Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reflections from Jane Fantel’s Recent Trip to Israel

Keren, Gur, Tom, and Amit Katz lighting the menorah in their home on Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
Federation’s Director of Israel Connections, Jane Fantel, just returned from a month-long trip to Israel, where she spent time with friends, both old and new, in San Diego’s sister region - Sha’ar HaNegev. 

Jane personally experienced the effects of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge, and conveyed her thoughts and stories to the Federation team to help staff members truly understand the multitude of negative implications that resulted from Israel’s most recent war.  Jane’s first-hand account was eye opening, informative, and offered a fresh perspective.

During Chanukah, Jane visited with her friends— the Katz family at their home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, located a few kilometers from Gaza, where she stayed with them for three nights. During the height of the conflict, the family moved to another kibbutz located further away from the constant threat of rocket attacks.

The Katz family expressed to Jane that they weren’t currently living in Nahal Oz, but that they would love to return home to host her for her stay and celebrate Chanukah together. The return home was an emotional experience for everyone.

Jane learned from Keren and Gur Katz that their eldest daughter Tom, used to occasionally babysit Daniel Tregerman, the four-year-old, who was killed outside of his home this past summer by mortar fire. Returning to Nahal Oz was an especially difficult experience for Tom. Upon hearing stories from residents, it became clear to Jane that the war was a traumatic experience for not only the Katz family, but the entire southern region of Israel.

Jane was surprised to learn that despite all the trauma experienced by the family and their four children, their two eldest daughters—Tom and Amit, still return for day trips to volunteer as youth advisors and to work with children on the Kibbutz, where they themselves were born and raised.

After receiving a tour and seeing some of the effects of the war on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, Jane had a better understanding of why the Katz family has yet to return. To date, the family remains on the fence in regards to their decision to move back home for good, and the Kibbutz has given them an extension to make a final decision.

Whenever the topic comes up, it ultimately boils down to the same debate, which is what most families in the same position are feeling— it’s a matter of what is best for their children in a vulnerable region with an uncertain future. 


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