Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 24: Operation Protective Edge


Iran-backed Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired 120 rockets at Israel, yesterday. The IDF deployed the Iron Dome missile defense system to knock out the three barrages that were headed towards Israel’s cities. The system successfully intercepted the one rocket that could have hit heavy populated areas.  In total, 2,493 rockets have been fired at Israel since the current crisis began.

To date, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 176 have been wounded. Former president Shimon Peres met with wounded soldiers yesterday and told them, "You did a job no army has done before… There are no winners in this war, only rescuers and you saved the country."

Calls have come from some members of Israel’s Knesset to call Operation Protective Edge a ‘war’. The designation of “war” will ensure additional compensation to the harshly-hit businesses of the south which have had to all but close down.

Despite the humanitarian ceasefire window from 3 to 7 pm yesterday, Hamas continued to fire rockets against Israel during this time.


The IDF is set to call up an additional 16,000 reservists today to give the military some breathing room, bringing the total number of reserve soldiers called up so far to 86,000. That is the proportional equivalent of over 3 million U.S. forces called up for service.

In what is now considered a ‘quiet night,’ three rockets hit Israel, landing in open areas and one Grad rocket was fired at Beer Sheva, also landing in an open area.

Three Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday night in a booby-trapped UNRWA health clinic. The UN building also contained an entry to a terror tunnel. Below is a picture of an UNRWA bag used to hide evidence of tunneling.

The IDF made 140 strikes against Hamas terror targets yesterday, totaling 3,652 strikes throughout the operation. Two days ago a Gaza power plant was struck. Brig. Gen. Yaron Rosen, Commander of IAF Air Support and Helicopter Air Division, said it was possible the plant had been hit by Israel by mistake, “The State of Israel did not attack Gaza’s power plant. It has no interest (in that). We transfer to them the electricity, we transfer in the gas, we transfer in the food in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
The IDF reports that 1,129 Gazans have died in the past 24 days of this conflict. Tragically, Hamas continues to use civilians as human shields.

FOR MORE INFORMATION,7340,L-4552306,00.html

Day 23: One Jewish People

July 30, 2014
Dear Colleagues,

When it comes to Israel and the Diaspora, I have the special privilege of straddling two worlds. I made aliyah when I was just 21, meaning I’ve spent more than half my life as an Israeli. But I was raised in the United States, and now work passionately on behalf of a North American organization, so I can relate to—and empathize with—the Diaspora community as well.

In recent weeks, as the conflict in Israel has escalated, the lines between these two identities have become less and less defined. There really is no Israeli or American. There is just one Jewish People.

Each day, as one Jewish People, we are all tallying the number of rockets that have fallen, the number of tunnels that have been discovered, the number of innocents who have lost their lives. This is a war against all of our people, and Israel is fortunate to have support that comes from far beyond its borders.

Here in Israel, there are also other tallies we are paying close attention to: the number of Israel solidarity rallies that you holding across North America (more than 75 at last count), the number of meetings you are holding with your government leaders, the number of op-eds you are writing supporting our right to self-defense. Your work is inspiring, and it reminds us that we are not alone.

As the head of JFNA’s Israel office, representing Jewish communities across North America, I am trumpeting your efforts to Israeli leaders, officials and media outlets. And they are doing more than listening.

People who have been glued to their smartphones’ Red Alert apps, who are deliberating policy options on how to handle the current conflict, are taking a momentary break from what we can all understand is on the top of their minds to do what?  To tap out an email of thanks to their American friends. Those with children fighting in Gaza are noticing, gratefully, the pro-Israel demonstrations happening around the world.

For many Israelis, war rages on just miles away, and encouraging news from the Jewish Diaspora gives them the strength to carry on. It helps them stay the course of life in the south, and supports them as they live another day on the front lines.

On Monday, eight mayors from communities hardest hit in Israel’s south—places that haven’t just lived under rocket fire for three weeks, but have suffered for more than 13 years—left their situation rooms in their city halls to meet with a small group of North American Jewish leadership. During a night when more than 50 rockets fell from the sky onto their towns, when their obligations to their people were unending, these mayors took the time to sit down—all together—with us, to express their profound gratitude to the North American Jewish community. It means that much to them.

