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Updates from Jewish Federations of North America

A note on these updates: Due to Thanksgiving, there will be no update tomorrow or the next day. As of next week, we will move to a three-times-per-week format, with updates typically to be sent out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.

December 1, 2023

The Latest
The week-long ceasefire in Gaza ended this morning after Israel and Hamas failed to agree on a list of hostages to be released today. Also, the Prime Minister's office accused Hamas of not fulfilling its promise to release all the female hostages. 
In a terror attack in Jerusalem on Thursday morning, three people were killed when two brothers, Hamas-affiliated terrorists, opened fire at a bus stop. At least six other people were injured. Among those killed were a 24-year-old woman, and a Rabbinical Court Judge, Dayan Rabbi Elimelech Wasserman.
Israeli security forces arrested 15 people last night in the West Bank on suspicion of terrorism.
A rocket landed this morning in a kibbutz in the south of the country; no casualties, however, were reported.

As part of the hostage-release deal, a total of 112 Israeli hostages have now been released from Hamas captivity and have been reunited with their families, in six separate groups, over the last six days.
On Wednesday night, 12 Israeli hostages and four foreign laborers from Thailand were released. Two of the Israelis also held Russian citizenship. Initially, Hamas said that the two hostages with Russian citizenship were not part of the deal, but were, instead, a gesture to Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, since it has become clear that the two were also Israeli citizens, Hamas has announced that the two will count towards the 10 hostages slated to be released this evening. As a result, only 8 hostages were released Thursday. Some reports have suggested that Hamas will also return the bodies of three Israelis it is holding.

March for Israel 

We are proud of the 10 buses bringing 500 Ocean County participants, joining hundreds of others from our area and hundreds of thousands, for the March for Israel today in Washington DC. 

Together, we stand in support of Israel, against anti-semitism, and together as a community.

In what is likely a form of psychological warfare, last night’s releases were repeatedly delayed, with questions arising as to whether the exchange would indeed take place.
The hostages set free so far have been young children, their mothers, elderly women, and foreign workers (mainly from Thailand).
In exchange for those let out, Israel has released some 240 terrorists from prison and granted a six-day ceasefire. Terrorists released as part of the deal were all women, and under-18 minors, most serving sentences for attempted murder, stabbings, stone-throwing, and other terror attacks. Prominent Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi was among the 30 prisoners freed by Israel yesterday.
There are still around 139 hostages in Gaza, (including 14 women and 4 children) although not all may be alive.
Hamas has suggested that some members of the Bibas family are no longer alive, although this has not been confirmed. Kfir Bibas, now nine months old was kidnapped from Kibbutz Nir Oz along with his 4-year-old brother Ariel and parents Yarden, 34, and Shiri, 32.
Additional details continue to emerge about the harsh conditions under which hostages were, and are, being kept. Food was severely limited (often to less than one pita per day per hostage), and many were beaten by their captors.
See these stories of some of the hostages who have been released:Released hostage Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, revealed in an interview that she met Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar in a tunnel during her time in Gaza — and was not afraid to tell him what she thought. “Sinwar was with us three days after we got there. I asked him how he wasn’t ashamed of himself, for doing such a thing to people who for years supported peace. He didn’t answer. He was quiet.”
After hours of anxious waiting, dozens of members of Kibbutz Be’eri shouted for joy Wednesday night as they watched footage of six hostages from their kibbutz among 10 coming home to Israel after being held captive in Gaza by Hamas for the last 54 days.
One of the hostages, recently released from Gaza, revealed on Wednesday that he was held for nearly 50 days in an attic by a teacher from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Still-captive hostage Shani Goren took care of Eitan Yahami while in captivity.
Gali Tarshansky, 13, who was returned last night, was taken hostage by Hamas terrorists from her home on Kibbutz Be’eri on October 7. Gali was in the family’s safe room with her brother, Lior, 15, and their father, Ilya, when Hamas terrorists entered and killed Lior, as Gali and Ilya jumped out of the window. Ilya survived and was not taken captive.
The Times of Israel: Hamas hostage releases are a daily mix of horror and relief. And this is the easy part

See these stories of hostages still being held in captivity:

Israel Defense Forces Operations
Israel is now continuing its war on Hamas. Watch this video of the IDF Chief of Staff planning the next stages of fighting.
While not officially party to the ceasefire agreement, Hezbollah, as an ally of Hamas has also held fire from the north. An exception to this came yesterday as a drone crossed into Israeli territory from Lebanon, sounding sirens in towns along the border. The IDF shot down the drone.

