January 18, 2024

Lows and Highs

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

In a sad statement of shameful capitulation to terror-supporters and rape-apologists, Rutgers, our State university has reinstated “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) following their earlier suspension. After Hamas’s attack on October 7th, the national leadership of SJP and the organization’s campus chapters explicitly endorsed the actions of Hamas and their terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. SJP chapters issued Pro-Hamas messaging and/or promoted violent anti-Israel anti-Jewish messaging channels. These awful massacre-supporters are on “probation” for now. Feel free to email President Holloway at Rutgers and share with him your thoughts on how at their press conference yesterday their representatives (masked, because they won’t show their faces) called for liberation “from the river to the sea … no peace on stolen land. … Long live the intifada. Globalize the intifada.” We’re not going to stand idly by while Jew-hating massacre-apologists threaten Jewish students and contribute to an atmosphere of fear and hatred and intimidation. More on this to come.

In our latest (8th) round of emergency funding for our Israeli partners on the ground, Greater MetroWest is sending critical resources to the Koby Mandell Foundation to support programs for family members of those murdered in Ofakim and the surrounding communities. The mental health and trauma needs are catastrophic, and we are proud that we can partner with this Foundation to begin addressing these needs. We know this will be a long recovery. Your philanthropic dollars will provide Women’s Bereavement Groups, Overnight Healing Retreats, and newly Bereaved Family Healing Days. With other local nonprofits on the ground, we’ll be able to provide respite and care for the wives of IDF soldiers; a safe space and outreach van for vulnerable and at-risk students; and humanitarian aid and assistance to Jewish and Bedouin communities in the areas directly surrounding Ofakim, Merchavim and Erez and strengthening social solidarity in these areas. That’s a small part of the millions of dollars our Federation has sent directly to our local partners, as part of the vital funds we’ve raised to support Israel and its people. Thank you for making this possible.

Meanwhile, the national Jewish Federations system, rightly, is holding back on allocating a large part (63%) of the funds raised (approximately $280 million spent, out of $760 million raised). There are a couple of good reasons for this, and I want to explain why. First, over half the funds raised are with the local Jewish federations which, like us, are making thoughtful and measured decisions based on decades of meaningful partnerships and funding priorities. More importantly, this war is going to take time. And the impact and aftermath of the war are going to affect hundreds of thousands for a long time to come. We’re going to need to pace ourselves, in how we allocate and how we prioritize the many pressing needs for Jewish Federations support. All of which is to say, I’m deeply proud of the thoughtfulness and care in how this process is proceeding, and I hope that you are too.

I received a briefing from our Jewish Federations’ Secure Community Network (SCN), the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America. Last year they logged a record 5,404 incident reports in 2023, 112% higher than 2022’s total of 2,551. Since the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7th, SCN logged a staggering 2,628 incident reports – more incidents in those three months than in the entirety of 2022. Alongside recorded incidents, SCN has worked closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement, including the FBI, to refer 1,619 individuals to authorities in 2023 – a 110% increase in referrals from 2022. The record year was capped by an historic December, during which SCN received a record 1,211 incident reports – the largest number of incident reports in a single month that SCN has ever recorded. The December surge includes a wave of nearly 200 swatting incidents and false bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions across the country in a single December weekend. In total, SCN recorded 998 swatting incidents and false bomb threats in 2023, a 768% increase from 2022’s total of 115 incidents. We had a lot of those here in Greater MetroWest, a good reminder that hating Israel and hating Jews is usually connected. I’m grateful for SCN, and for our Greater MetroWest Community Security Initiative and its team, which help us stay vigilant, prepared, and more secure.

Anyway, here we are. As fighting continues, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “There is only one legal response for actions like those perpetrated on the seventh of October – elimination of the organization…. I hear the rumors [about a hostage exchange deal with Hamas without full victory, but] we will continue fighting until victory. Not near, not almost, not basically – but until we smite the Hamas organization, take away all of its significant military capabilities, and remove it from power in Gaza.” The IDF has reported that the Gaza tunnel network is more extensive than previously thought. Current estimates are that there are over 450 miles of tunnels under Gaza with at least 5,700 entrance shafts. Khan Younis alone has over 100 miles of underground tunnels. (For comparison, the New York subway system is just 245 miles in total).

In the last 24 hours of fighting in Gaza, approximately 60 terrorists were killed by the IDF. In the city of Khan Younis, troops carried out a targeted raid at the residence of a known terrorist, where soldiers battled and killed 40 terrorists; they uncovered grenades, AK-47 rifles, military equipment, and technological assets (see photos). In northern Gaza, IDF forces successfully thwarted an ambush planned by two armed terrorists. A series of aerial strikes was conducted to neutralize armed terrorists, including those who were operating in close proximity to a school.

The number of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel remains low. In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets. Yesterday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said that the likelihood that Israel will be drawn into a war in Lebanon is growing. Halevi said that Israel was “increasing readiness for fighting in Lebanon,” even as it seeks to stabilize its northern border and allow tens of thousands of Israelis evacuated from the region to return home. In the Red Sea, a rocket was fired at Eilat, presumably by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen, for the first time in six weeks. Sirens sounded in the city as the rocket was intercepted by Israel’s air defenses. No damage or injuries were reported.


Following negotiations mediated by Qatar and France, Hamas is set to receive medicines for the Israeli hostages today. Two small planes were sent from Qatar to Egypt carrying French medicines based on a prescription list provided by the hostage families for some 45 of those being held by Hamas. The deal entails the entry of 145 types of medicine. In exchange, Hamas will receive 1,000 doses of medicine in exchange for each single dose of medicine for an Israeli hostage. It remains unclear how it will be verified that the medications actually reach the hostages, (and the International Red Cross has said that it is not part of the deal).

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog held up a photo of baby-hostage, Kfir Bibas, while speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland yesterday. Kfir turned one year old in captivity yesterday.

It is believed that 132 hostages remain in Gaza. The IDF has confirmed the deaths of at least 27 of them, citing intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza and elsewhere. Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as of two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Israel’s New Budget

A new budget for 2024 is likely to be passed in the Knesset in the coming weeks, and must be finalized by February 19. It has already been approved by the Cabinet, although minor changes are still likely. The government had earlier passed a two-year budget for 2023-24, but this needed to be radically revised, due to the significant additional costs of the war and other new priorities.

The new budget is for approximately $155 billion, reflecting a rise of $18.5 billion in government spending. It has been estimated that the war has been costing Israel around $250 million per day. The significant increases in spending include: repayment of debts connected to the war; compensation for those impacted by the conflict; higher allocations for healthcare, police, welfare, and education (as a result of the war); and future strengthening of the IDF. There’s also $2.4 billion to support IDF reservists and their families; funding for the public mental-health system; money for rehabilitating the Gaza border area; and support for the hi-tech and real-estate sectors.

These increases will be funded by: An increased budget deficit of 6.6% (representing some $5.3 billion), across the board cuts in the budgets of all ministries, and several tax hikes, including on banking profits. Politically, it has been difficult for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to secure the agreement of his coalition partners (as well as some of his fellow-Likud ministers) to the vast cuts needed, as many areas that are being slashed are important to the constituents of some parties.

Interesting stuff

Challenges and responses to the Israeli health system during the war

Even Before the Guns Fall Silent: Israel’s Political Debates Reawaken

The impact of loss on communities in the south

The father of the late Cpl. Adir Tahar, 19, who was killed on October 7, told media that a terrorist from Gaza decapitated his son and later tried to sell his head for $10,000. He added that “by a miracle” it was eventually found by the army and returned to Israel for burial.