It means that much to all of us. This week we are hosting JFNA’s third solidarity mission to Israel since Operation Protective Edge began. We will travel the country—our country—and meet the people—our people, the Jewish People. With every solidarity mission, every demonstration and every rally, we strengthen Am Yisrael.

Thank you.
Director General, Israel Office
Senior Vice President of Israel and Overseas
The Jewish Federations of North America

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Rabbi Graubart on Torah, Israel and War

Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22 

Note: The essay below will not be the d'var Torah at services this Shabbat.  Instead we'll study several passages from the Torah which will hopefully help us better understand the current war.  Also, time permitting, we'll share some personal reflections on the conflict. And, of course, we'll pray for peace.  Please join us.

There are two large gaps in the Israel-Hamas war, and it's these gaps which help us better understand the conflict, and how we should respond as Jews.  The first is the suffering gap; Palestinians in Gaza are suffering more than Israelis.  Yes, Israelis have endured terrible losses - at this writing 53 soldiers and three civilians - terrible, tragic losses, that tear at our hearts as Jews. And Israel's citizens are still subject to constant alerts and attacks.  But no one could deny that in this conflict it's better to be an Israeli than a Gazan.  Israel, after all, still functions as an industrial society, while Gaza, in addition to the more than one thousand deaths, the deaths of so many children, has all but collapsed.  

The second huge gap is ethical.  The Israeli government - and, in taking the long view, we can add the Zionist movement in general - behaves far more ethically than Hamas.  This is true both in aims and methods.  Israel, since at least 1992 has made several attempts to live in peace with the Palestinians.  Virtually every time, these attempts have been stymied by terrorism, most often sponsored by Hamas.  Hamas aims for one Islamic totalitarian state in the territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.  For years it used suicide bombings against civilians as its principal weapon.  Nowadays it's missiles aimed at large popular centers, but the pattern is unmistakable.  Israel has at least tried to make peace, and it never intentionally targets civilians.  Hamas rejects the peace of two states and almost exclusively targets civilians.  So the ethical divide couldn't be clearer.  There's a gap, parallel to the suffering gap.

It's difficult for many people to hold both of these gaps in their hearts simultaneously.  They see the suffering gap, the dead Palestinian children, the ruined neighborhoods of Gaza, and they assume - precisely because of the victimization, the powerlessness - that the Hamas side is more just.  You don't have to be anti-Israel to be moved by this suffering. But sometimes, for some observers, the suffering itself serves as a kind of ethical validation. Gazans suffer far more, the feeling goes, so they must be the aggrieved party.  The notion of "human shields," of placing weapons in civilian areas, of rejecting Israel's right to exist, all this goes out the window when they see the suffering - along with ethical reasoning.

At the same time, there are many of us in the Jewish community who use our ethical superiority to absolve ourselves of any sympathy or responsibility for Palestinian losses.  We have every right to self-defense, we tell ourselves, and we stop there.  It's Hamas that puts its weapons in civilian neighborhoods, so it's their problem; it's their fault.  But this is also an ethical evasion. It's our Jewish army killing these people.  We may enjoy the ethical high road, but this is our fight, so we can't look away.  At minimum these non-combatants deserve our sorrow and our concern.
This week we begin a new book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, the final book of the Pentateuch.  Much of Deuteronomy's legislation supports the powerless. God commands us several times to uphold the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  The book offers a complex and inspiring system of giving to the poor.  Yet our reading begins with a few verses about justice, warning us, significantly "You shall not be partial in justice. Hear out the great and the small."  Smallness, in other words, is no more ethically validating than wealth or power.  The powerless are not by the fact of their powerlessness the aggrieved party.  Victimization is not evidence of righteousness.  Deuteronomy strikes a difficult but essential balance.  Our hearts must ache for the powerless; we must find ways to support them, to ease their lot.  But suffering - even great suffering - does not by itself make one a good or righteous person.

