April 8, 2024

Highs and Lows

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

I was asked by someone thoughtful and smart about empathy and how to relate to Palestinian suffering during the Gaza war. And I had to think about my response and unpack my feelings so that I could give a genuine and authentic response. You can read my thoughts here, plus my op-ed in this week’s New Jersey Jewish News on our Governor’s statement calling for an immediate ceasefire.

A quick ‘kol hakavod’ (kudos) shoutout to my colleagues Jamie Carus, Emily Fox, and Avi Remetz, and to all the lay and professional volunteers who made mitzvah day yesterday such a powerful and meaningful community gathering for hundreds and hundreds of people. We packed, learned, advocated, gathered, cleaned and much more. Thanks for our Community Mitzvah Day Plus sponsors Daniel and Joshua Rocker and their families, in honor of their awesome parents Marian and David Rocker, and to all the diamond sponsors, partners, committee-members, and amazing teams.

Ok. Let’s talk about what’s happening in Israel. Over the weekend, four IDF soldiers were killed in the southern Gaza Strip when terrorists emerged from a tunnel shaft and shot them. The number of IDF soldiers killed since October 7 is now 604, of whom 260 were killed since the ground operation began. While Israel says that it still plans to destroy Hamas’ last main vestiges of power in Rafah, most Israeli troops have now withdrawn from Gaza, including Khan Younis and other areas, and the IDF says that its main military objectives in most regions have been achieved. Only one IDF brigade remains in the entire Gaza Strip. Reports suggest that Israel will now focus on pinpoint strikes on Hamas that do not require a heavy, and ongoing presence inside Gazan population centers. Commenting on the move, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant said, “The withdrawal of troops from Khan Younis was carried out once Hamas ceased to exist as a military framework in the city. Our forces left the area to prepare for their future missions, including their mission in Rafah.”

Following the air strike that destroyed a building, adjacent to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus at the end of last week, killing senior members of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran has warned that a retaliation is imminent. Yesterday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the country’s defense establishment has completed preparations for responses in the event of any scenario that may develop vis-a-vis Iran. Meanwhile, the rial (Iranian currency) is down 30% overnight. See here for more.


According to many reports, a hostage deal is now closer than it has been since the last deal was carried out. The Israeli negotiating team has returned to Israel from Cairo for what could be final consultations before a deal is signed, possibly even in the coming days. Nonetheless, Hamas says that reports that a deal is imminent are false. Over the weekend, the IDF announced that 47-year-old Elad Katzir, from Nir Oz, who was kidnapped alive on October 7, was killed in captivity. His body was rescued and brought back to Israel by IDF forces operating in Khan Younis. Elad’s father was murdered on October 7 and his mother was kidnapped and released in the December hostage exchange. Hamas had issued two video messages by Elad (on December 20 and then on January 8), providing evidence that he was alive. The updated number of hostages in Gaza is now 133. May they all come home soon quickly.

Humanitarian Aid

As part of a commitment to flood Gaza with aid, Israel facilitated today the entrance of a record number of trucks carrying humanitarian support into the Strip. More than 320 trucks entered Gaza, all of which had been scanned and checked by Israeli authorities. At the same time, the Erez checkpoint (next to our partner Kibbutz Erez) has been reopened for the first time since October 7, allowing for faster transfer of goods arriving in Ashdod Port.

Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant held a tour of the new Humanitarian Coordination and Deconfliction Center, together with US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew, where they reviewed measures taken over the past month to increase the number of access points for the delivery of aid by land and sea, to improve the infrastructure and routes necessary for the delivery of aid, and to streamline security inspections. In recent days, the defense establishment has launched the Coordination and Deconfliction Cell – a platform that will enable international agencies to work closely with the IDF in order to facilitate the delivery of aid, that will still enable troops to continue operating against Hamas, while also ensuring the security of aid workers.

US President Joe Biden said that Israel is fulfilling all that he requested of its government, in terms of increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza.


In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets, triggering significant Israeli retaliations. According to estimates, Iran-backed Hezbollah has some 150,000 rockets and precision-guided missiles that could penetrate deep into Israel. Since October 8, Hezbollah has launched thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel, leaving dozens dead and wounded and forcing some 100,000 people to evacuate their homes in northern Israel. Read this article, “Is War with Lebanon Imminent?” See also this video from the IDF on the connection between Iran and Hezbollah.

The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains negligible on most days, due to Hamas’ significantly diminished capabilities.

In the Red Sea, the US, UK, and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. The US military also continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in both Syria and Iraq.

Interesting stuff