November 2, 2023

Today and Upcoming

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

Dear Federation and Community Leaders,

Join me this Sunday at a community vigil in Montclair to demand the release of the Israeli hostages, who have been in captivity for almost four weeks.  The vigil, which features a Shabbat table installation is being co-sponsored by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, local synagogues and our Jewish Federation’s JCRC.  While in Israel, I met with the mother and brother of Ron Sherman, one of the more than 240 Israelis who was kidnapped.  I promised them that we would not forget him, and that when I returned to New Jersey, I would do everything I could to ensure the plight of the hostages is not forgotten. So I hope you’ll be there with me this Sunday, to raise our voices together. The program begins at 12:30pm on Walnut Street between North Willow and Forest Streets.

As Israel’s war against Hamas enters a new stage, we’re witnessing an unprecedented level of hate and antisemitism in our area.  From swastikas and other symbols of hate in our high schools, to fake bullets and empty gas canisters left on the grounds of Rutgers Hillel in New Brunswick, our security team, JCRC and Holocaust Education department have been in constant touch with law enforcement, school administrators and government officials to ensure the safety of our community. Earlier this week, a member of Westfield’s Board of Education who has used her social media platforms to accuse Israel of “committing genocide,” tweeted to her many pro-Palestinian followers that in her town, there are many lawn signs declaring “we stand with Israel.”   Our JCRC Director immediately called the Office of the Attorney General to report attempts by a public official to incite and intimidate, and raised these concerns directly with  NJ’s Director of the Division on Civil Rights. We’ve also been in touch with, and offered support to the Rutgers Newark Law School student who’s being threatened with disbarment from the Student Bar Association for outing fellow law students who claim the attack against Israel on October 7 never happened. And we’ve been helping Jewish students at Montclair State University as they organize a pro-Israel rally, on a campus that has seen rising tensions over the unfolding war.

More than three weeks into Israel’s War with Hamas, heavy fighting continues in Gaza. Eighteen Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as hundreds of terrorists. Israel’s updated official numbers are now saying that at least 242 Israelis are still being held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

This site shows a map of the October 7 massacre, with a red dot for every person killed and a black dot for every person abducted by Hamas. Clicking on any dot will show the name and picture (if available) of the victim, along with their age and last-known location.

Israel Defense Forces Operations
The ground operation continues in full force. Amid fierce fighting, Gaza City itself is now more or less surrounded by IDF forces after troops broke through Hamas’ forward positions and perimeter defenses. The fighting will now take place in a more dense urban area. Overnight, IDF troops and tanks clashed with Hamas militants killing dozens of terrorists (watch video of ground troop operations here). The Golani Infantry Brigade led the extensive battles against Hamas members who had fired missiles, set off explosive devices, and hurled grenades at the forces. The military says the Golani troops fought back, assisted by artillery and tank shelling and by calling in an airstrike and missile strikes by the Navy. In addition, the Nahal Infantry Brigade also encountered a group of Hamas gunmen who opened fire at them and directed an aircraft to strike and kill the terror cell. Among the terrorists killed overnight was Muhammad A’sar, the head of Hamas’ Anti-Tank Missile Unit in the Gaza Strip. The IDF has confirmed that 18 soldiers have been killed in the battles in Gaza. Read about the recently fallen soldiers here and see the full details of all those from the IDF killed since October 7, here.

In one incident overnight, Hamas sent a large group of women and children to act as human shields against IDF troops who were attacking a key compound of the terror group in the Gaza Strip. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the assault on Hamas’s Central Jabaliya Battalion base.

See a message from Lt-General Hertzl Halevi, the IDF Chief of Staff, to all troops here, and photos here.

According to the IDF, since the beginning of the war, more than 11,000 sites belonging to Hamas and other terror groups have been hit.

Yesterday, 61 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza from Egypt, despite repeated reports that Hamas is using emergency supplies for its own terror purposes. Listen to this conversation between a commander of Hamas’s Western Jabaliya Battalion and a Gazan resident, with the participation of the director of the Indonesian Hospital. The call, which was intercepted by Israeli Military Intelligence, confirms that Hamas controls energy distribution in Gaza, prioritizing terrorist needs over the needs of their civilian population. In the phone call, a Hamas commander repeatedly alludes to Hamas taking fuel from the hospital’s stocks, “working as a government for the sake of the country.” See a photo of the hospital here.

The Home Front
The country continues to mourn the massacre of October 7 and learn more about the detailed planning in advance of the attack:

  • Read here about the Bedouin community in Rahat, which is mourning its losses away from the public eye.
  • Watch this chilling interrogation of one of the October 7 terrorists where he speaks clearly about the orders he was given for that day. Israel now says that it believes at least 3,000 terrorists crossed into Israel during the October 7 attacks.
  • Journalists, diplomats and others have been shown horrifying video footage of the massacres from October 7. Yesterday, a special viewing was held for members of Knesset, although many could not bear to watch (see here).
  • In this television interview, a Hamas leader says the group plans to commit additional massacres and attacks until it destroys Israel completely.
  •  See the names and details of all who were killed, here.