One of the reasons it's so difficult to hold these two essential gaps - the suffering gap and the ethical gap - in our hearts at the same time is how they play with our emotions.  For some well-meaning observers, Palestinian suffering so overwhelms their compassion, they can't see or hear any Israeli explanation.  For many of us, on the other hand, Hamas' history and tactics so outrage us we miss genuine Palestinian suffering. This terrible war has thrown a terrible dilemma our way, but we have no choice but to embrace it.  We must continue and affirm our ethical path - applaud the moral behavior of the IDF, support our brothers and sisters in Israel.  And at the same time, never, ever harden our hearts to some of the worst Palestinian suffering we've seen in this seemingly endless war.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Philip Graubart

Day 22: Operation Protective Edge

From Jerry Silverman - President and CEO of JFNA
July 29, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Yesterday was a remarkable day. Fifteen thousand people attended a rally in New York to show support for Israel. Jewish leaders from across North America gathered in Washington to meet with our nation’s top officials.  Meanwhile, here in Israel, a delegation from UJA-Federation of New York is wrapping up a solidarity mission, and JFNA’s third national mission is about to begin. These activities top off three weeks during which Federations held more than 70 pro-Israel rallies. I can assure you: Israelis are comforted by your support. I’m sharing with you some of the conversations I've had with them, in the iPhone video above.

Over the past three weeks, a new level of anxiety has swept across Israel. Not only have Hamas terrorists continued to fire rockets at Israeli civilian centers, but also the Israel Defense Forces have discovered an extensive network of terrorist tunnels that reach inside the Jewish State. Of the ten Israeli soldiers who were killed last night, five were ambushed by terrorists emerging from a tunnel. The existence of these tunnels and the threats they pose to Israel’s security cannot be overstated.

Yesterday, with 600 Jewish leaders in attendance, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer delivered a powerful message, reaffirming America’s commitment to Israel’s right to defend herself. There was consensus among lawmakers from both parties that they stand firmly with Israel in its battle with Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza.

Here in Israel there is a sense of uncertainty about what the future holds. But because of you, Israelis know that the North American Jewish community is standing up for Israel's right to self-defense and joins the call for the demilitarization of Gaza.
Jerry Silverman
President & CEO

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Complex Reality - An OpEd by Michael Sonduck

War is awful. It is terrifying. Innocent people are killed. The trauma inflicted on the soldiers, civilians, and children is worse than tragic, worse than deplorable. The ongoing violence in Gaza is no different; but this conflict brings an unprecedented real-time visual to the violence. Every minute of every day we see pictures of grieving mothers on the front pages of our newspapers, on our televisions and in our social media feeds. We’re seeing the heartbreaking pictures of slain civilians in real time - and they fit right into Hamas’ plan. Sadly, this cynical plan seems to be working.

Hamas knows that they can’t win this fight. Nonetheless, they know that every dead civilian gives them another number to share on social media. In fact, they wrote guidelines for it. The media is there, hungry for the next headline depicting the “massacre”, condemning Israel and undermining its right to defend itself. The hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has had 5.6 million mentions since July 1. #IsraelUnderFire? Just 28,000. The strategy is working, and we’re seeing a shift of international opinion moving away from Israel’s favor.

It weighs on us all. The UN is responding with condemnations for war crimes. Winning the international PR war is the best Hamas could hope to achieve. In reality, more than 70% of Gazans are reported to reject Hamas’ vile tactics and despicable message and, like most people of the world, want to raise their children and live peacefully. They, like us and the rest of the civilized world, want this to end.

Last Wednesday, Hamas’ exiled leader, Khaled Meshaal, rejected a second ceasefire by saying "We reject today and will reject in the future." He then went on to reiterate Hamas' commitment to "continue kidnapping Israeli soldiers" in order to barter for terrorists in Israeli prisons, much as they bartered for Gilad Shalit, who was eventually traded for 1,000 Palestinian prisoners after being held for five years after being kidnapped from a terrorist tunnel operation.

Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization. Their charter calls for the eradication of the Jewish people and the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state. They do not want a ceasefire, they do not want peace for Palestinians; they want a body count. In fact, they assure it. They actively launch rockets from Palestinian hospitals and mosques, ruthlessly use their citizenry as human shields, hide their weapons in UN schools, and invest no money in sirens and shelters. This tragic context is rarely mentioned in coverage of the conflict. Further, Hamas has continually stated that it is ready to fight, no matter what the cost to the people of Gaza.

