|July 15, 2014|
When we went to sleep last night, reports swirled that there would be a ceasefire this morning. Unfortunately, our hopes and prayers for a respite for Israelis from the eighth straight day of rocket fire were dashed. We woke to the news that while Israel had agreed to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire terms, Hamas had not. In fact, nearly 50 rockets had been launched overnight from Gaza as well as Lebanon, bringing the total number of rockets Israelis have endured to more than 1,150.
And so began a new day.
Today, we joined 1,000 children from throughout southern Israel at the Shefayim Water Park, where they were enjoying a day of fun far from Gaza, thanks to The Jewish Agency for Israel. By the end of the week, more than 10,000 children and teens will participate in activities like this. Their smiling faces inspired us, though we were all aware that by the end of the day they could very well be returning home to more sirens.
I don’t think there is a single person following events here in Israel who doesn’t have the number 15 etched in their mind, the 15-second warning that many Israelis have to sprint to a safe space. We are so focused on the speed with which Israelis must act that it is easy to forget what happens to those who can’t run from harm’s way.
JDC’s Center for Independent Living in Beer Sheva is the main facility serving people with disabilities throughout all of southern Israel—Jews and Bedouins. There, we heard the heartbreaking story of one client who has had to relocate into his concrete safe room. He can’t leave it, even to go to the bathroom. If a siren sounds, he’s not sure he’ll make it back in time. But with a portable toilet from JDC he can maintain his independence and dignity through long days and nights in the shelter.
The Israel Trauma Coalition is focused on providing trauma-related services to entire communities. In a briefing at one of their centers in Sderot, we learned first-hand about some of the challenging cases they are dealing with around the clock. While ITC has focused its resources and expertise in the south, they are now expanding their services to newly affected areas in the center of Israel’s most populated regions.
I continue to be overwhelmed by what our community can achieve when we all work together. We are thrilled that the Reform and Conservative movements have joined our Stop the Sirens coalition. Rabbis from both movements joined us last evening and shared with us the depth and impact of their important work throughout the country.
For all of us on this whirlwind mission, the last two days have been quite a journey. I think Deborah Corber, CEO of the Montreal Federation, summed up the experience best:
“I was somewhat ambivalent about the very idea of a ‘solidarity mission’. I worried that Israelis would view it as an opportunistic move, a ploy to get a few good photo ops, or worse: that we would be seen as voyeurs, just like the people who cause infuriating traffic jams on the highway so they can get a good look at the accident on the side of the road.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong. To a fault, every single person I’ve encountered in the 32 hours since I arrived has been grateful for our visit…by this demonstration of solidarity, by the knowledge that Jews all around the world are paying attention, are concerned, and are committed to helping them weather this storm.”
Wishing peace for Am Yisrael,