Israel at War: Responding to unexpected needs

As we promised, we’re keeping you updated of the changing needs on the ground and how funders can help.

While reeling from the shock and the never-ending stream of horrific stories, the Israeli society has mobilized in unprecedented ways. As a vignette, the reservists call-up had a 150% response rate, meaning that people that weren’t called up showed up at their units.

The mobilization of the civic society is also unheard of. I’m reminded of an episode that took place in 1948. The day after Israel’s declaration of independence, the Egyptian air force bombed Tel Aviv, causing many civilian casualties, shock, and destruction. Israel had no air force and no air defense back then, so David Ben Gurion was very worried about the people’s morale. He went to visit the damaged areas, and when he came back home he wrote in his diary just two words: “Ele Ya’amdu” (They won’t be broken). I think that sums up what we’re seeing today.

All that I said in my previous emails (which you can find here) still stands, especially the invitation to support your local federation campaigns. JFNA today announced a 500 million dollar goal for their response campaign, to be divided as needed between humanitarian needs and longer-term rebuilding and rehabilitation.

A few new needs and situations that we’ve identified:

  • Hospitals: In preparation for a potential flare up in the north, hospitals have been moving some patients to the center of the country. That creates a double whammy of needs – in the northern hospitals on the one hand, and in those in the central region. While we’re still prioritizing southern hospitals (like Soroka, Barzilai, and Assaf Harofe) it’s safe to say that most hospitals in the country need support. Volunteers from abroad are not needed, but compiling lists is never a bad idea.
  • Many of the kibbutzim and communities affected by the massacre are creating funds to support the rebuilding efforts. Those are legitimate and important, although you’re welcome to check with us. Be mindful that in order to transfer funds to Israel from the US and Canada, one needs a registered “amuta” (nonprofit) to be the recipient of the funds in Israel, and a 501c3 (or Canadian equivalent) to receive them in America. We’re advising some of those efforts to be “fiscally sponsored.” As we’ve said in the past, you can use JFN as a conduit to send tax-deductible money to Israel.
  • A bizarre and yet difficult situation is evolving. Many survivors and evacuees have no documents, IDs, credit cards, passports, etc. The official printing house for many documents was located in kibbutz Be’eri and is now inoperable. So, there’s another double whammy to contend with. There’s not much for philanthropy to do there (the Israeli business sector is helping out), but I point this out as an example of the many unexpected needs that arise in a crisis like this one.
  • As you probably know, there were many victims among the Bedouin community of Southern Israel. One of reasons for the appalling death toll in Bedouin settlements is the fact that they don’t have enough bomb shelters. The leading Bedouin nonprofit Yanabia is organizing a campaign to provide mobile bomb shelters (yes, they are a thing) to Bedouin towns and settlements, many of which are just encampments.
  • The education needs I mentioned yesterday are growing. Apple has donated five thousand tablets for evacuees (so that you feel good every time you use your iPhone!), but more are needed. We already mentioned that school networks like Darka can receive support, but other campaigns are gearing up. We’ll keep you updated.
  • In relation to the housing situation I wrote about yesterday, several JFN members are taking the lead in paying for accommodations for self-evacuees. While those in the Dead Sea Region are receiving good services (and getting a much-needed respite), those that self-evacuated or are slightly outside of the close military zone are at a disadvantage. Please stay tuned for more on this – and on the long-term housing needs.
  • One lesser known aspect of the crisis is that the Western Negev is the breadbasket of Israel. Most of Israel’s dairy production is located in or around abandoned settlements. Organizations linked to the democracy movement (mostly Achim Laneshek – Brothers in Arms) are taking it upon themselves to keep the dairy farms working and the animals cared for. While food shortages at a national level are not feared, there’s a serious risk for the producers (small family farmers and kibbutzim), and of course, the animals.
  • The pro-democracy protest movement has completely pivoted, pausing the political activism and directing all its considerable logistic and organizational resources to relief efforts. This small clip shows the impressive operation they have mounted – this is one of their staging and distribution centers. Their work is greatly appreciated in the South and their operations have been vetted.
  • The battles for the hearts and minds of the global public is heating up, and it’s going to get significantly worse. Besides what I said yesterday about social media, colleges are again becoming battlegrounds. Given the appalling scenes we’ve seen in some universities, funders have started the “close your checkbook” campaign to compel colleges to stand up for their Jewish students, and frankly, for the plain human decency to condemn the pro-Hamas rallies that are taking place around the country. Everybody with influence in the university world is invited to make their voice heard.
  • There aren’t any known specific threats to the Jewish community, but as you might have heard, Hamas called for a global day of Jihad. This is a reminder of the need to beef up security in the Jewish Community.
  • Finally, many of us are connected to secular funders – be it corporations or foundations. We are a resource for them as well if they want to get involved.  

All of these activities are listed on our website. This list is ever-changing, so please continue to visit it for updates. We encourage you continue to share your responses to the crisis and resources you find valuable by filling out this form, and by writing to [email protected]. Our team is available 24/7 to advise you.

One important clarification in relation to our list of vetted needs: there are literally 40,000 nonprofits in Israel. In one way or another, they are all affected by the crisis. At this point, we’re listing organizations that have a major specific response to, or role to play in, the crisis – not organizations that are affected by the situation, because they all are.

Also, as we recommended funders to pace themselves, we’re saving some important initiatives for the weeks to come. For example, small businesses in the region will need a lot of support, but those needs will become more evident after the conclusion of the military operation. Please, be understanding if your preferred ‘amuta’ isn’t listed. Also rest assured that our staff, when providing advice to funders, uses a larger list that includes many specific or ‘niche’ needs.  

On Monday, we’re hosting a briefing where members can hear an update about the situation on the ground in Israel, as well as updated needs from our Israeli staff. JFN Israel Executive Director Sigal Yaniv Feller will present, and myself and the JFN Israel staff will be available to take questions as well. Click here for more.

Finally, I want to end with a “feel good story” about two JFN members. Liran and Sara Tancman are young funders who became affluent after a hi-tech “exit.” They are working with a prominent member of the Haredi community (also JFN member), Eli Paley, to train thousands of young Haredi men that have volunteered to serve. Since the army can’t train them now, the group, Hashomer Hachadash (that some of you support), is giving them basic training to become a sort of civil guard in the “second layer” of the conflict zone. As part of the same effort, female Haredi volunteers are now working with Bonot Alternativa, a fiercely secular women’s movement that, just a week ago, was protesting the “unfair distribution of the burden” between the secular and the Haredi. I don’t know about you, but these stories give me hope that this crisis, as horrendous as it is, can serve as a wake up call to start healing Israeli society.

Stay safe and strong, don’t lose your humanity even in the heat of battle, and never lose hope.

Am Yisrael Chai