As we rejoice with the liberation of two hostages, we become more aware of the two hundred others that are still in the hands of the bloodthirsty terrorists of Hamas.
This update will be shorter than the previous one as most of the things I said in the last one is still relevant. Therefore, I’ll focus on a handful of macro-issues to consider in terms of needs of the ground, and new themes that are emerging.
- The public advocacy about the hostages is picking up its pace. The families of the kidnapped, after the initial shock and grief, have created a central organization – the forum – that coordinates much of the work. You probably saw today in the media that a Shabbat table with 200 empty chairs representing the hostages was set up in Tel Aviv and other cities around the world. There are many dimensions to this work – for example, civil rights icons like former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has been recruited to help legally and diplomatically, and there’s support for the families and relatives of the kidnapped. You also might have seen posters with photos of the captives around the world. It is critical to accompany this effort, and not let the world forget the hostages. Needless to say, that work is extremely costly and needs philanthropic support. JFN will hold a specific webinar in the days ahead to showcase some of the work in that area, and you’re welcome to reach out to us to learn more.
- The problem of internal evacuees is becoming more complex with the evacuation of Kiryat Shmona, a city on the border with Lebanon. Evacuees need “hard” solutions, like housing, food, and clothing, but also “soft” ones, like psychological support, education, childcare, and recreation.
- Specific cities are feeling the strain more acutely. Eilat, for example, has a population of 60,000 people and now has the same number of evacuees. This puts enormous strain on the city’s infrastructure, and there are concerns for its long-term viability. While in the past, Israel has evacuated people from border communities, never before have so many people been internally displaced for such a long time. Structures, both governmental and nonprofit, are only slowly catching up to the need and they need support.
- The stories of communities in which civilians repelled terrorists make more evident the need for “kitot konenut”, groups or local residents trained to patrol the communities and control the areas of access. While those local patrols were ubiquitous in the earlier years of the state, most communities and kibbutzim don’t have them anymore. After the events of October 7th, communities are trying to revive them. There’s simply no way for the police and army to patrol every border community. Resources are needed there too, to cover cost of training and equipment – even though some of this work may not be fully tax deductible. Details of specific places to give will emerge in the next few days.
- One need that we showcased in the past – the emergency mobilization to count and identify all the dead and missing – is winding down. The “Brother in Arms” organization has already finished its work and transferred all information to the army. While, sadly, some of the remains haven’t been identified yet, the list seems to be complete and there’s no more need for philanthropic support there. It’s hard to even describe the heartbreak that work entailed.
- The battle for public opinion continues. JFN is working with the secular philanthropic sector to help them realize that they are, in many cases inadvertently, doing harm by creating moral equivalences. Here are two articles that Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu and myself published in secular philanthropic publications, including the “Chronicle of Philanthropy” which is the most well-read medium in the industry. You can read my op-ed here, and Rebecca's here. From campuses to corporate America, the battle continues; and it will become uglier as the days go by.
- The educational system in Israel is suffering a triple whammy these days – a system that is understaffed in the best of times, now has many teachers and other personnel called up for reserve duty. The displacement of populations compounds the difficulties, as classes may be spread across the country. Finally, even schools in non-border communities, like Tel Aviv, are operating under the threat of missiles, so classes have been suspended. As the crisis extends in time, solutions will need to be worked out. The precedent of COVID is not fully adequate, as staff shortages back then were not as severe. Both government and funders are working on solutions, and we’ll be able to tell you more about it soon.
- Volunteering initiatives in the Haredi community are shaping up and offering a double advantage of providing needed workforce in certain areas, and contributing to dialogue and unity in Israeli society. JFN member Eli Paley is a leading force in this effort. Please, contact us if you are interested in supporting this work.
- Finally, as we said in the past, this crisis is strongly affecting the Arab Israeli community, which suffered many dead and wounded especially in the South. JFN is partnering with the IATFF and the SVF to offer a specific briefing to those interested in that sector. Click here to learn more and register.
On the technical side, we've streamlined our page of vetted funding opportunities to make it easier to navigate. Now you can click on a specific area and find specific projects to fund. As we've said in the past, the list may not be self-explanatory so don’t hesitate to call us. You can also write to us at [email protected].
We are and will be with Israel for as long as it takes.
A Shabbat of peace and strength,