An update from JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman, reporting from Israel
As the conflict in Israel enters its fourth day, I am witness to the resilience of the Israeli people. The country is tense, people are worried, but life goes on.
Yesterday the CCD Mission and I joined JFNA Israel staff in their Jerusalem office shelter as once again, sirens rang out.
That same day, JFNA’s Executive Committee authorized an emergency effort to raise and distribute funds to respond to urgent needs on the ground. Our “Stop the Sirens” campaign is being implemented in collaboration with local Jewish Federations, the Reform and Conservative Movements and our overseas partners – the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Israel Trauma Coalition and other groups.
Additionally, a solidarity mission comprised of senior Federation leaders will arrive in Israel this Sunday, July 13. This mission will travel throughout the south to express solidarity with citizens under fire, and to assure the people of Israel that they are not alone.
In the Book of Psalms, we read that, “The Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.” While this, of course, refers to G-d Himself, if I may, I would apply it to the brave men and women of the IDF as well.
Wishing you all a Shabbat shalom from Jerusalem, and praying and hoping for brighter days that we know will come soon.
- In the last 24 hours, over 200 rockets have fired from Gaza. To date, 550 rockets have been fired since the start of Operation Protective Edge.
- In addition to continued attacks on the south, rockets were also fired at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Hadera. These were the first rockets to reach Haifa, and the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens are now considered to be living within range of Hamas’ rockets.
- A 50-year-old man was seriously wounded after a rocket struck a fuel tank in an Ashdod gas station. Emergency services rushed to battle the blaze.
-Two rockets fired from Lebanon Friday morning struck areas near Israel’s northern border, where many Gaza periphery evacuees have temporarily relocated. The rockets, apparently Katyushas, fell in the Metulla-Kiryat Shmona area. No injuries are reported. The IDF sent a message about the attack to UNIFIL, the United Nations observer force in Lebanon.
-Two Palestinians from the West Bank were apprehended on Highway 5 Thursday afternoon when soldiers found a hidden cooking gas tank connected to explosives in their car.
- Although the Iron Dome Defense system has a success rate of over 90%, some rockets do get through. Last night, one rocket destroyed a house in Beer Sheva. The nine family members were in a shelter and were unharmed. Family member Aharon Iluz said, “We were all there, children and grandchildren who came to visit. I pushed everyone into the tiny shelter and in one moment, just when we’d entered, one of the missiles landed and simply destroyed our home.”
- Rockets also hit an urban area in Ashdod, incinerating several unoccupied vehicles. A neighbor said, “A ball of fire leapt up to the fourth floor….We began searching on the street to see if there were any wounded but there was no one. It was an unbelievable scene.”
- Two IDF soldiers in the Eshkol region were wounded by rocket fire, one moderately and one lightly.
- This video of Americans rushing for cover in Ashdod shows a volley of rockets being fired.
- Israelis have only 15 short seconds to run for cover. In a speech at the UN, Israel ambassador Ron Prosor emphasized the trauma caused by the sirens and the scramble for shelter.
Since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge on July 7, the IDF has struck 862 targets in Gaza, including rocket launchers, weapon armories and terrorist hubs—more than were destroyed during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.
- In the past 24 hours, the IDF has targeted around 210 sites in Gaza identified with terror activities and operations.
- The IDF has estimated that Hamas has used a third of its arsenal, which still leaves thousands of rockets available.
- Israel is assembling troops at the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground offensive.
- A seventh Iron Dome defense system went into service two days ago.
- The IDF continues to allow philanthropic and humanitarian aid into Gaza from Israel. Israel sent 130 trucks of aid on Tuesday and 100 trucks on Wednesday and.
- Israel continues to open its borders to Gazans in need of health care. Over 20 Palestinians, including eight Gazan children, are being treated at Rambam Hospital, accompanied by family. According to Yazid Falah, the coordinator for Palestinian patients coming to Rambam, “Despite the security situation, and despite the fact that both sides are fighting, all continues as usual in the realm of medical cooperation. Even in times of war we continue to receive patients and give them the care they need—children and adults.” Eighty Gazans came to Israel for medical attention on Thursday.
OUR WORK WITH BIRTHRIGHT
Below is an excerpt from a letter sent today from CEO Gidi Mark in Jerusalem:
There are 74 groups in Israel today (2,900 participants) from 9 countries. Our staff continues to work relentlessly to make sure that our safety and security instructions are carefully followed on the ground and that each group and individual are constantly aware of the situation and the need to take any precaution. Our staff is also ensuring that necessary changes to the trips itineraries are not compromising the educational level of the trips.
We are all in the field visiting groups around the country. This morning I visited groups in Jerusalem (we have 45 groups in Jerusalem today) from the US, Australia, Argentina and Russia. Several groups have experienced the siren in Jerusalem and, two days ago in Kramim. In spite of this, the morale remains high among these participants. It is encouraging to hear the positive reactions from them.
Participants are not asking to leave early and are, for the most part, still choosing to extend their trips. The number of no-show in groups departing for Israel yesterday increased from the normal 5% to 10%, a very low rate.
We are constantly monitoring the situation and will make amendments if and when they are needed. Please do not hesitate to share with us any advice or question that you may have during the weekend.
- The Government of Israel is reportedly set to finance repairs and missed work days caused by Gaza hostilities
- President Shimon Peres said Thursday, "Israel underwent another night in which millions of our citizens were under the threat of rocket fire. It is a few nights now that mothers, with children in their arms, can't sleep because of the fear of another siren. We will protect our children and will not allow anyone to harm them. We must say clearly that the State of Israel won't rely on luck; we are prepared and ready for any scenario in order to protect our civilians. We are a united front in the face of this danger; we will not consent to being victims. We do not wish to see innocent people killed or injured, but it is Hamas who endangers the citizens of Gaza by firing from deep within civilian areas."
- Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke Thursday, together with IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Defense Minister Yaalon and others at the Security Cabinet meeting: "As of now, the IDF, ISA and other security services have successfully foiled many attempted attacks against Israeli citizens but a tough, complex and complicated campaign yet awaits us.…The most important thing for us, for all of us, is to guard the lives of all Israelis, and we are all working together to this end."
- Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett sent this letter to JFNA’s president and CEO, Jerry Silverman:
- The JFNA Executive Committee unanimously approved a resolution Thursday to authorize JFNA to raise and deploy funds in the next two weeks to address urgent and immediate needs in Israel. Federations are being asked to assist in raising and transmitting this money.
- JFNA sent the following letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu Friday, signed by Michael Siegal, Chair, Board of Trustees; Diane S. Feinberg, Chair, Executive Committee; and Jerry Silverman, President & CEO.
“As you know, the North American Jewish community has stood by Israel through good times and bad.
“At this critical juncture, The Jewish Federations of North America, representing 153 federations and some 350 small communities, stands shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s security forces, government, and especially its people.
“We are writing now to advise you that our Executive Committee has just voted to authorize an emergency effort to raise and distribute funds in response to the current situation in Israel. We will begin transmitting cash to address urgent and immediate needs posed by the barrage of rocket attacks, working closely with The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and other groups. Ongoing needs will be reassessed as needed.
“In addition, a solidarity mission comprised of senior federation leaders will arrive in Israel this Sunday, July 13. Our mission will be travelling throughout the south in order to express solidarity with citizens under fire, and to assure the people of Israel that they are not alone.
“Please allow us to thank you for your leadership at this difficult time, and to once again affirm the unshakeable bond shared by Jews across the world with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish homeland.”
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