The Jewish Federations of North America believes that every member of Congress, without exception, should be allowed to visit Israel, irrespective of whether we agree with their point of view. The relationship between Israel and the U.S. Congress is longstanding and unique, and has served as the bulwark of America’s bi-partisan support for Israel for decades.
ISRAEL AND OVERSEAS
The JFNA Israel office in Jerusalem represents the Federation movement in Israel, serves as the main Federation connection to the Israeli government and liaises with Federation-funded partner agencies working in Israel and around the world. The office provides Federations with the latest information and policy analysis of relevant issues and critical information that guides our overseas work and investments. It also supports missions that help inspire and inform Federation leaders about the movement’s work abroad. The offices also connects Israeli leaders and government officials with the North American community, deepening their awareness and knowledge of its breadth and depth. View Hebrew directory of North American Jewish organizations.
The Federation portfolio in Israel is widespread and diverse. It includes working with our partners to ensure that every Jew who wants to live in Israel can, funding programs that help provide equal access to economic and educational opportunities, and supporting initiatives that encourage religious diversity and social equality.
JFNA’s Jerusalem office is also Federations’ hub for supporting Jews around the world. Our network provides critical humanitarian and economic assistance in times of crisis, from the 2014 conflict with Gaza that threatened millions of Israelis to the ongoing strife in Ukraine that’s affected tens of thousands of Jews. Federation also plays an important ongoing role in providing an array of life-sustaining services to needy elderly and vulnerable jews while supporting the revitalization of Jewish life, especially in communities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that were decimated by the Holocaust and driven underground by Communism. Our partners fund camps, community centers and educational and leadership development programs that support a renaissance of global Jewish life.
For more information on JFNA’s work in Israel and overseas, please contact our Israel office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 011-972-2-620-2020.
Update: July 15, 2019
New Resource from IAN:
As our community is painfully aware, anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world and is increasingly being couched as anti-Israel rhetoric. In response, the Israel Action Network (IAN) has created Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and the BDS Movement. This helpful tool clarifies the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semtism, how the BDS movement manipulates this relationship, and how to identify when language crosses the line from reasonable criticism of Israeli policy to anti-Semitism.
New Federation Israel Policy Priorities:
Federation’s commitment to strengthening and supporting the State of Israel and its most vulnerable citizens is as strong as ever, with more than $250 million invested yearly in furthering these goals. See the 2019 Israel Public Policy Priorities to read more about the issues that will inform discussions with Israeli policymakers in the coming year.
Update: May 6, 2019
Our Israel office reports that rocket fire continued yesterday and through the night along the Gaza border reaching as far north as Ashdod. A late night funeral was held in Jerusalem for 21 year old Israel-American dual citizen Pinchas Menachem Prezuazman who was fatally injured by shrapnel Sunday evening. He was the fourth Israeli to die in this latest round of violence. Other victims were Ziad al-Hamamda, 47; Moshe Feder, 68; and Moshe Agadi, 58. May their memories be for a blessing.
As of 4:30 AM Israel time, an unofficial ceasefire has been in place which – according to Palestinian sources – was brokered with the help of Egyptian mediators. There has been no Israeli announcement regarding the ceasefire, though as of 7:00 AM the IDF lifted all protective restrictions including school and road closures that had been in place. Schools in most of the Negev reopened including in Sderot, while others along the Gaza border (Eshkol, Shaar HaNegev, and Sdot Negev regions) remained closed. Public gatherings are now permitted and public transportation will gradually resume operation following stoppages due to security concerns.
While precise details of the apparent ceasefire have not been publicized, sources are reporting that “Hamas has received guarantees that Israel will transfer to Gaza millions of Qatari financial aid and open the border crossing for entrance of goods and humanitarian aid to the Strip.”
Today also marks the start of the month-long observance of Ramadan, a period of intense prayer and fasting for many Muslims.
IDF reports indicate a total of 690 rockets fired from Gaza in the latest round of violence. The Iron Dome Aerial Defense System intercepted 240 of the rockets, 90% of those aimed at populated areas. During the 48 hour flare-up, the Israeli military retaliated, targeting 350 Islamic Jihad and Hamas targets including: rocket launch sites, command and training centers, weapon facilities, observation posts, and military compounds.