True to our Jewish values which sanctify all human life, Israel provides food, water and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, while its government kills Israelis. There is little reporting of Israelis efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

Israel employs extraordinary effort to minimize civilian casualties. They drop warning fliers, call, and text residents in targeted areas and actively call off strikes where it is known that civilians are present. Yet, these tragedies still occur. Why? The reality is that Hamas physically prevents civilians from fleeing targeted areas, and actively puts Palestinians in harm’s way. To them, a dead Israeli is good, but a dead Palestinian is better.

In the past weeks more than 2,500 Hamas rockets have fallen on Israel, at an average rate of 100 a day. Out of constant necessity, Israel has invested heavily in shelters, warning systems and missile defense metrics that minimize the threat of rockets. Sadly, today’s terror comes from below. Miles of terrorist-dug tunnels run beneath the kibbutzim where Israeli parents work and children sleep, where grandmothers bake their Shabbat challah, where Hamas schemes to attack and kidnap innocents. Stolen IDF uniforms, stun guns and zip ties have been found inside the twisted, dark network of more than 31 tunnels that run under sovereign Israel. Any country has the right and responsibility to eliminate such terrible threats to its people, and Israel should not apologize for doing so.

In the last week, Hamas has attacked Israel at least five times after infiltrating through tunnels killing at least seven IDF soldiers. Obviously, this method of popping out from underground has stuck a new chord of fear into the hearts of Israelis living near the Gaza strip, including our own sister community, Sha’ar HaNegev. Hamas and these tunnels area clear threat to Israel, and they must be stopped. The goal of Operation Protective Edge is to create sustained security and calm for the people of Israel. Somehow, the frame of this argument has been wrongly translated into vilifying Israel for not having enough casualties. The complex reality is that both Palestinians and Israelis are victims of Hamas terror. Sadly, the media prefers the digestible implied narrative of David vs Goliath, and the Hamas approved pictures of the tragedy of war.

The price we pay is high. Too high. It weighs heavily on our hearts, in our minds and on the conscience of good people around the world. The ripples of the violence reach the streets of Paris, the pulpits of our congregations, and the root of our collective humanity. We must disarm Hamas. We must restore peace.

Today, we pray for peace. We pray for calm. We pray for the innocent. We pray for Israel.

Learn more about what YOU can do at

Day 21: Operation Protective Edge


On day 20 of Operation Protective Edge, Iran-backed Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired 51 rockets at Israel. The IDF deployed the Iron Dome missile defense system to knock out those barrages that were headed towards Israel’s cities. The system successfully intercepted all nine of the rockets that could have hit heavy populated areas.  In total, 2,265 rockets have been fired at Israel since the current crisis began.
Forty three IDF soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground offensive, ten days ago. You can see a list of the soldiers killed, with photos and details here.  192 wounded IDF soldiers have been hospitalized throughout the country since the start of Operation Protective Edge. Seventy of these have been released from hospital.

Despite Israeli efforts to keep civilians out of harm’s way, Hamas continues to use them as human shields – a direct violation of international law.  According to Hamas spokesmen, 824 civilians have been killed in the past 21 days.

On Saturday, in a house in Gaza, IDF Special Forces found explosives six feet away from a baby's bed. This video shows Hamas firing from a cemetery.

Yesterday the IDF stopped a terrorist who was apprehended transporting a 100 kilo bomb connected to numerous gas canisters.

You can read the Ministry of Defense’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories’ summary of key facts on Israel’s humanitarian aid to Gazans during the course of the conflict.This IDF video explains the cost of tunnels and how Hamas’s money is spent. This video shows the IDF finding and destroying Hamas terror tunnels.This video shows what it’s like inside a Hamas tunnel leading to Israel.

Kibbutz Nir Am was targeted a week ago when 13 terrorists emerged from tunnels, just a few yards from the kibbutz’s kindergarten. This video takes an inside personal look into life under Hamas' tunnel threat.

This video shows the immediacy of the terror tunnels to children’s playgrounds.

