Israel at War: Preparing for the long term

Today we woke up to more horrible images and stories, including the unfathomable murder of 40 babies in Kfar Aza. When we think that nothing else could shock us, we discover more and more the depravity of our enemy, which is also the enemy of all humanity.

As Israel mourns, its resolve and determination grow, with the army and civil society rising up to this unprecedented challenge. None of us has any doubt that Israel will prevail, but the road ahead may be long and arduous.

As I’ve been doing in the last few days, I wanted to share what we’re hearing in terms of needs from the ground and what our members and partners are doing. I assume that you're getting the news already, so this focuses only in philanthropic responses (and presents a non-exhaustive, evolving and highly fluid picture). 

* It’s important for funders to pace themselves, and while giving generously now, consider that this will be a long process and the rebuilding needs will be massive. Gifts to federation funds and well-established nonprofits offer the possibility of staggering contributions as needs become clearer. It's useful to inquire about what their distribution plans are and how they're considering longer-term needs.

* One emerging need has to do with remote learning, as schools across the country are going back to COVID routines. Organizations (which we list on our website) are rushing to provide tablets and laptops to students of disadvantaged populations and in the most affected regions.

* Specific populations, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, new immigrants, etc., are particularly vulnerable. For example, there are elderly people stranded in Sderot and Ofakim who aren’t able to receive medical or social services. While government services are doing their utmost, many gaps remain. Organizations like JDC and JAFI provide valuable services on the ground.

* There are thousands of evacuees from the conflict area, many in hotels in the Dead Sea Region, Eilat, and other points of the country. Supporting them appropriately is challenging, and many organizations, from trauma counselors to youth movements, are rushing to help.

* The “fog of war” is affecting the determination of needs. Many of us are receiving appeals to provide the IDF with gear and supplies. The IDF has issued a formal statement saying that, “The army has all it needs,” and asking people not to send equipment. It claims that the problems aren’t linked to shortages but to logistics - it takes time to equip over 300,000 reservists hastily called up, and they’re doing it based on operational needs and priorities. Yet, there are conflicting reports and many first-hand messages from reservists stating the contrary. Whatever you choose to do in that regard, it’s important to realize that getting equipment to staging grounds and army units is challenging. So, we encourage you to check whether the goods can be delivered before donating. There are organizations that provide soldiers with food, toiletries and non-military gear. They are listed on our site.

* Something similar is happening with health care personnel. We’ve been in touch with several hospitals and officials in the health ministry who said that no call for foreign volunteers has been issued. Hospitals need donations, but their personnel needs are covered. However, it’s wise for organizations to collect names of potential volunteers for if and when they’re required. At this point it’s important to assist Israelis (called up reservists and personnel with critical skills) to get home from abroad.

* Trauma and psychological support continue to be pressing needs in what’s arguably the most traumatic event in the country’s history. While being the best in the world, Israeli trauma organizations are under severe strain and need help.

*  Israeli Arabs are fearful of incitement and retaliation against them (even though there were scores of Israeli Arabs among the victims). Organizations like the IATF and Social Venture Fund are working to help. We hope you join our event with them this Thursday, October 12. Click here to register.

*While the public opinion remains uncharacteristically sympathetic to Israel, experts predict that will change soon. Organizations that advocate for Israel in the public square, especially on social media, are scrambling to respond. As I said yesterday, advocacy is more effective when done by non-Jewish allies. Connected to that, Jewish students in high schools and colleges are sharing the need for talking points to be able to counter anti-Israeli propaganda, or simply to respond questions of curious classmates. Employees and employers and also facing similar issues in the workplace and organizations are now addressing that. Please continue to share resources like these, from Boundless Israel, and many others. Further, our Honeycomb initiative has produced this resource guide, highlighting different Jewish text, conversations, prompts, and suggestions for how to apply Jewish teen philanthropy during a crisis situation.

* Funders support a variety of causes, and all are important even if the emergency brings new urgent needs. Cannibalizing existing grantees to serve new needs is problematic and ultimately counterproductive. While we all re-prioritize, those that can should consider their gifts as “above and beyond.” Foundations should remember that the 5% payout is not a maximum but a minimum. Many of us have reserves for a rainy day… Well, it's pouring now.

* As many funders learned during COVID, in times of crisis it's important to simplify the grantmaking process as much as possible. If you trust your grantee, there's no need for extensive bureaucracy, proposals, paperwork, etc. Just ask them what they need. There will be time for paperwork later. To my first point, many organizations are unclear about what the mid and long-term needs will be, so they need the flexibility to reallocate and move funds around. We need to give them that freedom.

* Finally, JFN is working with the Home Front Command, the Prime Minister's Office, the Civil Society Umbrella, the Foundation Forum, and the Business Forum to launch an online platform for vetted needs. We assume it'll be up in the next couple of days. Please continue to visit our website for an ever-updating list of vetted agencies and nonprofits. And please continue to share your responses to the crisis and resources you find valuable by writing to [email protected]. Our team is available 24/7 to advise you. As a reminder, funders that want to send money to nonprofits in Israel and need a fiscal sponsor can use our “Give to Israel” mechanism. JFN is waiving the GTI fees for the duration of the conflict. Other mechanisms, like PEF or Jewish Community Foundations, also can serve as conduits.

And don’t forget to attend the pro-Israel rallies happening in your towns.

We'll keep sharing with you what we learn in real time.

"May God give strength to His people, May God bless His people with peace." Psalms 29.


A version of this dispatch was first published in eJewish Philanthropy.