April 1, 2024

Where We Are

Dov Ben-Shimon Federation CEO

We convened senior management and our Executive Board leadership last week for a wide-ranging discussion about strategic planning and the path ahead. The world has changed a lot since the terror attacks and the war, and we need to continually focus on what we’re expected to do, what the challenges ahead look like, and how to meet those challenges. We’re focused on our main core values right now – to care for those in need; build community; and save the world, one person at a time. But since October 7th we’ve increasingly highlighted three strategic priorities in our work too: to support Israel more than ever; to fight Jew-hate wherever it raises its head; and to promote Jewish pride and empowerment. As Ambassador Lipstadt has said, Jewish life has to be more than the oy’s. It’s gotta be about the joys too.

Mitzvah day! Ready? We need ways to come together, so join me this coming Sunday (7th) in an afternoon of learning, leadership and service. For teens we’ll have sessions on leadership and service, including learning the difference between anti-Israel and antisemitic statements, preparing for advocacy on college campuses, exploring biases in the media and celebrities, and hearing firsthand accounts from those who have visited Israel since October 7. We’ll also have “grappling & conversations for parents (and all adults)”, with in-depth learning about what’s happening in Israel, and understanding /responding to Anti-Jewish Ideas. Plus lots of letter-writing, volunteer opportunities, snacks. You should come. I’ll be there too. Click on the link here to find out more and to sign up.

Israel. Here we go. Over the weekend, terrorists shot an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) at a top-story apartment in a building in Khan Yuneis in the southern Gaza Strip where IDF soldiers were stationed. As a result of the explosion and ensuing collapse of some of the walls, a soldier was killed and sixteen were injured including six who are in serious condition. Meanwhile, the IDF has now concluded its operations in and around the Shifa Hospital in Gaza; and is withdrawing forces from the hospital complex. After two weeks of fighting, dozens of terrorists have been killed and hundreds detained, including high-ranking members of both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In addition, large quantities of weapons were discovered and confiscated in the hospital complex including pistols, rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, thousands of rounds of ammunition, and explosives. Weapons were even found hidden in beds and pillows in the maternity ward. Remarkably, 6,000 civilians were evacuated by the IDF to keep them safe; 200 Hamas terrorists were killed; 500 Hamas terrorists have been captured. And, incredibly, zero civilians were killed.

Over the weekend, a terrorist stabbed and lightly wounded an IDF officer at the Beer Sheva Central Bus Station. The terrorist, who came from the nearby Bedouin city of Rahat, was shot and killed by another soldier who was on the scene. And yesterday, in a separate attack in a shopping mall in near Ashdod, three people were stabbed;  they are all now in serious condition. The terrorist, a Palestinian who was working at one of the stores at the mall, was killed by a passing policeman. Earlier today, IDF forces arrested the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Tel Sheva on suspicion of having ties to Hamas and engaging in incitement and support for terror.

A new survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute polled the public’s assessment of the performance of Israel’s political and military leadership since October 7. IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi topped the rankings of positive performance (48%), followed by Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant (40%) and Minister Benny Gantz (34%). Only 28% ranked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance as positive, while 57% of respondents ranked it as “poor” or “very poor.” With tensions rising between the US administration and the Israeli government about the necessary next steps in the war, the survey also asked whether Israel should act on its own or in coordination with the US. Most Israelis think Israeli leaders should act on the basis of their own judgment, though there has been a slight increase among Jewish Israelis who favor coordination with the US, from 38% in January 2024 to 43% in the present survey. See the full results here. Also, every year before the spring holidays, Israel’s National Security Council publishes an assessment of the threat of terrorism for Israelis traveling abroad. See this year’s advisory.

As the debate in Israel continues on the question of ultra-Orthodox conscription, a Real-Time Data Institute survey was published by Haredi news site Kikar HaShabbat, with surprising results. Among Ultra-Orthodox responders:

  • 89% said it was essential for their children to live in Israel;
  • 69% were proud to be Israeli;
  • 63% were proud of the IDF;
  • 63% said that haredim who are not involved in full-time Torah study should serve in the IDF;
  • 55% said that secular Israelis feel animosity towards Haredim
  • 15% said they felt animosity towards the secular public.

Last night, hernia surgery was performed on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu was under general anesthesia, Deputy Prime Minister Yariv Levin served as Acting Prime Minister.