International Response
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told members of Congress that the White House isn’t seeking conditions on aid to Israel. Several progressive Democrats have called for conditioning aid to Israel, as the civilian casualty figures in Gaza increase.
Meanwhile, an American destroyer shot down a drone headed for Israel on Thursday that was launched from a part of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The US military’s Central Command stated, “At approximately 1100 (Sanaa time), while in the South Red Sea, the Arleigh-Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer USS Carney (DDG 64) shot down an Iranian-produced KAS04 unmanned aerial vehicle launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.”
U.S. Senators have been left silent, after viewing shocking footage of the October 7 massacres.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the first time called for an investigation into allegations of sexual violence committed during the October 7 Hamas massacres.  He said that “There are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. Gender-based violence must be condemned. Anytime. Anywhere.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan addressed the UN Security Council on Wednesday and said, “This war can end tomorrow, even today. If Hamas returns all of the hostages and turns in all the terrorists who took part in the massacre, a real ceasefire can be achieved that will last decades. Demand this of Hamas. This is the solution.” Read his full remarks.

Stories Of Heartbreak, Heroism And Hope
Watch this JDC video about the multitudes of volunteers working in agriculture to save crops during the current war.
Tamar Kam was shot in the stomach by Hamas and her boyfriend was killed as they took shelter in a kibbutz apartment after escaping the Nova Music Festival massacre. Now, she is receiving support from The Jewish Agency's Fund for Victims of Terror as she recovers.
Caregivers like Edita Umila from the Philippines often faced dilemmas about whether to save themselves or save their employers. Watch the moving video.
Magen David Adom, a recipient of Jewish Federations allocations, has been at the forefront of saving lives during the current war. Watch more.

Further Reading
Time Magazine: Why I support Israel, by philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy
Anti-Israel Activism in American Universities:The Advent of Anti-Israel Sentiment on Campus
Middle Eastern Studies and Israel Studies

On 107.1:  KEITH KRIVITZKY, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF OCEAN COUNTY, discusses a fundraising campaign the organization kicked off to help raise $150-thousand-dollars for the people of Israel impacted since the October 7th terrorist attacks by Hamas, how the Federation is offering to match every dollar donated up to $50-thousand-dollars, and what it is like in Jerusalem.

We Stand With Israel Vigil 

Update from Keith in Jerusalem 

OP-ED published in Jerusalem Post 10.29 -

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Jerusalem.

Everyone here is in waiting mode. For some movement – a return of hostages or the start of a ground war…as that forward motion might hint that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, people are going about their days in a sort of shared state of misery, wondering whether to do normal, every-day things or to stay home, near family, and feel somehow less vulnerable.

An empty Tel Aviv promenade at 3 pm
The hostility to Israel and growing concerns about antisemitism around the world are just as troubling. Everyone in the Jewish community who is paying attention is shaken. As we should be. This is the price of family – when members of our family are suffering, we are all affected.

Bring them home
Family also comes together to help each other in times of need. I am proud to say that our Israel Emergency Campaign has already passed $100,000. We still need your help to reach our goal – and any contribution you give will be matched dollar for dollar!

Thanks to the many in our community who have shown their support so far, I am grateful that we have just made our first local emergency grants to help those struggling and in need of assistance in Israel. These include:
· Funds to our core partners at the JDC, Jewish Agency, and the Jewish Federations of North America to address a wide array of social service needs during this crisis
· Plus funds to several smaller organizations that coordinate volunteers and aid throughout the country (Lev Echad), provide counseling and support to families who have been displaced or lost loved ones (Koby Mandell Foundation), and work with lone soldiers and youth (Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center, Dror, Crossroads).  