Pvts. Leah and Lara Baumann, identical Italian twin sisters, immigrated to Israel and joined the IDF and are fighting in Gaza.


Friday, July 25, 2014

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Day 18: Update and Report from Israel

From JFNA Board of Trustees Chair, Michael Siegal
July 25, 2014
Dear Colleagues,

Just days after beginning my tenure as chair of JFNA’s Board of Trustees in 2012, I found myself in Israel as rockets flared overhead during Operation Pillar of Defense. It was a powerful experience that quickly immersed me in the work of Federation, as Israel’s south was under siege. But it paled in comparison to the intensity I experienced when I returned to Israel amid rocket fire this week on JFNA’s second solidarity mission.

From the moment we arrived and saw IDF soldiers waiting to greet the parents of a lone soldier, to the delays we encountered due to temporary flight bans as we attempted to leave, our delegation continually felt the effects of visiting a nation at war.

As we traveled throughout Israel, it was evident that the scope and intensity of this latest barrage has enveloped the entire country. The ground operation in Gaza means that no one is untouched, as soldiers are called up from every corner of Israel. And the stress levels—from the youngest to the oldest of Israelis—are unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.   

We already know about the critical work Jewish Federations are doing to address the immediate crisis. But the long-term implications of this war will be more significant than anyone can imagine.

During my two days in Israel this week, I saw how the stress of the situation is affecting an entire generation. There are children too frightened to go to the bathroom for fear of a siren, or worse, a terrorist. There are kids so petrified to step outside their safe rooms they are literally living inside them. And there are young teens so experienced in dealing with the intensity of war that they are teaching teens in other towns how to cope.

As rockets now reach further into Israel, children living under fire are anxious about leaving their hometowns, even for a day of respite. One Sderot mother told me that after hearing the sirens blare during a visit to a respite center near Tel Aviv, her 8-year-old son said he preferred to stay at home, where he at least knew the way to the nearest safe room. This young child would rather remain in a war zone than spend a day swimming with his friends far away from the front lines. Because that’s what he knows.

The caregivers, too, are carrying unfathomable loads, as they focus day-in and day-out on helping so many others. When we visited the Sderot Resilience Center, one dedicated worker told me what she needed most was simply our show of support, a shoulder to lean on, a hug. Just by being there, she said, we had given her strength to continue with her day.

Even those too small to know what is going on are affected by it. We visited the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, where 54 babies live in the NICU. When rockets started falling, the fragile patients had to be moved to a secure area. It took seven hospital workers to delicately move each baby, to a space not equipped for complicated neonatal care. The workers live in fear that one misstep will cost a baby his or her life. It is a heavy burden to bear.

The work of Jewish Federations and our partners is making a critical difference on the ground every day. We must continue praying for the sirens to stop, of course, but we also must continue to support Israel and its people long after they do. Our Israeli brothers and sisters are in great need, and we can—and do—make the difference in their lives now and in the future.

Shabbat shalom,
Michael Siegal
Chair, Board of Trustees

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PRIDE Seder with Rabbi Laurie Coskey

During PRIDE week, members of the LGBTQ community joined with allies and family to celebrate the First LGBTQ Pride Freedom Seder at the beautiful Banker’s Hill home of Bruce M. Abrams organized by Rabbi Laurie Coskey, Judi Schaim and Bruce Abrams.

The Seder followed the model of Seders held annually for the past decade in San Francisco and New York City. Some elements of the Seder were familiar to the participants like the Seder Plates though they were filled with new symbolic items including: exotic fruits, rainbow candles, bricks and stones, bundles of sticks, pink triangles, and rainbow ribbons. Attendees drank four glasses of water symbolizing that water is the source of life and in solidarity with those in recovery.

Just as at the traditional Passover the journey from oppression to freedom retold, at the Pride Freedom Seder, the story was told of the continuing Exodus from exclusion and oppression of LGBTQ individuals and communities and their journey toward freedom, equality, and inclusion. As the history of the LGBTQ community was brought to life through the Haggadah and the questions were asked and answered, the Seder participants came together as people, Jews and non-Jews, LGBTQ and allies, in transcendent moments of memory, victory, blessing, and hope.

