Israel at War: Navigating the Landscape

We are now in the second week of the war unleashed by Hamas’s murderous attacks on Israel, and the shock and trauma are as raw as the first day.

However, Israeli citizens are rallying and showing solidarity and fortitude. Diaspora Jews and funders are also stepping up. The reaction of the philanthropic community in particular is heartwarming, and it’s also vital for many of the relief efforts that are now underway and that will last for a long time.

Today, we offered a firsthand briefing, led by Sigal Yaniv Feller, our Israel director. Please, watch/listen to the recording as it has a lot of detail and texture regarding needs and how can funders help.

Also, we keep updating our dedicated webpage with vetted opportunities to help. JFN members, please let us know what you’re funding here and/or use our dedicated email address [email protected].

Some key points that we discussed in our briefing today plus a couple of new ones:

Some funders are confused by the multitude of appeals they’re receiving, so it could be useful to categorize them.

  1. Many appeals come from aggregators at the broad communal level. They reach out to the entire community and provide help in a variety of areas. The best example of this are federations or the JFNA appeal. The advantages of these campaigns are many-fold: they allow for big investments, they can rely on their professional staff and structure to prioritize needs, and they can pace the disbursement of funds over time. They also have long-term relationships with agencies on the ground.
  2. Other appeals come from “sector umbrellas” or “sector aggregators.” For example, the FIDF serves as a platform for contributions to IDF soldiers; Israel Trauma Coalition can ascertain sector-wide needs in trauma relief; the Social Venture Fund for Arab Israelis aggregates and disburses funds with a unique knowledge of that space. Using these, the funder can choose to focus on a sector.
  3. Many appeals come from specific organizations, be they kibbutzim, hospitals, and specific trauma organizations among many others. These campaigns offer the funder the opportunity to connect with specific organizations and follow their contributions more closely, while deepening the relationship with grantees. Specific nonprofits can serve niche needs that are difficult for communal aggregators to identify. And sometimes, organizations that have better development structures get more attention. Of course, the risk is “not seeing the forest for the trees,” meaning that the big picture can be lost
  4. Finally, there are grassroots efforts: groups of individuals trying to do good work on the ground, discovering gaps in the existing efforts, and addressing them flexibly and rapidly. The benefits of this are, of course, the immediacy and the community building that gets created among the givers. What funders need to make sure of in these cases is that these groups can indeed provide support, that they aren’t duplicative, and critical for US funders, that they can legally receive donations.

Which one is better? The strategic funder should probably use a combination of at least the first three. When in doubt, 1 and 2 are the safest options.

Now to a few specific needs (you can see a longer list on today’s briefing):

  • The situation of internally displaced Israelis is becoming more complex and difficult. The government has decreed the full evacuation of Sderot in the south, and several communities along the northern border. While the government pays for the accommodation of those evacuated, the self-evacuated (in many cases, mere meters away from the ‘cut-off’ zone for mandatory evacuation) are not covered. As days go by, their situation becomes more problematic. Nonprofits are getting organized to serve those needs, from paying for hotels to finding alternative accommodations to taking care of other needs. Needless to say, those people can’t work. JFN EDRF is developing programs to that effect, and other funders can follow their lead.
  • There is a growing need related to orphans, widow/ers, and broken families. The IDF has a well-oiled, comprehensive machine to take care of families of war casualties. The same system doesn’t exist for civilians, especially when such a huge number are affected at the same time. Support is not systemically organized, but the nonprofit sector is working with the government as we speak, and we’ll be able to tell what the best ways of serving this need are in future updates.
  • Advocacy on behalf of abductees is picking up pace around the world. It’s important to support those efforts.
  • In that vein, public opinion continues to heat up, and more help will be needed in the weeks ahead. Sometimes, funders can exercise influence in ways other than grants. The example of leadership from the Wexner Foundation cutting ties with Harvard is one to follow. Reliable anecdotal evidence shows that the corporate space is another advocacy battleground. The resources of Shine a Light in that space are extremely valuable. I’m not a big fan of “talking points” in normal circumstances, but with such a cacophony of messages, having a crisp and clear message is very helpful. Different populations need to be addressed with different messages.
  • Connected to that, there are offers underway to collect testimonies in order to tell the stories of those killed and kidnapped. The idea is to make sure that every aspect of the massacre is recorded and preserved.
  • We’re starting to see needs in the small business sector of the affected areas, where economic activity has all but stopped. So far, Israeli banks are extending interest free lines of credit, but over time, more specific needs will emerge.
  • Donation of Health Care equipment is now being accepted, and the Minister of Health has compiled a list of the most useful items. As we speak, we’re working on the logistics of receiving and distributing those items. Please, stay tuned.
  • As I mentioned last week, there are many initiatives in the Haredi sector to organize volunteers for both the IDF and civilians needs. Those, of course, can have a positive impact beyond the current crisis.
  • I can’t stress enough the need to make the contribution to the crisis “above and beyond” your usual giving. A robust nonprofit sector in Israel was the safety net given the systemic failures of the government in the crisis. That robust system, which has now proven its value, exists because we’ve been supporting nonprofits over decades. The needs they were serving before the war are still there and “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is not a solution.

We'll continue to keep you updated as new needs are arising each day. Again, continue to visit our list of vetted organizations for new resourcesOur staff has a more extensive list that can be shared with people upon request. Our dedicated email address is [email protected].

Am Yisrael Chai