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Israel Update – Cease-Fire Declared Between Israel and Hamas 
November 21, 2012

Latest News and Reaction

In the wake of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas that took effect at 2 p.m. EST today, Israeli officials were optimistic that the violence that has gripped Israel for the last eight days would finally end, but acknowledged that the conflict is “far from over.”

“Millions of Israelis are still under rocket fire or in bomb shelters. It’s too early to declare this finished, but we hope it will be,” said Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren during a teleconference just after the cease-fire, held by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council of Public Affairs.

Jewish Federation leaders, some of whom have just returned from an Israel solidarity mission to support those under fire in Israel’s south, shared in Oren’s optimism.

“The announced cease-fire is encouraging news. We now look forward to full implementation of the agreement and pray that, now and forever, rockets from Gaza cease to rain on innocent Israeli civilians,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Board of Trustees at JFNA.

“Having returned from our Solidarity Mission to Southern Israel, our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the victims of Palestinian terror and with all innocent Israelis targeted by senseless attacks,” he continued. “As Israel remains vigilant and continues to defend itself, the work of Jewish Federations continues. Through our Israel Terror Relief Fund, we will continue to address the most critical needs in Israel, providing support to children, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors and families who are victims of terror.”
 
Added Jerry Silverman, JFNA’s president and CEO: “We welcome news of a cease-fire and pray for an end to the terror that has victimized innocent Israelis. We will never forget the besieged Israelis we met in places like Ashkelon, Kiryat Gat, Sderot and Sha’ar HaNegev. We have pledged to them that, as North American Jews, we will do everything we can to demonstrate our love and support for Israel – and the country’s right to defend itself.”

The cease-fire ended the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defense, launched after months of escalating rocket fire into Israel from the Gaza Strip. During the operation, more than 1,500 rockets were fired into Israel, killing five Israelis and wounding hundreds more. 

According to Israeli officials, Israel launched 1,600 attacks on Gaza from the air, which represented more than 10 times the number of attacks launched during Operation Cast Lead. Although more than 100 Palestinians were killed, up to two-thirds of those casualties were terrorists, thanks to precautions taken to advise Palestinian civilians to leave areas of combat.

Oren said Operation Pillar of Defense achieved its goals, including eliminating terrorist leaders and terrorists’ long- and middle-range missile capacity, and knocking out arms factories and smuggling tunnels that provided terrorists with weapons.

Israel’s Iron Dome defense system was “one of the great success stories of this operation,” he added, noting that Iron Dome intercepted nearly 400 rockets during the eight-day operation, or 90 percent of all rockets fired at Israel.

While a bus bombing in Tel Aviv earlier today looked like it might halt progress towards a cease-fire, Oren said Hamas did not take credit for the incident, which caused no fatalities.

“We’re going to have to see if Hamas is going to act in an accountable way over the next hours and days,” he said. “Israel retains the right, and indeed the duty, to respond to terror, to protect itself and to use all necessary legitimate means to ensure that its citizens do not, once again, come under a salvo of literally thousands of rockets or [become victims] of bombers on their public transportation.”

The Ambassador offered profound thanks to the Obama administration, Congress and the entire North American Jewish community. He also recognized Jewish Federations for our immediate $5 million commitment to help the people of Israel. “We are greatly indebted to our friends throughout the Jewish community who have stood by us, who have called the Embassy with offers of support, and who have made their ideas and commitment to Israel known to local leadership and press,” he said.

To hear more of Ambassador Oren's comments, listen to a full recording of the teleconference.

Israel Terror Relief Fund

Although a cease-fire has gone into effect, many Israelis have already been impacted by the violence that swept southern and central Israel in the recent days. The Israel Terror Relief Fund, set up by JFNA, has made up to $5 million available to address the most critical needs in Israel, in collaboration with our partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), World ORT and the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC). With support from the broader North American Jewish community, the fund is helping children, people with disabilities and special needs, seniors and families who are victims of terror.

Interested donors can also text ISRAEL to 51818 to donate to the fund. More information on the Israel Terror Relief Fund can be found on JFNA’s resource page.

Jewish Federations are working in close coordination with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and others across the Jewish community who are uniting to come to Israel’s side through the Israel Terror Relief Fund.

Partner Efforts

Jewish Federation partners continue to address the needs of Israelis, who now must recover and rebuild communities that have been devastated by rocket fire.

The work of Jewish Federation partner agencies has played a significant role in maintaining the quality of life for so many in southern Israel. Earlier today, JFNA received thanks (including this photo) from the Eliav community, who received “creativity kits” to entertain children who could not attend school due to constant rocket threat.

“As our children have gone through the unpleasant experiences of running to the bomb shelters at the sound of the sirens, and any help that we have received in order to allow for as many positive experiences during this period is greatly appreciated,” said the letter.

Tomorrow, the Jewish Agency for Israel is organizing a massive operation to take over 7,500 children and teenagers in approximately 150 buses for a day of rest and respite at a range of different venues in the center of the country. This brings to 25,000 the number of children taken for rest and respite out of rocket range this week by the Jewish Agency.

The JDC, World ORT and ITC also continue to come to the aid of Israelis, with support and programming for those in distressed locations.

Solidarity Mission Planned

Following the leadership solidarity mission to Israel, which concluded yesterday, JFNA has organized another opportunity for community members to participate in a solidarity mission to support Israel. The solidarity mission will convene in Israel from Dec. 4 – 6, and include meetings with leadership and residents of the most affected areas, briefings from senior military and political figures, a hands-on service project, and an opportunity to see the response of Jewish Federation partners on the ground.

For more information, please contact Susan Solow-Dubin, office: 212-284-6537 cell: 914-772-7298 or Tikva Mahlab, office: 212-284-6528, cell: 646-244-7652. Click here to register. Note: Due to the nature of this trip, registration must be complete by November 28th.

JFNA continues to monitor the situation in Israel and will send regular updates as needed. For marketing and media materials, please contact Joe Berkofsky, managing director, communications and media relations.

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