Day 17: Update and Report from Israel

July 24, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

One of the most important aspects of our coalition’s work is to help the hardest-hit municipalities in the heart of Israel coordinate a vast array of emergency responses and services. Through our Stop the Sirens campaign, we have funded 13 of these cities on the front lines.

Today we share with you two stories from our #LivingIt series that spotlight life in Sderot, where JFNA’s partners have had a profound impact. Located less than a mile from Gaza, Sderot has been in the line of fire for 13 years, prompting The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Amigour housing subsidiary to build thousands of safe rooms—enough for each person in the city. Many of Sderot’s estimated 24,000 residents have roots in North Africa and the former Soviet Union, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee runs a number of programs there to assist new immigrants and other vulnerable populations.

In the past two weeks, I have visited Sderot several times, and I am heading back next week on JFNA’s third solidarity mission. I have seen the devastating emotional and physical effects of thousands of sirens and over 2,000 rocket hits since 2001. A study estimates that 28 percent of adults in the city have post-traumatic stress disorder, and up to 94 percent of children show symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Today’s #LivingIt stories reflect that toll, but also depict the strong family and community bonds that can grow from adversity—and that keep Sderot resilient.

Jerry Silverman
President and CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America

#LivingIt: Teens Get Personal
Shlomo Azulay has spent a lifetime on the lookout for rockets. Growing up in Sderot, his childhood memories are punctuated by the wail of sirens and bookended by the concrete walls of bomb shelters. The 17-year-old knows how to cope with the stress, anxiety and fear that come with constant bombardment.
So during Operation Protective Edge, Shlomo and his friends from Turning Point, a JDC-supported program for at-risk youth, decided to support other teens now living under fire. Turning Point equips participants with leadership and entrepreneurial skills for the job market—skills that have also proven valuable during tense times like these.

In Beer Sheva, Shlomo’s group shared their survival skills with other teens and established a network of solidarity that now reaches between the two cities.
To Shlomo, these person-to-person connections also strengthen Israel as a whole. “We can only empower our forces in the field if civilians are strong and united,” he says. “That's our contribution to the effort."

#LivingIt: A Safe Space for Family
The apartment in Sderot is too small for Eden and Lior Lusky and their two young children, Liam and Shimon. But it’s home, a secure home, with a fortified safe room built by Amigour, a housing subsidiary of The Jewish Agency of Israel.

Because Lior works long hours, Eden stays at home with Liam and Shimon. She’s afraid to let them out of her sight. The three of them sleep in the tiny safe room together while Lior—who can wake up quickly and move faster if a siren sounds—sleeps on the couch.

Early on in the conflict, a siren sounded in the middle of the night. Lior woke up, leapt off the couch and ran into the safe room right before a rocket hit the wall behind where he slept, destroying much of their home.
The Luskys relocated for nearly two weeks while Amigour renovated and restored their apartment. They are now thankfully back home. While the fear of another rocket hit hangs over their heads, they know they have a safe space.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Real Stories from Sha'ar HaNegev

 Federation's sister community, Sha'ar HaNegev, is situated just one mile from the Gaza. For the people who live there, the sound of sirens and threat of rocket fire have been a part of daily life for as long as they can remember. The Jewish Federation of San Diego county provides our sister community with ongoing support and today been asked to make an extra effort in response to the escalating critical needs of the people who live and work there.  

For Atiya Karnawy, an Israeli bedouin living in southern Israel and father of two young daughters, the situation became desperate when his daughters were both wounded by shrapnel from a rocket launched from Gaza by Hamas terrorists.

Thankfully, Partnership 2Gether Director, Shimon Shamila, was able to step in and help this family in a time of crisis due to the Jewish Agency's Special Victims of Terror Fund. A check was issued to Atiya for 4,000 NIS that would provide medical care and help his family heal. Thanks to you, they are not alone.  


Mayor of Sha'ar HaNegev, Alon Schuster, expressed to us that our support is always deeply appreciated, but never more so than right at this moment. Here is his letter to our community with his feedback on the situation:

Dear Friends Overseas,

Last month terrorist attacks from Gaza increased on our communities in Sha'ar Hanegev and on our neighboring towns. Two weeks later, a state of emergency was declared across Israel. The shooting at us continued, and was soon stepped up by rocket and mortar fire.


