Dear Federation and Community Leaders,
It’s going to be a hectic, somewhat chaotic, inspiring, and important day tomorrow. Tens of thousands of community members from Greater MetroWest and around will join hundreds of thousands of Americans to show our support for Israel and our demand to fight Jew-hate. If you’ve already registered with federation you’ll receive information today about logistics, what to bring (and what not to bring), and more. And on our website you can find more information and FAQs, also for those who are driving down or getting the train.
Here’s why we’re marching tomorrow: because in the face of evil, wicked, inhuman attacks on Jews, and a rising tide of Jew-hate and Israel-hate, people of goodwill should proudly say that civilization and decency mean supporting Israel and opposing Jew-hate. Like many of you, I watched the Hamas-supporting London parade over the weekend with a level of horror and revulsion. I’m sure that there were some fine people marching amongst the Hamas-dressed leaders, the Jihadi-screamers, and those who attacked British Jews (and non-Jews) on the way and afterwards. But to paraphrase a quotation usually (mis)attributed to Edmund Burke, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. Speaking of which, we’ve been following the rise of Jew-hating speech, demonstrations, and public displays of Israel-hate in our own community. Our security officers have been working with local law enforcement in places like Westfield and Montclair (and others) where we saw ugly Jew-hating speech in public spaces this last week. While we respect the right of people to say awful things, we’re also vigilant about standing firm against Jew-hate, Israel-haters, and general bigots. So remember, if you see something, say something to local law enforcement and then contact our Jewish Federation’s Community Security.
Yesterday I met with several dozen student leaders from across our Greater MetroWest community, as part of our GMW Hillel program. (In our community, Federation funds and supports the Hillel programs in our campuses). I heard from them many concerns about the rising tide of Jew-hate on campus, fears for personal safety, and – most troubling – the feeling that our campus administrations have abandoned Jewish students and left them feeling alone and unprotected. There is a lot more for us to do here, especially to push these universities and colleges to make sure that Jewish students are safe and secure. Otherwise why would we send our kids there?
Anyway. Here we are. As the ground war continues, Israeli forces have made considerable gains toward destroying Hamas’ fighting capability. 44 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground offensive began; a total of 363 soldiers have been slain since October 7. In addition, 239 hostages are being held by Hamas in Gaza. More than 1,200 Israelis were killed on October 7, and at least 7,000 have been injured. Some 9,500 rockets have been fired at Israel in that time, and more than a quarter of a million Israelis have been internally displaced. Read more here.about some of the soldiers who fell recently.
Israel Defense Forces Operations
As the ground operation progresses (see video footage here), IDF troops continue to find Hamas weaponry and infrastructure during raids in Gaza, including inside schools, mosques, and the homes of terror operatives (see footage here). Yesterday, IDF forces located Hamas infrastructure in Al-Quds University and seized a cache of explosives inside the Abu Bakr mosque. Troops seized dozens of weapons, military equipment, and Hamas battle plans, while others raided the home of a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative in the Beit Hanoun area, where they found a weapons cache, including in a child’s bedroom. In other raids, troops found tunnel shafts, intelligence materials (see photos here), weapons – including some inside a kindergarten (see video here), and a copy of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, in Arabic.
Five soldiers were killed on Shabbat when they entered a booby-trapped terror tunnel. It is estimated that there are 300 miles of Hamas tunnels under Gaza. Read the background on Hamas tunnels here. In one battle over the weekend, the IDF overran Hamas’ Badr Outpost. In fierce fighting, some 150 Hamas fighters were killed; remarkably, there were no casualties on the Israeli side. Since the beginning of the war, the IDF has struck over 15,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and located 6,000 weapons. The military has been utilizing the combined efforts of infantry, tanks, artillery, naval and air support. In this video, see how a ground unit called in for a helicopter-led precise strike against terrorists who were holed up in an apartment building.
Fierce fighting also continues around Gaza’s largest hospital, Shifa where Israel maintains it is working to ensure that patients remain unharmed in the battles. A safe corridor has been opened for civilians wanting to leave the area of the hospital (listen to this call between the IDF and hospital management and see this map). The IDF said it supplied 80 gallons of fuel to Shifa Hospital, in coordination with its staff, but that Hamas prevented the medical center from accepting it. The army has accused Hamas of having its main base of operations under the hospital and has called on Palestinian civilians in the area to evacuate south. The IDF placed jerry cans of fuel near the hospital for “urgent medical purposes,” on Sunday, and had coordinated the delivery in advance with hospital officials (listen to this phone conversation coordinating the delivery; and see this video footage of the delivery). Later, it said, “the IDF received evidence that Hamas officials prevented the hospital from receiving the fuel.” The military published a call (listen here) between an IDF officer and a senior Gazan health official, who said that Yousef Abu-Al Rish, the deputy health minister in Gaza, forbade the hospital from receiving the fuel.
The Home Front
The country continues to mourn the massacre of October 7, and await the return of the hostages:
- Following the destruction, does Kibbutz Be’eri have a future?
- See this story of a Beduin family from Rahat’s bravery, saving a Jewish woman at the same kibbutz on October 7.
- See October7.org, an online repository of firsthand accounts of the massacres taken from Israeli social media and translated into English.
- Read here about the long road to recovery ahead for a severely injured survivor of the Rave.
- Among those killed in the fighting in Gaza is Matan Meir, 38, a member of the production crew on the hit Israeli television series, Fauda.
