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The Jewish Federations of North America
  Leadership Briefing

JFNA Briefing: Southern Israel Update and Teleconference

March 13, 2012

The Jewish Federations of North America will host a teleconference briefing today on the situation in the south of Israel, with Israel Defense Forces Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovitch, head of the International Media and Communications Branch of the IDF Spokesperson's Office, and Sigal Ariely, director of the Ashkelon-Baltimore Partnership and Ashkelon resident.

Call-in details:

Date: Today, 12:30 pm ET
Dial-in Number: 1-877-559-2802
Israel Dial-in Number: 180-945-7877 or 180-931-5362
Conference ID: 61711058

Israel's south remained under fire for a fifth day, with over 222 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. A ceasefire brokered by Egypt, which rolled into effect over the course of Tuesday morning, still saw some additional strikes in the early hours of the day. The IDF Chief of Staff was quoted as saying: “We are still following the situation in the south and we need to see how it develops and whether the (rocket) firing really stops. It’s not over until it’s over. Quiet will be answered with quiet, and fire will be answered with fire.” (Read the interview here.)

Hope is growing across the region that a tolerable situation is being regained as the number of rockets diminishes and quiet prevails again. We know that all our readers join along with everyone at Jewish Federations in sharing those hopes. Meanwhile, watch a video of rockets pounding Ashdod here which reminds us all of what is at stake.

The IDF's preparedness, together with the closing of schools and the efficiency of the Iron Dome missile defense system (watch a video of Iron Dome soldiers here) has frustrated Palestinian hopes of inflicting major casualties. The effectiveness of the IDF’s 37 strikes against targets within the Gaza Strip has also created a significant imbalance in numbers.

In response, Palestinian media (in particular Islamic Jihad), are seeking to inflame worldwide public opinion, including through such social media as Twitter. The media campaign is using images from Operation Cast Lead and other disconnected incidents. It does not appear to have gained much traction so far. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also sent a letter of complaint to the UN about the escalation in violence. 

Our partner organizations, as always, are working diligently to assist citizens in the South and are providing us with updates on their activities.  We are pleased to share the following:

  • Update from JDC highlighting the work of Dalia Silberman, Director of the JDC-supported Center for Independent Living in Beersheva, which has reached out to 244 clients and fielded hundreds of incoming calls.
  • The ITC continues to provide immediate real-time relief, treating anxiety, providing interventions in bomb-shelters and helping those with signs of 'secondary traumatization' and fatigue.
  • One Otzma participant blogs that although "there has been one rocket that landed uncomfortably close in Kiryat Malachi, we are well briefed on the procedures, we know where our safe room is, and we have been in constant contact with both OTZMA and the Federation."

Even when the rockets stop falling, these organizations' work will not be over.  The heavy barrage of rockets and the tense anticipation of the siren means that over one million Israelis have spent days living in fear, compounded by lack of sleep and intensely stressful living conditions.

Marilyn Flanzbaum, a lay leader of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey active in the Ness Fund for the Negev, experienced the rockets first-hand.

"You learn to really appreciate the price that ordinary children and adults are paying to continue to live and work in the South of Israel," she said. "Maybe it doesn't make the statistics, but children who are growing up in the south of the country will never be the same as children growing up without the sirens. They have been hurt mentally if not physically."

Sigal Ariely, director of the Ashkelon-Baltimore partnership, describes her experiences here.

Despite the rocket barrage, the Kerem Shalom and Erez Crossings into Gaza have been kept open. The Kerem Shalom crossing was fired at, March 12, but transit is still being permitted of all non-terrorist goods from Israel into Gaza. On Monday, over 180 trucks passed through the crossing, carrying goods to Gaza, part of the IDF's effort to differentiate between terrorist and civilian populations.

In Israel, the government is already looking into the question of compensation for small businesses which have lost income because of the violence.

JFNA will continue to update you as the situation demands.



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The Jewish Federations of North America
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