We've been aware for months of the danger of the tunnels, from which several attacks have been conducted against Israel. Many of them are opposite the border communities of Sha'ar Hanegev - Nahal Oz, Kfar Azza, Mefalsim, Nir Am and Erez. Because of that cluster of threats, Israel's government decided to instruct the IDF to enter the Gaza Strip, in a limited range, and to eradicate the intolerable threat of the tunnels.

In the most endangered communities, families with children have been evacuated from the region, with most of them being hosted in kibbutzim or youth villages further north. All communities are functioning admirably, via local leadership that works in close coordination with the regional council's emergency teams and national emergency officials.

I am in direct contact with the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister, the Chief of Staff, IDF & police commanders. All of them cite the responsible and courageous behavior of our communities and residents, and the council's professional conduct.

Friends, your support is always important to us, but never more than right now. Knowing that you're thinking about us, that our struggle is your struggle - is a tremendous source of strength and gives us great hope for happier times.

Hoping to meet soon,

Alon Schuster, Mayor
Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council

There is an ongoing need for support and your gifts are making a real difference in the lives of millions of families, elderly and disabled residents and the most vulnerable Israelis in the community. 

To reach out for the people of Israel and show your support make a donation online or text 'ISRAEL AID' to 51818.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Day 15: Update and Report from Israel

July 22, 2014
Dear Colleagues,

We heard updates last week on the situation in Israel from our partners at The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT. Today, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism, shares his thoughts with us. Following his message are two reflections about life on the ground from Israelis.

Jerry Silverman
President and CEO, The Jewish Federations of North America

From Rabbi Gilad Kariv
Executive Director, Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism

Today is a sad day. I am heading to Modi’in for the funeral of Lt. Col. Dolev Kedar, a 38-year-old commander of the Gefen Battalion who was killed in Gaza on Monday. Ten years ago, I had the honor of officiating at Dolev’s wedding. When I spoke with him that day, I was impressed by his upstanding character and humbled by his commitment to protecting the Jewish State. He had so much life ahead of him. May his memory be a blessing for his family, friends and for all Israelis.

As I grieve for Dolev and the other innocents who have perished, I am struck by how, during my 15 years with the Reform movement in Israel, we have become skilled—however unfortunately—at responding to crises. The growing Reform network—which includes 50 synagogues and community centers and thousands of rabbis and Jewish educators—reaches tens of thousands of Israelis every year.

Today, with JFNA leadership, we have seen a new level of cooperation. Our work together is helping to meet the needs of our entire nation, including those who are most vulnerable: children in shelters, the sick, the elderly and the disabled.

As we continue to watch over our brothers and sisters, I thank our JFNA partners for their support.

From Ravit Elia-Leib in Beer Sheva:"In my home, we make games out of the experience and try, to the greatest extent possible, to maintain routines. Last weekend, I was traveling in Beer Sheva with my 6-year-old son, Itai, in our car, when the siren went off. I pulled over, and, to make things more positive for him, told him we’re going to have a race. We ran to the nearest stairwell.

“Suddenly Itai began to cry and I asked him why. He said, ‘I didn’t really win. You were running in high heels and that slowed you down.’ I suppose that was his excuse for letting out his fears and how hard it is for him."

From an Israeli living on the Gaza border:The IDF has uncovered dozens of tunnels used by Hamas to infiltrate Israel from Gaza—tunnels that lead right to kibbutzim and towns along the border. Fear, anxiety and stress plague border residents. "I'm sitting outside the resilience center wondering if a tunnel is being dug right under my feet as we speak," says one crisis response team coordinator. Calls to trauma centers in the area have spiked, and those who have evacuated to the north express hardships, anger, shame and guilt over leaving.

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Mourning Max Donald Steinberg z"l

We are sharing the below message from David Siegal, Israeli Consul General, as join in our community's mourning of Max Donald Steinberg, who died in the line of fire on Sunday.  

May his memory be a blessing.

