April 4, 2024

The Latest

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

I’ve been focused this week on the plight of Evan Gershkovich, a United States citizen and journalist who was wrongfully detained by the Government of the Russian Federation. Evan’s mom and dad live in New Jersey and are in regular contact with our colleagues in the Southern NJ Jewish Federation. We need to keep Evan in our minds and hearts. And we’re planning more action steps; more on this soon.

It’s going to be a busy weekend with mitzvah day on Sunday: tons of activities to show your support for Israel and for our community. If you’re coming to one of the many programs, say hello and post what you’re doing on social media using the hashtag #IamGMW so we can follow you.

Ok. Important stuff first. Jewish federations and our allies are calling on Congress to restore $30 million to a grant program that helps fund security measures at houses of worship. This is a very important issue for us here in Greater MetroWest, these funds are lifelines that fortify our institutions. Applications for these grants always exceeds the program funds (which were cut, too), and we need to make sure that our community is safe, especially in a time in which synagogues and other Jewish buildings are under threat from Jew-haters and Israel-haters (usually the same people).

Kol Hakavod (kudos) to our awesome colleagues in the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, who placed this full-page ad in the Houston Chronicle with 10 Facts about the Israel-Hamas war. The ad was part of an effort to combat misinformation around Israel and educate the broader public about the dangers of Hamas, Israel’s efforts to minimize civilian harm and provide aid to Gazans, and the root causes of the war.

On Tuesday night, seven international workers – part of the World Central Kitchen team that delivers food to civilians in Gaza – were tragically killed due to an errant Israeli strike. Click here for our Jewish Federations’ statement on the incident. The seven aid workers affiliated with World Central Kitchen were identified as nationals from Australia, Poland, and Britain, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, and one Palestinian. According to commentators, the IDF believes the tragic error was caused by either mistaken identity of the vehicle by the Israeli Air Force or miscommunication between Israeli intelligence and the Air Force.  After speaking with Chef José Andrés, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari expressed his condolences over the tragic death of the workers “as they fulfilled their vital mission of bringing food to people in need.” Hagari said that Israel is “committed to examining our operations thoroughly and transparently.” Hagari also praised the World Central Kitchen’s work as “vital.” Prime Minister Netanyahu called the strike “tragic” and “unintentional,” and stated that Israel “will do everything to prevent this [incident] from happening again.”  Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant held an operational assessment together with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and senior members of the defense team. He noted the complex environment that the IDF operates in. He highlighted the important role of aid organizations and Israel’s commitment to collaborating with them.  His instructions to the defense team included establishing a professional team to immediately investigate the incident and setting up a mechanism that would directly coordinate aid efforts with the IDF going forward. For more background and information on the incident, see here.

For more on the hypocrisy of reactions to Israel’s strike, see this post.

Last night, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant briefed US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the tragic WCK incident. He emphasized that a thorough and transparent investigation is being conducted, that its conclusions will be shared with partners, and that lessons will be implemented by the defense establishment. Gallant emphasized his commitment to facilitating the distribution of humanitarian aid, and the measures currently being assessed to expand its influx and distribution to Gaza. Israel still insists that it will conduct an operation in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip to rid the area of the last major bastion of Hamas power. This is despite international pressure against such a move, due to the one million civilians who have sought refuge in the town. Many commentators think that it is likely that the IDF is waiting to enter Rafah until Ramadan ends next week, and until suitable arrangements have been made to allow civilians to escape the area, including safe corridors and a humanitarian zone with proper facilities. Even if/when an operation begins, most believe it will likely be limited in scope, due to US and other international pressure.

An air strike attributed to Israel destroyed a building in Damascus earlier in the week, killing Mohammad Reza Zahedi, who was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander for Syria and Lebanon. Zahedi was the highest-ranking Iranian to be killed since the assassination of Qasem Soleimani by the US in 2020. He is also the highest-ranking commander of any force allegedly killed by Israel since October 7. As a result of the attack, IDF forces have been put on high alert (including all leave canceled for combat soldiers) in expectation of a forceful Iranian retaliation against Israel from within Syrian territory (or elsewhere). Officials are also concerned that Iran may attempt to strike “soft targets” such as Israeli embassies, diplomats, and tourists around the world, or even local Jewish communities.

Meanwhile War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz yesterday called for Israel to hold early elections by September. In a televised press conference, Gantz insisted that going to the polls in some six months would be necessary to “maintain unity” and “renew trust” in the government he joined on an emergency basis following October 7.


A hostage deal is still being negotiated, but Hamas continues to stick to what Israel calls “impossible demands.” Israel has accepted multiple compromise proposals suggested by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, but Hamas has yet to agree to those terms. Meanwhile, protesters in Israel are becoming increasingly vocal in calling on the government to soften its positions and ensure the release of the 134 remaining hostages as soon as possible. (At least 30 of these are known to be no longer alive.) Qatar said that the main point of dispute in negotiations on a ceasefire is over the return of displaced Palestinians to the northern Gaza Strip.


In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets, triggering significant Israeli retaliations. Yesterday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that a full-blown war in Lebanon would be disastrous not only for Hezbollah but for all of Lebanon. 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, the UK, and Israel continue to defend against attacks by the Iran-back Houthi rebels in Yemen. Similarly, the US military continues to strike at pro-Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq.

Interesting stuff

Read this opinion piece from the Jerusalem Post: Is Israeli society at the fifth stage of grief?

Is War With Lebanon Imminent?

Netanyahu’s half-steps may not be enough to fix ties

How Israel Wins the Postwar