Dear Federation and Community Leaders,
We’ve had a busy couple of days.
I want to thank our board members, who not only met for a long time last night, but also took the time to call hundreds of donors to the emergency fund for Israel, to personally thank them for their generosity. That’s a really powerful message, of gratitude and acknowledgement. I think that right now it’s a time of showing up. Of leadership. And of community. In addition to the “regular” work of Federation – including supporting our agencies and synagogues and partnerships, we’re spending a lot more time and focus on fighting Jew-hate and strengthening community infrastructure. That’s one of the reasons why you’ll hear me emphasize not just the emergency fund for Israel, but also the United Jewish Appeal. Because the infrastructure and operations of Federation are behind all the successful planning, logistics, security, and outreach that make us stronger. And you can’t build the fire station the day the fire breaks out – you need the ongoing strength of a community to make sure we’re always ready.
In the coming days, Federation is setting up an array of internal task forces to tackle Jew-hate, help with curriculum and content development, focus on allyship and communal relations, share content and resources with community partners, help individuals who want to ‘do something,’ activate the first responder program to community incidents of Jew-hate, and enhance the sense of Jewish pride in our community. That’s a lot. But I promise you we can do it. Together. I’ll keep you updated on the task forces, their work, and the outcomes.
In other personal news, I canceled my monthly sustaining donation to NPR this week. I deliberated on it for a long time. I truly believe in the importance of strong independent media for the health of our democracy, and I was proud to support it. But I can’t look at myself in the mirror anymore and be comfortable with a large (for me) donation to support journalism that refers to rapists, torturers, kidnappers, and murderers as “militants.” The dollars remaining in my annual pledge are all going to our Emergency Fund for Israel, to help pay for trauma relief, victims of terror, evacuations, and respite care. I’ll sleep better tonight knowing that I did that.
I was deeply moved to see how many people have already registered for the rally next Tuesday in DC. We’re expecting A LOT of people, a lot of buses, and a lot of ruach (good spirits). We’re working hard on logistics and security. If you’ve already registered, hang tight, we’ll get back to you shortly with all the information you need. Registration is now officially closed, but you can still join us – get the train, drive down, and be in touch with someone who’s already signed up to join us at the Mall. I promise you, it’ll be the most powerful, meaningful, memorable thing you’ll get to do for Israel right now.
So. Here we are. As the ground war continues, Israeli forces have made considerable gains towards destroying Hamas’ fighting capability. It’s confirmed that 35 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground offensive began, and 352 soldiers since October 7. In addition, 239 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza. More than 1,400 Israelis were killed on October 7, and 7,260 have been injured. At least 9,000 rockets have been fired at Israel in that time, and more than a quarter of a million Israelis have been internally displaced. A 55-year-old Kiryat Shmona resident, Meir Moyal, was killed on Monday after being hit by an anti-tank missile fired by Hezbollah in Lebanon’s south.
Israel Defense Forces Operation
In an unusual announcement, (with further details still unknown), the IDF announced last night that, “An aircraft was intercepted and dealt with after sirens sounded in northern Israeli border towns amid suspected infiltration of a hostile aircraft.”
As the ground operation in Gaza progresses, IDF troops have discovered a Hamas drone manufacturing plant and weapons depot inside a residential building. The building, in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, is located next to a school. IDF forces found Hamas drones in the building, as well as equipment used to manufacture them, and instructions to make explosive devices. Soldiers also recovered a number of bombs at the site, located next to a children’s bedroom (see video footage here and photos here).
Also overnight, troops from the Nahal Infantry Brigade captured a Hamas stronghold in Jabaliya, known as Outpost 17, after 10 hours of heavy fighting. The IDF says the soldiers battled Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives in the stronghold, who were both “above ground and in an underground route in the area.” Dozens of terrorists were killed during the fighting. In the course of the battle, IDF forces located large supplies of weapons and uncovered tunnel shafts, including one located adjacent to a kindergarten that led to an “extensive underground route.” Watch video footage of the fighting here and here. Israel says it has already destroyed 130 tunnel routes during the ground offensive. Among those killed in Israeli strikes last night was the head of Hamas’s anti-tank missile unit for central Gaza, Ibrahim Abu-Maasib.
Yesterday, some 80 trucks of urgent humanitarian aid entered the Gaza Strip, according to US authorities. Also, a shipment of medical supplies arrived at Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa, yesterday. The IDF says that the hospital’s basement serves as a major command base for Hamas, where weapons, fuel and other resources are also kept. Tens of thousands of Gazans are currently seeking shelter from the fighting in and around the hospital and its parking area. Read more here about how Hamas is using hospitals in Gaza to hide troops, weapons and more. Israel again opened a humanitarian corridor to allow those civilians who have remained in the north of Gaza to escape to the southern part of the Strip. Israel continues to urge Gazans to head to the south of the enclave, as close to 900,000 have already done. Around 15,000 additional residents of the north also made the journey yesterday, many of them waving white flags, as they passed through the evacuation corridor, with Israeli tanks protecting them from Hamas attacks (Hamas is trying to prevent civilians from leaving). See details here and footage here.
The IDF has revealed disturbing evidence of how Hamas uses ambulances to transport fighters and other supplies and exploits the military’s abstaining from hitting medical targets. See full details here. Listen here to a phone conversation where a terrorist explains that they have a supply of ambulances to transfer them when needed; and watch these testimonies from interviews with Hamas terrorists explaining how ambulances are not targeted by the IDF, so can therefore be used to transport fighters, weapons and more.
The Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry says that over 10,560 Palestinians have been killed since October 7 as a result of the war. Hezbollah says that 63 of its fighters have been killed on the northern front.
The Home Front
The country continues to mourn the massacre of October 7, and await the return of the hostages: American-Israeli Border Police officer Sgt. Rose Ida (Elisheva) Lubin was buried in the police section of the Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem earlier today after she was killed in a terror attack in Jerusalem. Lubin, 20, grew up in Dunwood, Georgia before moving to Israel on her own after high school and joining the Border Police. The funeral can be viewed here. May her memory be for a blessing.
Some reports are emerging of a potential deal that would see the release of 10-15 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a 1-2 day humanitarian pause in fighting. The deal, brokered by Qatar, is said to include the release of around 6 American hostages. The IDF is concerned that even a limited ceasefire will allow Hamas to emerge from underground, place ambushes and snipers around Gaza City, set traps for the IDF and gain a valuable image of the present placement of IDF soldiers.
A new playground has been established in Holon in honor of the 38 children being held hostage by Hamas. In anticipation of the return of the 38 kidnapped children, the Holon Municipality established a playground where, rather than green grass and brightly colored equipment, everything–from the turf to the slide to the public tricycle–has been painted black. See more here. Israel’s Transportation Ministry announced that it will provide free round-trip flights between Ramon Airport near Eilat and Ben-Gurion Airport to allow evacuees to move between the center of the country and the hotels where many from the Gaza area are being hosted in Eilat.
According to newsreports, journalists from news outlets, including the New York Times, AP, Reuters and CNN, joined Hamas terrorists from the Gaza Strip on October 7 to document the massacres with their cameras.
- Photographers allegedly filmed up close the kidnapping of civilians and soldiers, an attack on a tank, and the killing of an IDF soldier. In addition, a CNN freelance journalist broadcast images of the burning tank and accompanied the terrorists into Gaza.
- In response, AP said that it “had no advance knowledge of the October 7 attack. AP’s role is to capture news and images from events happening worldwide, at any point, even if they are terrible and involve victims.”
- The Prime Minister’s Office stated that it “views with utmost gravity that photojournalists working with international media joined in covering the brutal acts of murder perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7th in the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip.”
The level of rocket fire from Gaza has been lower in recent weeks, compared to the beginning of the conflict, Yesterday was a particularly quiet day, punctured only by occasional barrages. In the north, however, Hezbollah has continued its medium-intensity attacks across the border, without expanding its attacks significantly, while the IDF strikes at cells and the sources of fire.
The Brazilian Federal Police, working in cooperation with Israeli intelligence agencies, announced that it has prevented a domestic terror plot against Israeli and Jewish targets in the country. Brazilian authorities said that they had uncovered a plan that involved the recruitment of Brazilian citizens by Hezbollah, to carry out attacks against members of the large Brazilian Jewish community, including synagogues.
Two American F-15s conducted a strike on a weapons storage facility used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria overnight, killing at least 12 pro-Iranian operatives, in the country’s east. The US military said the hit was in response to another spate of attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria by the IRGC and other Iran-backed forces.
Former US secretary of state, first lady and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spoken out explaining the situation in Gaza and why she is not calling for a ceasefire. “Remember, there was a ceasefire on October 6 that Hamas broke by their barbaric assault on peaceful civilians. There was a ceasefire. It did not hold because Hamas chose to break it.” Watch the full interview here.
Italy will send a hospital ship to the coast of Gaza to help treat victims of the conflict, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said on Wednesday. The ship, with 170 staff, includes 30 people trained for medical emergencies, the minister said, adding that Italy was also working to send a field hospital to Gaza.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met today with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Jerusalem; he thanked him for his friendship, support, and solidarity visit at this time.
Henry Swieca, a Jewish billionaire investor and philanthropist, quit the board of Columbia Business School, saying the campus had become unsafe for Jews since the launch of the Israel-Hamas war. “With blatantly anti-Jewish student groups and professors allowed to operate with complete impunity, it sends a clear and distressing message that Jews are not just unwelcome, but also unsafe on campus… My resignation is an expression of my deep concern for the direction in which the university is heading.” Swieca, 66, is the founder in 2010 of Talpion Fund Management and the cofounder of Highbridge Capital Management, which was acquired by J.P. Morgan Chase in 2008. The child of Holocaust survivors, he has been a member of the business school’s Board of Overseers since 2014. Forbes lists his worth as $1.9 billion.
Efforts on the Ground
Israelis of all stripes have come together to support soldiers and bolster morale in the country, many sharing inspiring tales.
- Watch this video of non-Jewish cowboys from Montana and Arkansas who are volunteering in Israel with the war effort. Totally awesome.
- See these Miami Beach firefighters who have come to Israel to help out.
- One of Israel’s most beloved children’s entertainers in Israel is known as “Yuval Hamebulval.” Watch this touching video dedicated by Yuval to the kidnapped children.
- Broadway stars have come together to record this special version of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, in honor of the hostages.
- Watch here as Israeli troops inside the Strip raise the flag and sing Hatikva on Gaza’s beach.
Additional Background Reading
- Israel fights back despite its government, and wonders how much time the IDF has
- Former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman: This is what Israel should do in Gaza
- The IDF’s war on Hamas is going better than it expected… for now
- Supplying Protective Equipment: See also this Jewish Federations information page on requests for personal protective equipment which are circulating and this update regarding volunteering.
- Read the latest communication from the Community Mobilization Center here.
With prayers for peace, and the return of the hostages,