Update: November 14, 2018
Update: November 13, 2018
Latest World News
Our Israel office reports that after the intense 24-hour period of conflict in the Gaza region, an unofficial ceasefire seems to be holding. There have been no reported rocket firings or other significant attacks since Tuesday afternoon.
No agreement has been officially announced by Israel. Instead the Security Cabinet issued a statement that simply said that the “IDF would continue to act as necessary.” At the same time, Palestinian factions announced that Egypt had brokered a deal that would end the current round of conflict.
As of this morning, all restrictions in Israel’s south have been lifted. Schools have reopened, public transported has been restored to regular schedules and bans on public gatherings have been revoked.
The unofficial agreement came after Israel’s security cabinet met for six hours to debate ongoing steps. According to many reports, the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad all favored the ceasefire, and the majority of cabinet members, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accepted their recommendations. Despite this, according to reports, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett as well as Ministers Ayelet Shaked and Ze’ev Elkin, were opposed to the deal. A short time ago, Defense Minister Lieberman announced that in protest of the ceasefire, he is resigning from the government, and pulling his party, Yisrael Beteinu, out of the coalition. This leaves Prime Minister Netanyahu with the slimmest of majorities: Just 61 out of 120 seats, a fact that could trigger new elections.
Politically, the ceasefire is potentially damaging to many of the cabinet ministers. In Israel’s southern cities (most of which are strongholds of Netanyahu’s Likud Party), large protests were held, calling on the government to initiate a more aggressive response to Hamas. The population has faced years of Hamas-led attacks and rockets, and many were hoping that the IDF would inflict permanent damage to the military infrastructure in Gaza, or even to remove Hamas from power.
The ceasefire came after 24 hours of fighting that saw some 460 rockets and mortars fired at Israel, 100 of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile Defense System. In response, the IDF struck 150 targets in Gaza, significantly harming the military capacity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A number of photos of Hamas military targets that were struck can be seen here). Twenty of the Hamas rockets fell in Israeli cities, killing one man (a Palestinian worker from Hebron) and injuring 70. (See here for eyewitness testimony of Israeli residents in the region; and here for a series of short video clips released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Jewish Federations’ partners (including the Jewish Agency, JDC and World ORT) are all active on the ground dealing with the emergency situation and responding to urgent needs. (See here for the Jewish Agency’s response to the crisis). In the recent months of increased rocket fire, Federation partner ITC’s Resilience Centers have seen an increase of 544% in new clients seeking help. ITC is currently focusing on providing treatment and over the last 24 hours have provided therapy for over 200 people. JFNA’s Israel office continues to be in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
Message from the Chair of the Jewish Agency
Dear Jewish Federations of North America, supporters, and friends from around the world,
Air-raid sirens have been blaring across southern Israel since yesterday and continue even as I write this letter. Terrorists have fired more than 400 rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza, in what is considered one of the largest-ever barrages on southern Israel. Thousands of families stayed in bomb shelters last night. There has been at least one death, and several people have been injured.
As we do every time an emergency arises in Israel, we have acted swiftly and effectively, as the representative of global Jewry, to take an active leadership role. In full coordination with national and municipal agencies at our common operational table for security, we are working to keep residents of southern Israel safe and to provide physical, financial and emotional support wherever we can.
As early as yesterday, The Jewish Agency’s employees on the ground have been distributing financial aid from our Fund for Victims of Terror. So far 17 people have already received emergency grants, within 24 hours of being injured or losing their homes. Among the recipients is a family of six from Netivot who spent last night in a hotel room after their home was destroyed, and a family from Ashkelon who stayed with relatives and are suffering from marked anxiety. Many others will receive rehabilitative assistance over the next months and years, including a teenage girl from Ashkelon who was wounded while running for shelter.
It is important to mention that our Amigour subsidiary physically repairs homes in southern Israel that have been damaged in air raids and terror attacks. We are proud of Amigour’s staff and construction crews who are literally on the ground right now under fire, restoring apartments and homes.
I had an emotional conversation last night with Hila Yogev, who works in Netivot as a manager of the Netivot-Sdot Negev—Philadelphia partnership, and lives in Be’er Sheva. She was at a meeting when the sirens began last night. She and a P2G colleague ran to the office’s bomb shelter – and remained there until it was safe to come out and for them to return home. I am cognizant of the stress this situation is causing for many of our employees and will stay in touch with Hila and many others.
Additionally, in the next few hours I will pay visits to communities in the south to show support on behalf of world Jewry. My plans include visits to those who have been injured in attacks, new immigrants in our Absorption Centers, participants in Masa Israel Journey programs, and the IDF officer who was injured yesterday during an operation in Gaza.
Our Absorption Centers for new immigrants and Amigour residences for the elderly serve some of the most vulnerable members of Israeli society, including new immigrants from Ethiopia who do not yet speak Hebrew and Holocaust survivors with severe mobility issues. In all our facilities, Jewish Agency staff have ensured that all beneficiaries understand what to do when they hear an air-raid siren, and teams are available to help those with mobility problems to reach bomb shelters as quickly as possible. Staff are also working to address signs of trauma among the residents, and the Security Unit stands ready to bring more guards to any Jewish Agency facilities if indicated.
