Latest Updates from Jerry Silverman, President & CEO of JFNA

From: Desk of Jerry Silverman 
Sent: Monday, May 6, 2019 5:58 AM
Subject: Update on the Situation from Israel

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Jerry Silverman

Sources: IDF Spokesperson; Haaretz; Ynet; Walla! News; The Times of Israel; Globes

From: Desk of Jerry Silverman
Date: May 5, 2019 at 10:31:33 AM CDT
Subject: Further Update from Israel

Dear Colleagues,

Since I wrote to you a few hours ago with an update about Israel, unfortunately the situation has deteriorated.

Our Israel office reports that tens more rockets have been fired on Israel, causing additional death, injury and damage. In Ashkelon, a rocket from Gaza hit a factory, killing one person and critically injuring two more. A short time later, a rocket hit a car near Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, killing one woman. Around the same time, rocket shrapnel hit the Oncology Unit at Israel’s Barzilai Hospital.

Sadly, due to concerns over the safety of large public gatherings, authorities have asked the public not to attend the funeral of Moshe Agadi who was killed by a rocket yesterday and is due to be buried in Ashkelon later in the afternoon.

In another significant development, Israel has resumed its policy of “targeted assassinations” of top Hamas terror officials. Before Operation Protective Edge, Israel occasionally attacked a place where a known top Hamas official was located. This caused the terror group’s leadership to go into hiding and significantly hampered their ability to operate. The policy was suspended for a number of years, but two officials were targeted by IDF jets a short time ago, signifying a renewal of the policy. One of the targets was Hamed Ahmed Abed Khudari who was the key conduit of funds being sent from Iran to Hamas.

World Ort reports that as of this afternoon, all of the organization’s Kfar Silver boarding school students have been evacuated from the village. Each student was accompanied to his or her respective home by one of their counselors to make sure they arrived home safely.

The Naaleh boarding school students who don’t have families or a home base in Israel have also been evacuated to the Kfar HaYarok Youth Village in central Israel. Two of the Naaleh students are currently being treated for shock and are receiving proper care before being transferred. A small number of staff members have stayed behind to take care of the animals and livestock. The school’s vice principal, Lior Azizi’s family home in Ashkelon was hit by a rocket this afternoon. Luckily no family members were at home when the rocket hit the house. 

At this time, rockets continue to hit Israeli towns, and the IDF continues to retaliate. More than 600 rockets have been fired since attacks began at 10am on Saturday. A news broadcast, interrupted by a siren, can be seen here. One video making the rounds on Israeli social media depicts a five-year old girl asking why the rockets fall on such a “lovely, summers day.”

We will update further as necessary.

Jerry Silverman