Update on the Situation in Israel – November 19, 2012

JFNA Israel reports on the sixth day of Operation Pillar of Defense.

“Being in the South now and experiencing what our family in Israel is experiencing, has given me some understanding of what it feels like to be a citizen of this region,” said Michael Siegal, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America, leading a solidarity mission of North American senior federation lay and professional leaders in the South of Israel.

Latest News

Nine people were injured yesterday after 100 rockets were fired on Israel from Gaza, three of which were aimed at Tel Aviv. Over 50 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system. This morning an empty school in Ashkelon was hit, the third time this school has been hit by rockets in ten years. A fake bomb was found on the Jerusalem light rail system, thought to be a terror tactic.

An immediate ceasefire now seems unlikely as Egyptian-mediated negotiations have reportedly slowed down. 45% of Israel’s citizens are living with the real threat of rockets. That’s proportionally the same at 140 million Americans.

The IDF reportedly hit the house belonging to a Hamas terrorist and unintentionally killed 11 members of the same family.

Rocket fire is affecting industrial production. A Kafrit factory on Kibbutz Kfar Aza that manufactures raw material for the plastic industry is out of work due to a direct rocket hit. Damaged houses and public buildings testify to the rockets’ power.

Solidarity Mission

“As the red alerts sounded,” said Michael Siegal, “we rushed for shelter together with small children. We could clearly see the urgent and incredible need for cash allocations and immediate assistance for children, elderly, victims of terror and all the people of Israel.”

This morning the group surveyed damage inflicted to a house hit by a rocket, visited the Jewish Agency’s Ibim absorption center and spoke with an Ethiopian family, who had arrived one month ago, about adjusting and some made a condolence call to the family of one of the three victims killed by a Gazan rocket attack on Thursday in Kiryat Malachi. Here is the group sheltering during a Code Red alarm.

Ofer Baram, Jewish Agency for Israel, Director of Emergency Response in the Southern Region, spoke to the group, “I cannot tell you how it warms my heart to see you all here. You should know that most Members of Knesset have not been here and I’m not sure you will see them come. Yet you have come across the ocean.”

Israel Terror Relief Fund

The Israel Terror Relief Fund committee, set up by The Jewish Federations of North America, Thursday, with $5 million available to be allocated, aims to address the most critical needs as validated by RAHEL in collaboration with our partners. The committee is prioritizing helping children who’ve been trapped in shelters since the beginning of the operation on Wednesday, providing them with assistance while in the shelters and in addition with respite activities away from the epicenter of the violence. The fund aims to help children with disabilities and special needs, seniors and adults with disabilities who need immediate help with food and home care, and families who are victims of terror. JFNA wants to help all those suffering under the ongoing trauma of relentless rocket fire. Programs have been approved by co-chairs of the allocation committee, Andrea Yablon and Heschel Raskas.

Interested donors can also text ISRAEL to 51818 to donate to the fund. More information on the Israel Terror Relief Fund can be found on JFNA’s resource page.

The Executive of Lion of Judah Israel has donated 40,000 NIS to Amutat Natal to assist them in their work with immediate psychological intervention with women, children and families of Kiryat Malachi, Netivot and Ofakim and with assistance for first aiders working in municipalities and on the 106 emergency phone lines.

Our Partners

The Jewish Agency for Israel is providing respite care for thousands of children from the South, taking them out of rocket range. Yesterday, children enjoyed Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo, the Israel Museum, and a Beitar Jerusalem soccer game; Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Mall; and KifTzuba, a children’s amusement park. Additional respite activities are being planned for later this week, in partnership with JFNA.

The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror continues to disperse funds where needed, for example to Yaron and Tami Shadadi whose home was directly hit by a rocket, destroying their daughter’s bedroom.

At the Ibim Absorption Center, two social workers and a team of 17 volunteers are providing emotional support and recreational activities to 415 very new Ethiopian immigrants.

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee is initially distributing supplies and food for elderly and disabled in the 0-7 kilometer range of Gaza (Sderot, Eshkol Regional Council, Sha’ar HaNegev, Sdot Negev Regional Council, Hof Ashkelon, and Ashkelon).  It is providing portable toilets for people with severe disabilities, initially in Beersheva, Sderot, Ashdod and Ashkelon. Volunteer-led activities for children in shelters will begin this week using 200 activity kits with arts and crafts materials, games and other supplies to make the time more agreeable, giving children some venue to let off steam.

World ORT innovative distance learning technology is enabling children to keep up to date with their school work from their shelters. World ORT is on its way to setting up a thousand “smart classrooms” in Negev and Galilee schools by 2013 and the education via computer is being used right now.

Channel 2 interviewed one girl making use of the “smart” classroom in Soroka Hospital, a school usually used by hospital patients. “It is lonely being at home all day. Here I know I am safer and I’m not as bored.” During the broadcast, the girl had to rush out the hospital classroom to the more secure corridor when the siren warned of incoming rockets.

In addition, 300 students from 15 World ORT schools are working, in connection with the Foreign Ministry, on presenting Israel’s case globally via social media. “We are fighting against anti-Semitism worldwide” say the students.

Keeping up Spirits

Several well-known singers are making the rounds of shelters in the South, entertaining adults and children, in an effort to lighten the mood and provide distraction. “You come here and see what the children are going through and it makes you furious,” said singer Rami Kleinstein. “I sang and we heard explosions up above.”

Soldiers

Tomer Benishu (31) and Oshrat Melumad (27) met each other on reserve duty over a year ago. Last Friday they were enlisted together as reserve soldiers but received a few hours off yesterday in order to register their upcoming marriage.

Mother to seven young children and in her ninth month of pregnancy, Shifra Buchris (34), works as a policewoman visiting rocket impact sites every time a rocket strikes. “I feel that if I am able to able, I am blessed. It is important for me to strengthen the citizens of the South, giving them courage against this harsh reality.”

Social Media

Despite strong anti-Israel element in the social media, including a popular Palestinian Song on the Internet: We will strike Tel Aviv, pro-Israel support is being organized. In particular, yesterday San Diego organized a pro-Israel rally to “come together as a community to show our support for Israel.”

You can use Twitter to be informed:

Israeli Accounts: @IDFSpokesperson – @AvitalLeibovich – @Haaretzcom

JFNA-Affiliated Accounts: @JFederations – @IsraelActionNet – @Daroff

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