The level of rocket fire from Gaza remains low compared to the early days of the war, but there has been a barrage against Tel Aviv and the center almost every day. For reasons unknown, many rockets are fired “on the hour.”
In the north, Hezbollah has continued its low-intensity attacks along the Lebanese border, while the IDF strikes at cells and the sources of fire. Late Tuesday night, the IDF intercepted a surface-to-air missile launched from Lebanese territory.

International Response
Germany announced that it will completely ban all activities of Hamas, already a designated terrorist organization in the country, as well as the pro-Palestinian group Samidoun, effective next Wednesday. The country’s Interior Minister said, “With Hamas, I have today completely banned the activities of a terrorist organization whose aim is to destroy the state of Israel.”

In the UK, the cover of The Sun newspaper featured the faces of the 32 Israeli children who have been held hostage by Hamas since October 7, under the banner “Bring them home.” The paper continued with a headline that read, “32 innocent children were snatched by terrorists. This is why Israel must fight the evil of Hamas.” See here.

Thai officials held direct talks with Hamas in Iran last week over the fate of 22 of the kingdom’s nationals taken hostage by the terror group on October 7. Negotiators met Hamas officials in Tehran on October 26 and were given a pledge that the Thais would be released at the “right time.”

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism Ministry has earmarked $2.5 million for civic advocacy efforts to combat antisemitism and promote Israel’s stance globally. The financial injection comes as part of the ‘Voices of Israel’ initiative, a response to the heightened needs as a result of the war. The program encourages organizations and companies worldwide to engage in advocacy; they are offering a matching fund model to double their investment in these efforts.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu continued his conversations with world leaders yesterday, including with Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, where he expressed his sincere condolences over the murder and abduction of Thai nationals and conveyed his appreciation for the Thai workers and their contribution to the economy. Netanyahu also spoke—for the third time since the outbreak of the war—with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and briefed him on the situation regarding the fighting. The Prime Minister thanked the Chancellor for his continued support of the State of Israel.

See this letter from the presidents of Israeli universities to their colleagues overseas.

Efforts on the Ground
Israelis of all stripes have come together to support soldiers and bolster morale in the country, many sharing inspiring tales. Read about the struggles of the evacuees, and the help they receive, here. Read here about how fallen Israeli soldiers’ organs are saving lives.

Israel’s economy has been hard hit by the war. Since October 7, more than 46,000 workers have been laid off or put on unpaid leave, according to data the Labor Ministry published. The majority, approximately 70%, are on unpaid leave.

Addressing the topic of the Israeli spirit in an address to the nation last night, President Isaac Herzog said, “I would like to speak of another source of great hope at this time, even now- in the fog, especially now. The Israeli spirit. An unbreakable spirit. The spirit of a storm which rose from ashes and destruction and is already blowing with all its might. This spirit has revealed itself mightily, in thousands of heroic stories from the frontline and the home front. It blows through each outreached hand, in the exemplary Israeli volunteerism and mutual responsibility, seeking to strengthen, to embrace, to support. It blows in every corner of our remarkable country – every corner. It is an eternal spirit, passed on to us from the generations before us, a spirit which will continue to guide us, generation to generation. This spirit is you–my sisters and brothers–the people of Israel. Israeli society is our true secret weapon. You are my greatest hope, our greatest hope… We have a solid country and a wonderful and magnificent people. We have important and powerful allies all over the world. We have Jewish sisters and brothers in the Diaspora who stand by us with all their might despite the attacks and threats against them. And above all, we have national resilience and unending strength.” (You can watch the President’s full address in Hebrew here and read an English translation here).

Some good analyses

Other Resources

  • Jewish Federations have produced a document answering questions about funding impacted localities and municipalities in Israel. See here.
  • Birthright Israel has opened a volunteering program, where people from outside of Israel can come to Tel Aviv and take part in food rescue operations to prevent shortages in the Israeli market, including work to sort, pack and distribute goods for civil and military personnel.
  • Read this Jerusalem Post piece on efforts by Jewish Federations of North America, who have announced that we have collectively raised $554 million for the Israel Emergency Campaign. The campaign was launched on October 12th with an initial goal of $500 million. To date, $111 million have been allocated to over 60 organizations in Israel to support frontline communities, the Fund for Victims of Terror, trauma relief, medical equipment, support for first responders and volunteer efforts. One hundred percent of all funds raised are making it into the hands of the organizations that can do the most good on the ground.
  • For those in Israel looking for help, critical information about the situation on the ground, or other assistance, see this resource page put together by Jewish Federations.
  • See also this Jewish Federations information page on requests for personal protective equipment which are circulating and this update regarding volunteering.
  • Read the latest communication from the Community Mobilization Center here.

With prayers for peace and healing,

Chief Executive Officer