October 20, 2023

A Quiet Shabbat

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

I’m back in New Jersey, and watching as we face a wave of antisemitic and anti-Zionist hate in our schools and institutions of higher education. We’re going to fight this with a very simple message: the war is happening because Hamas is still holding over 200 hostages. If you can’t accept that killing, raping, and kidnapping civilians is wrong, then you are part of the problem. We have to bring the hostages back, bring the murders and rapists and kidnappers to justice, and free Israel and Gaza from an ISIS-affiliate terror regime. If you notice any school, district, or agency showing signs of hate, bias, or antisemitic behavior, first contact law enforcement and then be in touch with my colleague Linda Scherzer, Director of our Jewish Community Relations Council.

I’m deeply proud to tell you that Jewish Federations collectively have allocated $55 million for immediate and urgent needs, such as medical care, emergency services, evacuation, transport, housing, supporting victims of terror, trauma relief and psychological support, as well as preparing for medium- and long-term needs.

I also want you to know that forty-eight hours after the beginning of the war, we sent our partners a letter on behalf of our entire Jewish Federation Global Connections community, expressing our love and support. However, we want to take our outreach support to the next level so we’re launching our “Checking in with Family Campaign.” We’re compiling a list of people currently living in Israel who are related to Greater MetroWest, with the goal of checking in and staying in touch with each of them. If you know people who were from Greater MetroWest and made Aliyah, or former Living Bridges participants (Peoplehood, Diller, etc.), lone soldiers from our area, or any other person/family whom you think we should add to the list; and/or if you would like to volunteer to be part of this outreach effort, please click here.

Meanwhile, on day 14 of Israel’s War with Hamas, tensions continue to build in the north, and Israel has begun to evacuate the city of Kiryat Shemona, which has a population of some 22,000. Residents will be taken to hotels and other venues. Over thirty rockets were launched today from Lebanon to Israel. Most were intercepted, others fell in open fields. One rocket fell in Kiryat Shmona causing some injuries. Israel still hopes to avoid further escalation in the north, but did strike several more Hezbollah sites overnight in response to yesterday’s rocket and missile fire on northern Israel. Separately, the IDF carried out a drone strike killing a terror operative in the area. The US has warned Hezbollah to stay out of the war with Hamas, and the U.S. and Germany yesterday called on their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country immediately.

There are reports coming out right now that two American hostages, Judith and Natalie Raanan, have been released by Hamas. “In response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades released two American citizens (a mother and her daughter) for humanitarian reasons, and to prove to the American people and the world that the claims made by Biden and his fascist administration are false and baseless,” Hamas spokesperson Abu Obaida said in a statement. There is a little more information here.

Latest Developments

  • Once again, following another night without sirens, sporadic rocket attacks resumed this morning. Also again, there was a significant barrage fired at Tel Aviv yesterday evening.
  • Overnight, Israel struck more than 100 targets in Gaza including one that killed a member of Hamas’s naval forces , Amjad Majed Muhammad Abu ‘Odeh, who was involved in the murder of Israeli civilians on October 7.
    • The military also hit an underground tunnel, a weapons warehouse and dozens of command centers.
    • Intelligence sources suggest that Israel is working on a rescue plan for the more than 200 hostages being held by Hamas. See details here.
  • U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to request $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel from Congress today.
    • Another shipment of military supplies has arrived in Israel from the U.S., in the form of armored vehicles. See video footage of the arrival here.
    • A US Navy warship traveling near Yemen intercepted multiple projectiles yesterday. The missiles, according to Israeli media citing the Pentagon, were launched at Israel.
    • Also, in an affirmation of Israel’s stated goals, US State Department Matthew Miller said that the Jewish state’s position that Hamas must be ousted from Gaza is “appropriate.”
    • Thousands of pro-Israel demonstrators held a rally in New York’s Times Square, calling for the release of the Hamas-held hostages. A number of speakers addressed the event remotely, including US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and New York Mayor Eric Adams.
  • The BBC has published an apology for broadcasting that Israel had struck a hospital in Gaza earlier in the week.
    • Israel has produced overwhelming evidence that the rocket was fired by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
    • Meanwhile, it is emerging that the number of deaths at the hospital was grossly misrepresented according to reports from a number of US intelligence sources as well as European news sources. Hamas said that 471 people were killed at the hospital; but foreign independent intelligence sources claimed instead that the number was under 50.
  • According to Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the government is currently preparing an economic aid package for those impacted by the war, that will be “bigger and broader” than during the COVID crisis.
    • Yesterday, international credit ratings agency Moody’s placed Israel’s A1 ratings on review for a possible downgrade, due to the war with Hamas. The agency warned that a prolonged conflict with Hamas could drag down Israel’s credit score.
  • Saudi Arabian Prince Turki Al-Faisal issued a surprising statement condemning Hamas for the attack on Israel, saying this attack contravened the rules of Islam. He said Islam does not allow the killing of women, children and the elderly. At the same time, he also said that all occupied people have the right to fight against occupation.
  • Read this account of a Beduin bus driver who saved 30 youth from the Rave on October 7; and this story of a Givati soldier who fought during the crucial battles that day.
  • See this moving, and specially recorded message by the IDF Spokesperson to global Jewish communities. And also read this article in TIME Magazine “Sleep training my baby during war,” written by the daughter of Yadin Kaufmann, an Israeli business and civic leader who is a frequent partner in Federation work.

Shabbat Shalom, may it be a quiet and peaceful weekend, and may the families of those suffering find comfort,

Chief Executive Officer