December 8, 2023

Day 63

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

We were blessed to host many community leaders this morning at a beautiful and important celebration of our partner agencies and day schools; together we’ve served our Greater MetroWest community for a hundred years, and this morning was a great opportunity to reflect on that legacy and recommit to our shared path. You can read my speech here, and we’ll post videos and photos in the coming days. Also check out this awesome interactive timeline of our Jewish Federation’s Centennial.

I’m proud to tell you that Jewish Federations have now raised a total of more than $711 million system-wide and allocated over $242 million to a wide range of humanitarian organizations in Israel for the emergency fund for Israel. Click here for our latest allocations update.

Here’s where we are right now. The IDF reported today that it hit 450 sites in Gaza over the past day. As fighting continues, five more IDF soldiers have been killed, bringing the total number of IDF casualties since the ground offensive began to 91. See details of all the fallen soldiers here. An anti-tank missile fired from Lebanon struck and killed an Israeli civilian in the northern border town of Mattat yesterday. The man in his 60s was treated by Magen David Adom medics near the scene who were forced to declare his death. By Thursday, the IDF said that its troops had surrounded Khan Yunis, the largest city in southern Gaza, (and a center of Hamas’ power) and had also advanced inside the city.

All restrictions have been lifted regarding the resumption of schools in the center of Israel. Until now, schools could only open if students could reach shelters within the allotted time when sirens rang. Israeli authorities have now identified a total of 274 soldiers and 859 civilians killed during the brutal October 7 assaults. The latter figure includes 57 Israel Police officers and 38 local security officers. It is unclear which of these individuals were on duty when killed. Removing those victims leaves a figure of 764 civilians. Read additional details about the demographics and nature of those murdered.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Operations

Some of the most intensive fighting in the ground war so far has been taking place in recent days. The IDF has surrounded the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and is operating in the city’s center. Yesterday, troops broke through the defenses of Hamas’s Khan Yunis Brigade, and captured terror strongholds, locating weapons and intelligence materials. Soldiers killed numerous Hamas operatives in ground combat and airstrikes and located around 30 tunnel shafts that were then destroyed during the ongoing battles, as well as a weapons depot inside a mosque. The IDF said, “The entire leadership of the Hamas terror organization — political and military — grew up in the area of ​​the city of Khan Younis, including Yahya Sinwar, Muhammad Sinwar, and Mohammed Deif. Now the city is surrounded.”

The military is also making advances in the northern Gaza Strip, where they have been operating for more than a month. The IDF stated “In the last 48 hours, in Jabaliya, Shejaiya, and Khan Yunis, we breached the defense lines. The terrorists are coming out from the underground and fighting our forces. And our forces are winning in close-quarters combat. They have the upper hand.” Yesterday also saw additional signs that general order – as well as Hamas control – is breaking down inside Gaza. Thousands of Gazans ransacked a UN facility (long accused of corruption), finding tons of food, clothing, and other supplies, currently in desperate need in Gaza. And in an unprecedented development, one Gazan phoning into a local TV station openly accused Hamas and its leadership of bringing the entire catastrophe on them, and urged Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar to “release the hostages.”

The Israeli government has approved a “minimal” increase in fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Israel has restricted fuel shipments into Gaza since the outbreak of the war over concerns that they will fall into the hands of Hamas and be used for military purposes. Humanitarian officials say the fuel shortages have crippled the health care system and hindered deliveries of basic humanitarian supplies. The IDF and Israel’s Defense Ministry launched a program yesterday to better equip civilian community defense teams. The local units are made up of residents of communities and are often the first to respond to infiltrations and attacks. On October 7, several of the teams in communities near the Gaza border were overwhelmed as they took on dozens of Hamas terrorists, sometimes without adequate arms and equipment.

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday it has seen a massive spike in female conscripts seeking to join combat units during the war in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the age of retirement for Israelis serving in reserves and active duty will be temporarily raised by one year to maintain the IDF’s operational preparedness during the war. Defense and Justice ministries officials are drawing up a temporary bill that will raise the age of retirement for reservists from 40 to 41. In addition, IDF officers’ retirement age will be raised from 45 to 46, or from 49 to 50, subject to their specific role’s requirements.


Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remain far lower than earlier in the war but continue to strike Israeli cities daily. Watch as an intercepted rocket crashes into a street in Tel Aviv, narrowly missing two pedestrians. Many of the rockets were fired by Hamas from inside the humanitarian zones set up by Israel for those civilians escaping the fighting. In the north, Hezbollah also continues its medium-level rocket and other fire against Israeli targets. On Wednesday, Israel’s long-range Arrow air defense system shot down a ballistic missile, fired by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, over the Red Sea. The incident set off sirens in the city of Eilat, though the surface-to-surface missile was destroyed before entering Israeli airspace.


At least 10 of the Israeli civilians released by Hamas, both men and women, were sexually assaulted or abused while in captivity, the Associated Press reported Wednesday. In a report detailing allegations of severe and widespread sexual abuse by Hamas terrorists during their October 7 onslaught and later against hostages, a doctor who treated some of the 110 hostages released from captivity told the AP that at least 10 men and women among those freed were sexually assaulted or abused. Read about how released hostages had been starved and tortured. See this account of his time as a Hamas hostage by one of the Thai foreign workers who was released.

International Response

US Energy Envoy Amos Hochstein said yesterday that the Biden Administration has not lost hope that normalization can be achieved between Israel and Saudi Arabia, even though US-mediated talks between the two countries were frozen when war broke out following October 7.

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps will visit Israel this week. Shapps stated, “My visit this week is an important opportunity to discuss efforts to accelerate the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance into Gaza and efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages.” The UK has recently deployed an additional 1,000 military personnel in the Middle East and Shapps said that “our forces are there to support the humanitarian aid effort and help in stabilizing the area.”

More interesting stuff …

Volunteering: Read this updated Jewish Federation update on the latest volunteering opportunities in Israel right now.

Don’t forget that there are lots of Chanuka events in the community all through the coming week – you can see a great list here.

Shabbat Shalom, may it be filled with love and peace,

Chief Executive Officer