Gaza authorities have reported that 25 Palestinians, including two pregnant women, were confirmed dead as a result of Israeli retaliatory strikes.
Response within Israel to the ceasefire has been mixed with leaders from different parties including some within the Likud criticizing Netanyahu for the truce, declaring that the agreement does not resolve the open issues with Gaza, “gives-in” to terrorism, and only lays the groundwork for future escalations.
The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, “the campaign is not over, it requires patience and deliberation,” he says. “We are preparing to continue.” Israel maintains an enhanced military presence in the region. At 10:30 AM, the Southern Command renewed local alerts for incendiary balloons and kites from Gaza based on their estimation that Hamas will return to the arson strategy. Emergency vehicles and fire engines are stationed throughout the area.
The Jewish Agency is working to distribute emergency funds through the Fund for Victims of Terror to a total of 19 recipients. Whenever possible, a Federation or JFNA representative joins Jewish Agency staff member to personally deliver checks and express solidarity during these trying times. Recipients include residents from several Federation partnership regions including Nahal Oz (San Diego), Ashkelon (Baltimore), Kiryat Gat (Chicago), and are Jewish and Bedouin Israelis alike.
Marc Terrill, President of the Associated – Jewish Federation of Baltimore, reported from Israel while with a mission of communal leaders in Ashkelon, their partnership city. Just 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the Gaza border, Ashkelon suffered two fatalities, numerous injuries, and structural damage to multiple buildings due to rockets.
Once the rockets attacks started, the Israeli Trauma Coalition’s Resilience Centers activated emergency protocols. Hotlines were opened at all centers, caregivers were available to receive new patients and began outreach to existing clients. Following a direct rocket hit on the Bedouin city of Lakia, contact was made between the Bedouin resilience team and communal leaders to initiate support for the victims, among them many children. Due to intensive work on emergency preparedness, numbers spiked as many residents reached out for support, despite stigmas around mental health issues in the Bedouin community, and there was enhanced cooperation between the community and the IDF’s Home Front Command.
Urban Emergency Teams established by ITC with funds from Federations’ 2014 Stop the Sirens campaign were activated. They took to the streets, providing municipalities with vital real-time data related to the status of public shelters, elderly in need, and more. In one instance, the Team made sure that the local mikveh in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood closed; a few hours later it suffered a hit from a rocket.
JDC's "Virtual CIL" (Center for Independent Living) was also up and running, providing an online community platform and resource for people with disabilities. Launched in March 2018 with Federation support, the Virtual CIL offers services in Hebrew, Russian, and Arabic and operates 24/7 at times of crisis. The JDC-JAFI My5! program, also a hallmark project funded by Federation emergency dollars during Operation Protective Edge, leveraged locally trained spokespeople who shared personal experiences and stories across social media helping bolster Israel’s public positioning.
Federations can take pride in knowing that our prior emergency investments and support have strengthened the resilience and spirit of Israel’s southern residents. As the day progresses and quiet returns to the south of Israel, citizens are beginning to look ahead to Yom HaZikaron and Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s national Memorial Day and Independence, days of deep meaning and celebration that begin on Tuesday evening.
We will update further as necessary.
Sources: IDF Spokesperson; Haaretz; Ynet; Walla! News; The Times of Israel; Globes
Update: May 5, 2019
Our Israel office reports that the major escalation of violence in the country’s south over the past thirty six hours continues. Sadly, an Israeli father of four from Ashkelon was killed during a massive overnight rocket barrage. At the time of writing, a new barrage is hitting cities, and there are reports of further injuries in Ashkelon.
Since the attacks began on Saturday morning, more than 500 rockets have been fired at Israeli population centers, including multiple attacks on Sderot, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva. Sirens sounded as far north as Bet Shemesh, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. While many rockets landed in open fields, and 119 were knocked out by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, 21 projectiles did score direct hits, landing in Israeli population centers.
Moshe Agadi, (aged 58) from Ashkelon, died on his way to hospital after being hit in the chest by shrapnel from a rocket. Agadi had run to his shelter numerous times over the course of Saturday evening, but did not make it to the protected space in time when he was hit. In Kiryat Gat earlier in the day, an 80-year-old woman was seriously wounded by shrapnel that struck her head (video footage of that rocket hitting Kiryat Gat can be seen here). In addition, one person has been moderately wounded, 21 lighter injuries were reported, and 65 people have been treated for shock. Footage of rocket fire from Gaza being intercepted by the Iron Dome earlier today can be seen here.
