As hundreds of rockets landed in Israel, even reaching Rishon LeZion (one of Greater MetroWest’s seven partner communities) and the outskirts of Tel Aviv, early last week we decided to hold a Community Gathering in Support of Israel on Sunday, November 25.
A day after this decision was made, a ceasefire was declared. Yet we continued to make plans for the gathering as showing solidarity and support for Israel is so critically important whether bombs are falling or not.
Over 500 children, teenagers, and adults attended Sunday’s gathering at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston, validating the importance of our decision. We heard moving speeches by Rabbi Clifford Kulwin, Temple B’nai Abraham’s rabbi, and Jim Paul of Summit, our Greater MetroWest representatives on the national Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Solidarity Mission to Israel the prior week.
We also heard from Gil Lanier, Israel’s Consul for Public Affairs. Federation President Lori Klinghoffer served as the chair of the event, and videos were shown of Israeli children who are learning to cope with rocket barrages through the power of song.
Jim made the point that with only 15 seconds to get to safety, a mother driving two children buckled in their car would have to make the impossible decision as to which child to take to safety, as the allotted time would not allow her to save both.
|Rocket damage in Ofakim.|
This is the critical situation facing Israel, whether the rockets are falling, during an interim cease fire, or when the rockets will inevitably fall again. Millions are in a state of “suspended” existence, “hand-cuffed” to their shelters. This is intolerable for any citizenry.
It didn’t have to be this way. In the spring of 2005, Steve Rosenblum, Murray Laulicht, and I were the three MetroWest representatives who attended a briefing by then Prime Minister Sharon about disengaging from the Gaza. He was heckled from the audience and there were counter demonstrations. But we all believed, at that point, that it was a risk worth taking when you had less than 10,000 settlers in Gaza surrounded by over 1.5 million Arabs. It was a security risk for the IDF and would never be part of any territory retained by Israel in any peace treaty.
Several weeks before the Gaza disengagement, Joyce Goldstein, who was then chair of our Israel and Overseas Committee, Amir Shacham, director of our Israel Office, an intelligence officer, and I visited Gaza. We viewed the beautiful kibbutzim with their agricultural innovations and met with Israelis who had settled the land with the full approval of the Government, some since 1967. We also met with soldiers who were very respectful of the settlers, even though they had to evict them from their homes.
This was all done for the sake of peace so that this slice of territory, governed by the Palestinian Authority, could be the Hong Kong or Singapore of the Middle East, bordering the Mediterranean Coast. But, alas, the Palestine Authority was forcibly evicted from Gaza, which was taken over by Hamas.
Ever since, Hamas has launched rockets into Israel in its quest to fulfill its “covenant” of eliminating the Jewish State and killing Jews wherever they may live. During this horrendous cycle, the aforementioned kibbutzim were destroyed as were synagogues — Gaza, in effect, became “Judenrein.”
I marvel how quickly our Federation responded to the most recent crisis, advancing over $200,000 in emergency funds to Israel as part of the $5 million advance from JFNA. This provided food and shelter, home delivered meals, respite care for children, and trauma counseling. We responded in a similar way several weeks earlier when Hurricane Sandy struck, using our Jewish Family Service agencies as our hotline for receiving emergency requests for service and delivering them.
Our Federation is the key link between our local community and Israel. We have the mandate and resources through the dollars we raise for the Annual UJA Campaign to respond to emergencies, day in and day out, wherever they may exist, in partnership with our agencies. We have also been a leader in promoting hasbara (public diplomacy) for Israel’s rightful quest for peace and her right for self-defense through our Community Relations Committee and sister agencies.
Super Sunday is this Sunday, December 2. We urge all of you to volunteer or make a gift so that you can be part of the clarion call to support the State of Israel as well as our own community, which will never allow rockets or hurricanes to shatter our commitment to strengthen the Jewish State and Jewish people.