- Read this story of 81-year-old Varda Harmati, a child of Holocaust survivors, who was murdered by Hamas terrorists in her home on Kibbutz Re’im on October 7.
- Watch this interview with retired general, and former MK Yair Golan, who, upon hearing of the attacks in the south on October 7, grabbed a weapon and headed south.
According to NBC News, a US administration official has confirmed that a potential deal is being discussed that would see some 80 women and children being held hostage by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza released in exchange for Israel freeing imprisoned female and underage terror convicts. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a deal “could happen.” Watch the Netanyahu interview on Meet the Press here.
The level of rocket fire from Gaza remains low. The IDF has released some figures about rocket fire in the last month. Around 9,500 rockets have been fired on Israel by Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north since the start of the war on October 7. Of those 9,500, around 3,000 were fired in only the first four hours by Hamas. Some 900 rockets (12% of those fired) have fallen short and landed inside the Gaza Strip itself. See the infographic about rocket fire here and see footage of the IDF’s rocket and missile defense crews at work, here. In the north, rocket and other fires by Hezbollah are increasing. Yesterday, one civilian was killed and at least 20 people were injured in attacks from over the Lebanese border. Israel has now retaliated as far as 25 miles into Lebanese territory.
The U.S. appears to be incrementally increasing its military involvement in the war. In addition to the very significant presence of carrier groups and other forces, which are on stand-by in the region, the U.S. military has reportedly hit missiles headed to Israel from Yemen, has drones above Gaza assisting in the search for the hostages, and has struck pro-Iranian forces in Syria. Last night, at least six pro-Iran fighters were killed in U.S. strikes on eastern Syria in response to attacks on American forces.
During a visit to Israel yesterday, Republican US presidential candidate, and our former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie rejected calls for a ceasefire; he said it would not make sense for Israel to halt fighting now. Read more here.
According to unconfirmed media reports, Israel is seeking to install former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a humanitarian coordinator for the Gaza Strip.
In France, more than 1,250 anti-Jewish acts have been recorded since October 7. Last night, 180,000 people marched in Paris to protest antisemitism. Read more here. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his support for Israel and its right to defend itself in a phone call with Israeli President Isaac Herzog yesterday. The call came after Macron’s interview last Friday on the BBC, when he said, “These babies, these women, these old people (in Gaza) are being bombed and killed. So there is no reason for it and no legitimacy. So we do plead with Israel to stop.” Speaking to Herzog, Macron said he hadn’t intended to accuse Israel of intentionally harming innocent civilians.
The UK’s Defense Secretary Grant Shapps has come out unequivocally supporting Israel. “If Britain had been subject to an attack of terrorists coming and murdering [1,200] people and cutting off heads, and we knew where those terrorists had gone, no one would say to Britain to stop going after them,” Shapps said. Read more here.
Israelis of all stripes have come together to support soldiers and bolster morale in the country, with many sharing inspiring tales.
- The ultra-Orthodox moshav of Bet Hilkia is located right next to a major air force base (Tel Nof). Haredi residents made a giant sign out of LED lights that says “Toda” (“thanks”) to the pilots flying overhead. See here. And read more here on the changing face of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox population emerging from the war.
- Despite the war, the Ethiopian-Israeli community will mark the Sigd festival tomorrow; the observance is becoming increasingly mainstream in the Jewish state. Read more here.
- Watch here scenes of unity, solidarity, and inspiration from Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, where Israelis and French Jews were about to board a flight to Tel Aviv; and see here locals in Tokyo supporting the Jewish state.
- Read more here about the Christian cowboys from Montana who are volunteering in Israel right now. Totally awesome.
The Jewish Agency for Israel
Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel continues to undertake emergency relief and other work in multiple sectors. To date, it has:
- Distributed 4,760 grants from its Fund for the Victims of Terror.
- Provided $2.6 million for humanitarian relief to eight regional councils in the south.
- Given 593 emergency grants to small businesses in the south.
- Delivered 13,000 food baskets to residents of the Agency’s Amigour elderly care facilities.
- Provided 1,100 hand-held computer tablets for the children of evacuated new immigrants, to enable online learning in their temporary homes/ hotels.
- Given 185,820 meals to evacuees.
Additional Background Reading
- How Jews Became the Last Minority It’s Acceptable to Hate
- Arab-Israelis are feeling more part of the country during wartime. Read more here.
- Opinion polls: What does the Israeli public think right now?
- Hamas won on Oct. 7, then the IDF’s new integrated warfare took over – analysis
- Local Authorities: Jewish Federations have produced a document answering questions about funding-impacted localities and municipalities in Israel. See here.
- Volunteering: Birthright Israel has opened a volunteering program, through which 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. Also check out this Jewish Federations update on volunteering opportunities in Israel right now.
- Critical Information: For those in Israel looking for help, critical information about the situation on the ground, or other assistance, see this resource page by Jewish Federations.
- Supplying Protective Equipment: See also this Jewish Federations information page on requests for personal protective equipment which are circulating and this update regarding volunteering.
We’ll get through all of this. Together. As I told another Jew-hating loser online the other day, whereas the marches we saw last week in London and other places would have sounded better in the original German with more torches, our rally tomorrow will be a powerful statement of love, solidarity, civilization, and decency.
If you’re there, come say hello – I’ll be in the crowd somewhere.