Max Steinberg with his father Stuart Steinberg [credit]


From David Siegal:

We are heartbroken by the death of Max Donald Steinberg, a Los Angeles native who volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Forces in the elite Golani Infantry Brigade.

On July 20th, Max valiantly fell in the line of duty on the frontline of Operation Protective Edge. The people of Israel mourn his loss and honor his legacy. We salute this soldier, this son of Israel, who fought with unmatched courage and selflessness in defense of the Jewish state. Max made the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever indebted to him. May his memory be a blessing for our people and serve as an eternal inspiration of valor for all the people of Israel.

We extend our deepest condolences to the Steinberg family - parents Stuart and Evie and siblings Jake and Paige - and to all who knew and loved Max.

With great sorrow,

David Siegel
Consul General

Monday, July 21, 2014

THANK YOU for Standing with Israel

THANK YOU to the more than 1,000 San Diegans who came out yesterday to support Israel!  Our Reach Out for Israel Rally was a huge success thanks to your support and that of more than 70 community partners.  

Our work is not done yet.
Our family in Israel still need your support!



Sunday, July 20, 2014

TODAY! Jewish Community to Rally for Israel at 3PM

Join Us Today at Doyle Park!


July 20 | 3pm | Doyle Community Park

8175 Regents Rd, San Diego, CA 92122

Join the San Diego Jewish Community in Standing with Israel!


Music | Speakers | Leaders | Love
Family-Friendly Positive Rally to Show Solidarity with Israel
Signs will be Provided
Wear White and Blue to Show your Support
Security Provided


Can't make it?  Donate now!  

Our partners are calling for immediate need for:


Moving children, elderly and vulnerable populations to safety
Counseling and aid for those displaced by the violence
Help for those whose homes and lives have been destroyed


JOIN US for our Community Rally on July 20 to show your support for Israel!


40,000 children live within range of Hamas missiles.  You can help keep them safe.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Your Gift in Action - Real Impact in Israel

Israelis have lived under the constant threat of rocket attack for years, and Federation funding has always been crucial in ensuring the continuation of life-saving services. Now is no exception. Our partners in Israel are currently helping Israeli children and teens escape heavily bombarded areas to reach safer parts of the country; providing critical social services and support for the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, the disabled, and new immigrants; repairing and rebuilding critical infrastructure destroyed by rockets; and expanding much needed trauma services to an increasing number of Israelis in distress.

Israelis have 15 seconds to reach safety. What happens to those who cannot?


JDC’s Center for Independent Living in Be’er Sheva serves people with disabilities throughout southern Israel. We recently heard the heartbreaking story of a man forced to relocate indefinitely into his concrete safe room. Because of his disability, he can’t leave the inhospitable 8 x 8' shelter even to use the bathroom. If a siren were to sound while he were out, he would not make it back in time. Thanks to JDC and the specialized facilities they’ve provided him, David is maintaining his independence and dignity throughout the long days and nights he spends in the bomb shelter.

The children of southern Israel are also forced stay in safe rooms, a harrowing and potentially traumatic experience.

Our partners are distributing activity kits for these kids, as well as providing therapy and comfort to assuage their fears.

Located nine miles from the Gaza strip, the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon is the primary facility serving the wounded in the south – Israelis and Gazans alike. Hospital director Dr. Hezi Levy told us that the neonatal unit and the emergency room have been relocated to reinforced shelters on the premises. Despite its proximity to the zone of fire, the medical center is still not completely fortified. Fortunately, this will soon change, as the hospital is undergoing renovations to make the entire facility secure, even in times of conflict, thanks in part to donors like you!



Federation-supported senior centers provide food and medicine to the thousands of poverty-stricken elderly. Today, it’s too dangerous for them to travel.  

For new Israeli immigrants, language barriers and sudden and drastic cultural changes make surviving the constant barrage of rocket fire all the more traumatic. Our partners are deploying a host of caseworkers to mitigate their fears and concerns.

The Federation-sponsored “Fund for Victims of Terror” responds to Israelis within minutes of an attack, providing money for clothes, shelter, and other critical needs. One 34-year-old father of two told us that he was able to continue taking care of his family thanks directly to support from this fund – thanks to your generosity.