is bringing about 10,000 children and teens from rocket-battered regions in the south to areas outside the line of fire, for rest and recreation. In addition to providing a “breather” for the children, the days of respite also provide much-needed breaks to parents, who have, for the past decade but in particular in the last week, spent inordinate amounts of time attempting to entertain their children in bomb shelters, and whose own routines are shattered by the near-constant alarms of air-raid sirens.
- The children, families, and Youth Futures personnel (close to 1,200 kids and 100 staff members) in most of Israel's southern region are now confined to protected spaces and are operating in emergency mode. Despite the limitations forced upon them, and despite the fact that the staff themselves have their own children to care for and their own fears to contend with, the Youth Futures Mentors have been proactive in maintaining ongoing contact with the children and families in their charge, and are providing whatever help they can to the local municipal agencies providing aid to the residents. 1,400 Youth Futures participants enjoyed a day of respite at Shefa'im waterpark on Thursday.
- Our Partnership2Gether Directors have been at the forefront of maintaining daily contact with the mayors, relevant professionals in the local authorities, etc. to assess the situation, see where they and our volunteers can be of assistance, and to help prepare the ground work for JFNA's Israel Emergency Campaign. Working with the Special Operations team at The Jewish Agency, the Partnership has been essential in organizing the abovementioned respite days.
- Our absorption center staff is working with some 3,000 new olim in absorption centers in the south to support and help them cope with the trauma associated with the current security situation. They have created enriching full-day activities for children ages 4 to 18, taking place either within the Centers’ bomb shelters, or within reasonable distance of a rocket-protected area. The Jewish Agency approved significant overtime hours for the Yesodot educational staff, for the purpose of creating or extending these “camps” within the bomb shelters, as well as for other Center staff to make sure there is a round-the-clock presence of employees at the Center to support the new immigrants. The children also are enjoying “Days of Respite” provided by The Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America.
- The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror continues to offer immediate financial assistance to families affected by rocket attacks and other acts of terror. The financial aid of NIS 4,000 ($1,300) is meant to help the families cope with their immediate needs in the aftermath of their trauma and has been distributed to families across southern Israel in recent days. We have so far distributed some 30 checks, and requests are still coming in.
The Fund is sustained by contributions from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Keren Hayesod-UIA, and other donors. In addition to the immediate assistance, the Fund provides supplemental financial assistance of up to NIS 25,000 ($8,300) to families recognized as victims of terror by the government of Israel.
- The Jewish Agency’s subsidiary, Amigour, in addition to protecting the residents of its facilities, is working as a contractor for the state to fix 25 homes hit by rocket fire.
For more inspiring stories on our activities over this past week, please visit our Operation Protective Edge page.
As always, we work closely with government and local municipalities, coordinating our efforts with the national emergency authority and our partners and colleagues at Keren Hayesod, the Israel Trauma Coalition, and the JDC.
We hope for quiet times again soon, when we can return to focusing our amazing energies on building the future together.
Natan Sharansky Charles Ratner