December 13, 2023

Day 68 Updates and Background

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

I was in a dark place earlier yesterday. The haters, the trolls, the task. It all seemed like a lot. I felt down, and heavy, and overwhelmed.

But in the evening I met with four incredible Israelis, survivors of the October 7th massacre at our wonderful JCC MetroWest: Hila, Shani, Ofir and Rony. Amazing, beautiful souls, who lived through the worst day in Jewish history since the Shoah and shared their stories (you can watch the video recording here). And we talked, with several hundred people who came out to share their love, solidarity, and support. For Israel. For community. And that brought me back. As I wrote on social media, last night and today is the sixth day of Chanuka, the night that’s one-less than holy. Traditionally, seven is the number where we signify kedusha, holiness, in Jewish life. So six means there’s a gap, and it’s on us to find that missing piece. It’s our task to step up. To be the living bridge to holiness.

Closer to home, please join me in congratulating and celebrating our colleague Rebecca Pollack, who has been promoted to Chief Development Officer. This is a sign of Rebecca’s leadership, excellence, and commitment to our Federation and community. Rebecca has grown and led Federation’s fundraising efforts since becoming Vice President of Development in 2017. As a respected community and relationship builder, fundraiser and advocate for our Jewish community, Rebecca has seen our organization through crucial moments with commitment and dedication. Rebecca works collaboratively with Federation and Jewish Community Foundation colleagues to assist with the Greater MetroWest Centennial Campaign, our multi-year effort to raise $250 million in current supplemental and endowment and legacy gifts to enhance and secure the Federation today and for its second century and beyond. Rebecca and her team have helped Federation to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in support of our communal needs, and to address a myriad of crises, including our current emergency relief for Israel, the war in Ukraine, and our local community response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I am deeply grateful for her work and proud of her accomplishments.

Ten IDF soldiers died in a series of blasts while searching buildings in the Gaza City suburb of Shejaiya, it was announced Wednesday. While responding to gunfire from an apparently booby-trapped building in the heart of the Shejaiya casbah, there was a large explosion and several soldiers were wounded. A second blast went off when a second group attempted to come to the aid of the injured soldiers. A third force then attempted to reach the group and was hit by an explosion as well.

Israel’s military has begun to pump seawater into Hamas’ vast complex of tunnels in Gaza, according to U.S. officials briefed on the Israeli military’s operations, part of an intensive effort to destroy the group’s underground infrastructure. Flooding the tunnels, which would likely be a weekslong process, began around the time Israel added two more pumps to the five pumps installed last month and conducted some initial tests, U.S. officials said. Egypt in 2015 used seawater to flood tunnels operated by smugglers under the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. See this article Flooding Hamas Tunnels: A Legal Assessment – Aurel Sari (Lieber Institute at West Point) writes that pumping enough water into the tunnels to completely flood them may take weeks. Most Hamas fighters should therefore have sufficient time to evacuate them. Flooding Hamas’ network of tunnels with sea water raises a range of legal questions under the law of armed conflict.

President Biden told a campaign reception in Washington on Tuesday: “Hanukkah is different after the October 7th attack.  As I said after the attack, the safety of the Jewish people, the security of Israel as an independent Jewish state, is literally at stake.  But it is unshakeable, our commitment to Israel. We continue to provide military assistance to Israel as it goes after Hamas….We’ll continue leading the world in delivering humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian civilians as well to emphasize to our friends in Israel the need to protect civilian life.  And they understand it. … There’s a lot to do – a whole lot to do. First and foremost, do everything in our power to hold Hamas accountable.  They’re animals.  They’re animals.  They exceeded anything that any other terrorist group has done in memory. But, secondly, we have to work toward bringing Israel together in a way that provides for the beginning of an option of a two-state solution. … But nobody, nobody, nobody on God’s green Earth can justify what Hamas did.  They’re a brutal, ugly, inhumane people, and they have to be eliminated.”

The UN General Assembly voted 153-10 with 23 abstentions Tuesday for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza in a non-binding resolution, four days after the Security Council threw out a similar plan when the U.S. vetoed it. Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan wrote on X, “During today’s emergency meeting in the UN General Assembly on the Israel-Hamas war, I made clear to all the ambassadors before the vote: if you want a real ceasefire, call the Hamas offices in Gaza and ask for Yahya Sinwar. Tell him that when Hamas lays down its weapons, turns itself in and returns all the hostages, then there will be a real ceasefire that will last forever.” The countries voting against the UN General Assembly resolution on Tuesday demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza included Israel, the U.S., Austria and the Czech Republic. Countries that abstained included Argentina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, the UK, and Uruguay. Countries voting in favor included Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, Greece, India, Norway, Poland, Russia, and Spain.

Interesting stuff

See this terrific satire by the wonderful Michael Rapaport on ‘context’ and genocide calls at US universities.

Richard Kemp, a former UK Commander in Afghanistan and Chair of COBRA, writes that Israel is winning decisively in Gaza, with Hamas consistently outgunned and outfought. The butchers of Oct. 7 are beginning to lay down their weapons and surrender in droves or just run away. The last few days have seen some of the heaviest fighting so far. The consequences have been devastating for the terrorists. Many have been killed, including battalion commanders who cannot be replaced. The growing number of prisoners will give up critical intelligence on operational plans and the whereabouts of senior Hamas leaders. Within Gaza, ordinary people know their lives have been devastated and loved ones killed and maimed as a result of Hamas’ actions. The fight is not yet over but Israel’s objectives are being met with greater speed and effectiveness than many expected. Wisely, the Israelis took little heed of American and British military experts that urged restraint, advising the IDF not to invade with armored divisions but instead rely on special forces raids as they themselves had done in Iraq and Afghanistan. That didn’t work there and it wouldn’t have worked in Gaza. Netanyahu was also right about his strategy for preventing a regional war: go strong and Iran’s proxy terrorist groups will waver. Hizbullah and its masters in Tehran are clearly shaken as they watch their allies in Gaza being eviscerated. With all this plain to see, why is there a narrative in the West that Israel is somehow failing?

Finally, see this analysis by Leon Hadar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia. (National Interest) on discussions about reviving the “peace process.” He says that the time has come to cease peace processing and fantasizing. Instead, we need to lower our expectations. Israelis have yet to recover from the horrors of Oct. 7 and the massacre of more than 1,200 Israelis. Moreover, the Arabs are watching the destruction in Gaza and the death of thousands of Palestinians. The bottom line is that Israelis and Palestinians aren’t ready for a great reconciliation between their two peoples.