Our security department, headed by Josh Schwarcz, is working with every one of our programs to assess and ensure the safety of our participants. He is working with Masa Israel Journey and Israel Experiences Ltd. to confirm that all programs in our Israel Experience arena are implementing the required security measures. Our pre-army academies have temporarily cancelled field activities in the south, and those in our Be’er Sheva program stayed in the city of Lod until a few hours ago, when they got the permission to return to Be’er-Sheva
At the recommendation of Rebecca Caspi, the Director General of JFNA’s Israel Office and the Vice President for Israel and Overseas, I spoke with Sigal Arielli, who heads the important Partnership of Baltimore and Ashkelon, and offered The Jewish Agency’s support and assistance.
We cannot stress enough the importance of the emotional support provided by Jewish communities around the world to their Partnership regions in southern Israel. The phone calls and emails expressing genuine concern and solidarity are a tremendous support in times of trauma. Several Partnership2Gether regions have been affected by the attacks including Kiryat Malachi-Hof Ashkelon—Tuscon-Orange County, Netivot-Sdot Negev—Philadelphia, Be’er Sheva—Montreal, Ofakim-Merchavim—Greater MetroWest, Eshkol—Mexico—Northeastern New York (Albany), Sha’are Hanegev—San Diego, and Kiryat Gat-Lachish-Shafir—Chicago.
Furthermore, it is important to know that school has been cancelled everywhere within 40 kilometers of Gaza. Our Youth Futures mentors are contacting each of the individual children in their charge and identifying ways they can help the families.
We are able to provide all these essential services thanks to The Jewish Federations of North America and all our supporters and friends worldwide.
The situation in southern Israel continues to unfold and we are preparing for the possibility of a prolonged period of distress. Moving forward The Jewish Agency will continue to conduct daily calls of an organization-wide emergency forum, which has been operational since the onset of the situation, and is facilitated by Chief Operating Officer Amira Aharonovich.
The Jewish Agency stands strong with residents of Israel’s south. We all hope and pray for quieter days ahead.
Since just before 5pm yesterday (Israel time), over 400 rockets have been fired at Israel, triggering an endless stream of sirens, and causing hundreds of thousands of civilians to spend the night in shelters (see photos of damage here). In the worst incident, a residential building in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket, killing a 48-year old man and severely injuring two women. In total, at least 55 Israelis have been wounded by the effects of the rockets since the attacks began yesterday.
While Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System successfully intercepted more than 100 rockets that were headed to populated areas, 8 residential buildings were hit in Sderot, 6 in Ashkelon and 2 in Netivot (see one of the Netivot residences here). Footage of incoming rockets and Iron Dome interceptions can be seen here.
Residents of the region have been instructed to remain close to shelters, public gatherings have been banned, and kindergartens, elementary schools and high schools have all been closed with classes cancelled for some 200,000 students, in cities and towns including Sderot, Be’er Sheva, Ashdod and Ashkelon.
The attacks began yesterday (see update here) when an Israeli bus was targeted by an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza. One 19-year-old Israeli soldier was severely injured in the attack, and he remains in critical condition. According to authorities, tens of soldiers had disembarked from the civilian bus minutes before it was hit. A Hamas propaganda video depicting, and celebrating, the attack can be seen here.
In response to the rockets, the IDF has struck close to 100 Hamas and Islamic Jihad military targets in Gaza, including four that were classified as “significant strategic military assets.” Targets included Hamas weapons’ warehouses, a naval vessel used by the terror group, a building used by its internal security service and a Hamas-run television station.
Israel has moved additional tanks and infantry units to the Gaza border region, and is considering a significant call-up of reserves. Israel’s security cabinet is currently meeting in emergency session.
Israeli television stations are broadcasting round-the-clock coverage of the situation, and both television and radio are interrupting their broadcasts on a regular basis, announcing (or displaying) Red Alert sirens and their location. Several communities in the center of the country have announced that residents are opening their homes to those from the south who feel the need to escape from the current tension, danger and uncertainty of their home towns.
Today is also the scheduled date for run-off municipal elections in Israel (in all locations where no candidate received 40% of the vote or more in the first round). Due to the security situation, the Ministry of Interior has postponed the elections in the Hof Ashkelon Municipality, but all other votes will take place, including in the country’s capital, Jerusalem.
The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror has already reached out to many of the families whose houses were struck by rockets overnight, and is providing immediate emergency assistance. A number of the dwellings that were hit are no longer inhabitable, and residents have been taken to hotels.
Alongside the Jewish Agency, Jewish Federations’ other partners (including JDC, ITC and World ORT) are all active on the ground dealing with the emergency situation and responding to urgent needs. JFNA’s Israel office is in close contact with our partners and Federation staff with partnership regions that are impacted by the situation, as well as with government and emergency services operating in the area; and will continue to monitor the situation closely, and update as needed.
President & CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America
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 email@example.com or call 011-972-2-620-2020.