Classes were cancelled today for hundreds of thousands of students and pupils living within 25 miles of Gaza (schools and colleges usually have classes on Sundays in Israel); and other restrictions have been placed on public activities in these areas.
In response, the IDF has targeted at least 200 military sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, hitting tunnel shafts, military posts, warehouses and weapons factories. In addition, some reports claim that the IDF also hit 30 homes of senior Hamas commanders. Video footage of some of the IDF’s precision strikes can be seen here. Similarly, this footage depicts the attack on a Hamas underground rocket manufacturing facility in the area of Netzarim. Secondary explosions caused as a result of the explosives stored in the facility are clearly visible. On Saturday the IDF also destroyed a newly constructed Islamic Jihad terror tunnel. Photos of the tunnel’s earlier construction can be seen here and video of its destruction here.
The Gaza Health Ministry reports that ten Palestinians have been killed since Friday. According to Israeli media reports, three of the fatalities were Hamas operatives, and three others were from Islamic Jihad. In addition, a woman and her 14-month-old infant were killed. Israel claims that those deaths were the result of a failed rocket launch by Gaza terror groups and not an IDF strike.
Despite the violence, earlier this morning Israel allowed fuel to be transported into the Gaza Strip to “prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
The latest escalation comes at a highly sensitive time as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins and with Israel about to mark its memorial and independence days this week. In addition, the massive Eurovision Song Festival is set to begin in Tel Aviv in just 9 days. The festival is seen as a major international event for Israel, with tens of thousands of visitors from abroad planning to attend and an expected 185 million people watching the competition live across the globe. Islamic Jihad released a statement threatening Eurovision in Israel, saying they will “prevent the enemy from holding a festival whose purpose is to undermine the Palestinian narrative.” The European Broadcasting Union, in charge of Eurovision, stated yesterday that despite the rocket attacks, the rehearsals “will continue as normal” and the situation will be “closely monitored.”
Israel’s security cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met this morning to assess the situation. The Prime Minister has declared a “Special Situation” for the next 48 hours in the area within 25 miles of Gaza. Netanyahu cited a “reasonable chance” of significant attacks on the civilian population as his reason for signing the order. The declaration gives the IDF and Home Front Command additional responsibilities and authority within the special zone.
In recent months, major flare-ups with Gaza similar to the current situation have occurred on a number of occasions. Each time, massive rocket attacks from Gaza were met by heavy IDF retaliatory strikes. However, on all occasions the fighting ended abruptly after around 24 hours. While Israel never formally acknowledged a ceasefire, it seems clear that an agreement with Hamas on a return to quiet was reached through Egyptian mediators on each occasion. Once again, such a scenario is possible today. Nonetheless, the IDF has announced that it is moving an additional armored brigade to the Gaza region; and Hamas and Islamic Jihad say that if “Israeli aggression continues” they will begin launching longer range rockets towards Tel Aviv.
Emmanuel Nachshon, a spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called upon world leaders to condemn the Hamas attacks in a short video that can be seen here.
US Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt stated, "Hamas & PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) have engaged in yet another deplorable act of terrorism, indiscriminately firing hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilian communities. The U.S. stands firmly in support of Israel’s right to self-defense and we call on the international community to do the same."
Maja Kocijancic, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union stated, "The rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel must stop immediately. A de-escalation of this dangerous situation is urgently needed to ensure that civilians' lives are protected.”
JFNA’s Israel office remains in close contact with our partners on the ground, including The Jewish Agency for Israel, The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), as well as local Federation colleagues representing communities whose partnership regions have been impacted by the violence. All are conducting evaluations and regularly assessing the situation.
The Jewish Agency's Fund for the Victims’ of Terror will today distribute emergency funds to a number of victims whose homes were hit, as well as those who have been injured.
On Saturday afternoon a rocket landed just 50 yards from World Ort’s Kfar Silver Youth Village. All students were in the protected shelter at the time.
ITC has reported that there has been a 150% increase of calls Israel Trauma and Resiliency Centers, over the last two days. Many of the calls have been from parents seeking assistance and guidance for their children suffering from anxiety.
