Responding to the Economic Burden

As we close the 35th day of war, I wanted to share with you some updates about the evolving needs on the ground, as we’ve been doing since the horrific attacks of October 7th.

My previous updates, which you can find here, are still relevant, so I encourage you to peruse them as we only include new or changed needs in every new update. This one is a little lengthy but I hope you’ll take some time this weekend to read it.

We remind you that you can use our concierge service, our dedicated crisis-response line, our list of vetted organizations and non-profits, and the Israel Rises platform (in Hebrew and in English). Also, our newly-launched consulting service can help you plan a long-term strategy to respond to the crisis.

After more than a month of war, we are seeing Israel moving into an “emergency routine,” which brings a whole set of new challenges and needs.

  • The economic burden of mass mobilization is being felt. 360,000 reservists were called up to reserve duty (the largest number since the Yom Kippur war, and for an even longer period of time). The Treasury Dept in Israel has calculated that this is costing the economy ~600 million dollars a week. Because of this, the focus is shifting to making sure that the Israeli economy doesn’t collapse. In that sense, we’re seeing many initiatives to strengthen different economic sectors, from start ups to local retail to agriculture. We’ve mentioned a few organizations that deal with these issues, and more initiatives are being developed as we speak. Please, contact us for more details.
  • As we mentioned in the past, the agriculture sector is particularly affected, as the Western Negev is the “breadbasket of Israel.” We encourage people to support the kibbutzim directly and also to look at organizations that are organizing volunteers to do agricultural work.
  • In the first days of the war, Israelis volunteered in droves to help nonprofits and communities affected. But now, many of the volunteers need to return to work, and those nonprofits and communities that depended on them need to hire paid workers. These workers are both scarce and expensive. We can expect an uptick in needs from nonprofits as they replace volunteer manpower with paid workers. We encourage you to keep an eye on this increased need, and also to support those organizations that send volunteers from the diaspora. In a previous message I explained the criteria for a “good” volunteer program: one that focuses on the right skills, is not a burden on the local communities, and fulfills a real need.
  • One overlooked need is mobility. Most of the evacuees from the south had to abandon their cars (or their cars were burned by the terrorists). Many have no way to move around, go to war, attend to dispersed family members, or any attend to any number of day-to-day needs. The Harlap Family Foundation (an Israeli JFN member) has donated 120 cars for evacuees. Some leasing companies have made important contributions as well.
  • Our needs and responses platform, Israel Rises, is up and running, and matchmaking between needs and donors is happening as we speak. On Monday at 1:30pm Eastern time, a special briefing will be conducted to demo the platform and teach both members and nonprofits how to use it. You can register to attend here. Don’t miss it!
  • The needs of advocacy around hostages are ramping up. To hear more about these continuing needs, please visit the Hostage and Missing Families Forum website.
  • I mentioned gender issues in my previous update. The needs there can’t be overstated. Besides those women and girls directly affected by the Oct 7th massacre, there’s increased risk of domestic violence and abuse, especially with a record number of Israelis owning guns. Women are also prevalent in many of the relief jobs that are working round the clock in this crisis, from nurses to social workers, to teachers, to therapists. Many need to juggle work with caring for children and parents, which they must do alone while their husbands are in the army and schools are operating on and off. JFN Israel has created a steering committee to deal with gender issues in the country. If you want to know more, please contact us.
  • Also in Israel, JFN ran two webinars last week that are available for Hebrew speakers (there are English abstracts). One was about long-term mental health needs, and the other around the needs of local authorities and municipalities, which are taking a leading role in the reconstruction process. Click here for more.
  • As the reconstruction efforts get underway, JFN is creating funder groups by sector, starting with education and mental health, to discuss how to align strategies and eventually shared investments. Please let us know if you want to get involved.
  • You don’t need me to tell you that antisemitism around the world continues to spin out of control. Yet it’s hard for donors to know how to get involved. We have mapped out all the organizations that deal with this issue (there are around 50 in the US alone) and our newly established consulting service will offer free consultations on how to pick the right one according to your needs and preferences. Also, we can connect funders with others that are funding in this field and can share their experience.
  • In that vein, many funders wonder why there isn’t a “central body” fighting antisemitism. The truth is, for reasons that would be too long to explain here, that isn’t realistic at this point. However, funders can and should encourage organizations to share, communicate, and use centralized resources when they exist. From knowing how to maximize social media penetration to sharing polling data and expertise, more coordination is needed.
  • And speaking of conferences, our Annual conference in Israel in March is moving forward, and I may add, now more than ever. Content and format will be altered, but we’ll be there in full strength.
  • To finish with some good news: A recent poll has shown that an all-time record numbers of Arab Israelis and Haredim, two sectors that had a problematic relation with the state, now “feel part of the state and its problems.” An overwhelming majority of Jews and a solid majority of Arabs say they wouldn’t live anywhere else, even if “they received citizenship of the United States or another advanced Western Nation.” As you can see, the bridge building work between different sectors of Israeli society pays off in moments like this, so don’t stop supporting it!

In the spirit of hakarat hatov (acknowledging the good), don’t forget to thank and support those elected officials of both parties that stand with Israel and the Jewish People in its hour of need. They certainly hear from our detractors, so let them hear our gratitude as well.

And needless to say, each and every one of us needs to be present at the demonstration in Washington, D.C. next Tuesday. It needs to be the most massive pro-Israel and anti-hate demonstration in our community’s history.

And never, ever lose hope.

Am Yisrael Chai.