Humanitarian Aid

Ships carrying 332 tons of food left Cyprus over the weekend, in a convoy that will reach Gaza in the coming days. The aid will be taken to the Strip on a cargo ship and a barge towed by a salvage vessel, along with a tugboat carrying a support team. This is the second shipment from Cyprus this month after Israel announced that it would allow all food aid into Gaza after screening for weapons. Cypriot and Israeli authorities have established a maritime corridor to facilitate pre-screened cargoes arriving directly in Gaza, which does not have any port facilities. The aid in the first mission (which included almost 200 tons of food) was unloaded at a makeshift jetty, that been constructed from rubble.  The new convoy includes two forklifts and a crane to assist with future marine deliveries, as well as a team to operate the crane. The United States is currently working to construct a floating pier off Gaza to receive aid. The target for completion of the facility is May.  See the latest facts and figures on Israel’s humanitarian aid to Gaza here.


Tens of thousands of Israelis protested on the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other locations yesterday, pressing the government to do more, and to act with greater flexibility, in order to reach a deal that would see the release of the hostages. Many protestors also called on the Prime Minister and the government to accept responsibility for the war and to resign. Meanwhile, a high level delegation from Hamas met with leaders of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Iran on Friday. In a joint statement they said that they have agreed on four firm demands that must form the basis of any future hostage deal: A full withdrawal of IDF forces from Gaza; a complete halt to fighting; the return of Palestinian evacuees to their homes; and humanitarian aid. Despite this apparent intransigent position expressed by the terror organizations, the Heads of Shin Bet and Mossad are traveling separately to Cairo and Doha this week to continue talks on a possible deal.


In the north, Hezbollah continues to fire at Israeli targets, triggering significant Israeli retaliations. Over the weekend, in a targeted attack in Tyre, Lebanon, Israel killed Ali Abd El-Hassan Na’im, Hezbollah’s deputy commander of its Missiles and Rockets Unit. 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. Yesterday, a drone successfully struck a naval base in the southern Israeli city of Eilat, causing minor damage, but no injuries. It had been launched by pro-Iranian militia forces in Iraq. See analysis here.

International Response

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that despite apparent disagreements between the White House and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the United States recently agreed to quietly send a large shipment of weapons to Israel, worth billions of dollars, including 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets.

Last week, Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant visited Washington, DC to coordinate the next steps in the Hamas-Israel war. The trip was aimed at discussing Israel’s military position and security needs: Gallant met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and CIA chief William Burns. Gallant arrived in Washington with a list of U.S. weapons and weapons systems Israel is asking to be expedited, along with the ability to purchase warplanes for a potential full-scale war with Hezbollah. According to reports, discussions did not focus on stopping the operation, but rather on protecting civilians who are sheltering in Rafah, while still ensuring that Israel can dismantle the four remaining Hamas battalions in the enclave. Both sides agreed that Hamas cannot be allowed to rearm, and that defeating Hamas in Rafah is critical to ending the war. National Security Council Communications Adviser John Kirby said the White House “just can’t support a major ground offensive in Rafah that doesn’t include an achievable, verifiable plan to look after the safety and security of the 1.5 million Gazans who have sought refuge there.” Following the meetings, Gallant reported, “I think there is an understanding we have to dismantle Hamas.” During the multi-day trip, U.S. and Israeli officials both reaffirmed the importance of the relationship between the two countries and the shared goals of Israel’s war against Hamas. Also over the weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu reached out to the White House to reschedule the meeting to discuss Israel’s Rafah operation.

Interesting stuff

Will Israel’s government collapse due to the IDF haredi draft crisis?

The Perils of Restraint in Israel’s National Security Behavior

It’s Time for Haredi Jews to Become Part of Israel’s Story

Debunking the Myth of the Muqawwamah (“Resistance”): The Strategic Significance of the Surrender of Hamas Terrorists

Yale faculty: What We Learned on Our Academic Visit to Israel

A Lesson from Yemen about the Dangers of a Ceasefire in Gaza

Remembering Noya Dan on Autism Awareness Day– “It would have taken just a little humanity for Hamas to leave this girl and her grandmother alive, but the terrorists possessed no such humanity.”

This made me proud. Jewish federations are helping Israeli farmers from Gaza border towns whose equipment was stolen or destroyed in the October 7th attacks buy replacements. As my colleague Rebecca Caspi says in the article, “this one was easy” – it’s about our commitment to our friends and partners on the ground. And here’s the thing:  Jewish Federations have collectively raised just shy of $800 million and allocated more than $400 million for humanitarian needs and economic support in Israel since October 7. For an updated list of allocations, click here.