Birthright Israel currently has 10 groups on the ground in Israel, with 44 additional groups set to arrive next week. One group was close to the area of fire today, and the group was immediately moved to a safer region. A new “safe zone” has been established, with Birthright groups forbidden to enter areas close to the Gaza region.
JFNA’s Israel office continues to hold consultations and will update as necessary.
Wishing everyone a good week, and praying for quiet, peace and security for all.
Sources: IDF Spokesperson; Office of the Prime Minister; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel News Channel; Galei Tzahal Radio; Walla! News; The Jerusalem Post; Ynet.
Update: March 26, 2019
Our Israel office reports that while violence continued overnight in the Gaza region, recent hours have been quiet, amid unconfirmed reports about a possible ceasefire agreement having been reached.
At 5:30pm Israel-time yesterday (almost the exact moment that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump), Israel launched a series of attacks on Hamas and Islamic Jihad military targets in the Gaza Strip. The hits were in retaliation for yesterday’s rocket attack that destroyed a home in Moshav Mishmeret, just north of Ra'anana and Kefar Sava, and injured seven.
During the Israeli air strikes, some 15 targets were hit, including the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as a building described by the Israel Defense Forces as a secret Hamas intelligence facility. Video footage of the IDF strike can be seen here. IDF tanks and attack helicopters also targeted several Hamas military posts. Hamas leaders, anticipating the Israeli strikes, had abandoned major terror facilities, and as a result no injuries have been reported on the Palestinian side.
As the same time, Hamas continued to fire rockets into southern Israel, with more than 60 launches overnight, each time activating sirens across the region. Thousands of residents ran repeatedly to their shelters. Most of the rockets landed in open fields, while others were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome Defense System. One rocket landed on a home in Sderot, but failed to explode. In a video making the rounds in Israel, one young woman from Kibbutz Nir Am filmed herself frightened and huddled in bed while a rocket exploded outside. Additional Iron Dome air defense batteries were deployed throughout the country. As we reported yesterday, two additional brigades were deployed to the Gaza region with approximately 1,000 reservists for air defense and other select units called up.
Within hours of the rocket attack on Mishmeret, The Jewish Agency for Israel provided emergency assistance to the families who suffered various degrees of injuries and heavy property damage. The four families affected by the rocket fire each received thousands of shekels in urgent aid from The Jewish Agency’s Fund for the Victims of Terror, an initiative supported by JFNA. Representatives of The Jewish Agency visited the families who suffered the attack to personally deliver the financial aid as well as to convey the heartfelt support of Diaspora Jewry.
At 10pm Israel time, Palestinian sources announced that Egyptian authorities had brokered a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Israel has denied that an agreement was reached. Nonetheless, there have been no Hamas rockets or Israeli strikes since just after 3:00 am.
Despite a few hours of quiet, schools and other educational institutions in the south, including in Ashkelon and Be’er Sheva, are closed today, leaving some 200,000 school students at home, and many of their parents unable to go to work.
As a result of the tensions, Prime Minister Netanyahu cut short his U.S. trip, and skipped his speech at the AIPAC Conference. He is due to arrive back in Israel on Tuesday afternoon and will head directly to military headquarters in Tel Aviv for urgent consultations. While members of the government have repeated that the upcoming elections are not a factor in any Israeli decisions regarding Gaza, most commentators agree that Netanyahu is in a difficult position. On the one hand, entering a larger military confrontation always entails risks; something the Likud-led government would certainly want to avoid before elections. On the other hand, Netanyahu does not want to appear as weak by giving into Hamas and accepting a ceasefire. In fact, even politicians on the left have been saying that Netanyahu is “capitulating to Hamas,” “indecisive,” and “weak on security.”
A number of commentators have speculated that if the current crisis escalates into a more serious military confrontation, then the Knesset may vote to postpone elections.
The escalation in Gaza has also overshadowed what on most other days would have been major news: The official recognition by the United States of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israel won the territory during the 1967 Six Day War, and extended Israeli law to the area in 1981. The U.S. move, welcomed by Israeli leaders across the political spectrum, is a major victory for the Prime Minister.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
(Sources: IDF Spokesperson, Walla! News, The Prime Minister’s Office, Israel News Channel, The Times of Israel)