Together, we can make a crucial difference!
Israel Emergency Campaign
Below, I share a version of an OpEd written recently to give a taste of what people are experiencing, and the trauma that exists, on the ground in Israel.
The most common phrase used today is b’sorot tovot – which basically means may we hear good news.
So I want to say to all of you: b’sorot tovot. May we all hear some good news soon.
Thanks and Shabbat Shalom.
Keith Krivitzky, Managing Director
Dispatches from a traumatized country 
I wanted to share with you some of the many conversations, messages, and news stories I have heard and seen since the horrific attack on October 7 in Israel. The trauma (and resilience) of Israeli society don’t always come across through news reporting on the current conflict. These are real events and conversations that happened, summarized (and sometimes translated) for clarity. Comments in italics are my own.
Rachel Goldberg and Jon Polin are working tirelessly to have their son, Hersh, returned after being kidnapped by Hamas from the Novo dance party on October 7. He is injured, having lost his arm below the elbow, and in need of medical attention. Join at 7:45 am tomorrow to show support as they head to the United Nations to plead his case, and that of the other hostages, to world leaders. (Jon and Rachel are friends.)
Parents of at least two dozen fallen soldiers have sought to collect sperm from their fallen children. This is allowed under a special Health Ministry rule that was enacted following the start of fighting. (Touching and chilling at the same time.)
At a recent lunch in Jerusalem, I was eating with friends who engaged in a serious discussion about where they would hide in their house if it was overrun by terrorists. When it was clear that there weren’t many good places, the discussion shifted to whether they should build out some hiding holes just in case.  
If don't have a protected room, a shelter, or an internal stairwell that can be reached during a rocket attack, find a space with as few windows, openings and external walls as possible, and that there are no ceramics, porcelain and glass that could shatter. Upon an alert, stay against an inner wall, and sit under the window line and not across from the door. Remember: the further inside the building, with as many cement block or concrete walls as possible between you and the place of the explosion, the more protected you will be from being hit by shrapnel and blast. Wait for 10 minutes to protect yourself from intercepted rockets that might fall to the ground. (From guidelines issued by the Home Front Command. Depending on where you live, you have 30-90 seconds to reach shelter after an alert.)
The City of Jerusalem and Magen David Adom are sponsoring a blood drive on Monday at Teddy Stadium. Blood type O is urgently needed.  (Magen David Adom is Israel’s version of the Red Cross. There have been many blood drives throughout the country with people waiting up to 7-8 hours to donate.)
The Jerusalem coordinating center is looking for donations of basic items like clothes and toiletries as well as volunteers to help the thousands of people relocated from rocket attacks and fighting in the south near Gaza. Many had to flee their homes, bringing little with them.  (Currently there are more than 200,000 evacuees displaced in Israel. The number of volunteers has also been impressive, with numerous and almost immediate responses to requests for help like this.) 
FYI - there is a “breast milk bank” with donated milk to provide to babies of mothers kidnapped or killed. Please spread the word.
The funeral for Netanel, a lone soldier, will take place at Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem at 12:30. His family is flying in from London - please show up to attend so that they can see he also has family in Israel. (A lone soldier is someone serving in the army, in many cases volunteering, with no family in the country. My friend went to this funeral, which was interrupted by sirens warning of a rocket attack. Attendees had to leave as soon as it was over as there were back-to-back funerals for those killed so far in the war.) 
Know who is sending messages in your Whatsapp group. An organization called “Love Israel” is asking for the names of Israeli soldiers so they can pray for them. DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY INFORMATION. These are terrorists trying to get information! (Also chilling. Whatsapp groups are group chats. There have been many such messages, including cases where phones of hostages have been used to send messages from their captors in Gaza.)
My friend recently said goodbye to a colleague who had moved to Israel to flee the war in Ukraine. His family has now moved to Kishinev to escape war here. (This is a sad irony given that the Kishinev pogroms, to which the October 7 attack has been compared, added momentum to Jews seeking to build a home in Israel where they could defend themselves.)

Sadly, more and more of these messages and sad stories are shared every day. 

PS – I urge you to demonstrate your support and contribute to our Israel Emergency Campaign . Thank you. And if you have made it this far, you might also want to listen to this radio interview broadcast this past Sunday: KEITH KRIVITZKY, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF OCEAN COUNTY DISCUSSES EFFORTS TO HELP ISRAEL FROM JERUSALEM - 107.1 The Boss (

From JFNA before Shabbat 10.27:

Dearest Friends and Colleagues:

Before Shabbat, we wanted to send a quick note of –
Gratitude – In just a little over two weeks, our incredible Jewish Federation system has raised over $550M dollars for urgent needs and for the longer term rebuilding and rehabilitation of the families and communities harmed in our beloved State of Israel. More importantly, over $100M has already reached the front-line service providers and more is on the way even as we write this note. We cannot express adequately how overwhelming and inspirational it has been to watch you all spring into action and, even without knowing all the details yet of what the needs will be, mobilize your communities to support this Israel Emergency Campaign.
Determination – Our original $500M goal, established just four days into this crisis, was a recognition that the needs would be tremendous and that we had to get started right away raising the resources. We now know clearly that the needs far exceed that amount, and that our work continues. We are determined to continue our fundraising and allocations as long as is necessary to restore the Jewish State to health and prosperity.
Awareness – Even as the work in Israel continues, we face an extraordinary challenge at home. We are proud of the 123 community solidarity vigils and rallies that Federations have helped organize, all with important political, civic and business leaders there. And of course the response of our political leaders, inlcuding President Biden, has been extraordinary. But we know that being a Jew and a Zionist in our communities, in our schools, and in our businesses increasingly makes our community subject to verbal and even physical attacks. We are on the offensive, and we will be working together across the Jewish world to mobilize our communities in support of Israel and against antisemitism. 
Remembrance – As we prepare for Shabbat, our friends and colleagues in the Pittsburgh Jewish community are remembering the victims of the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue building, which occurred five years ago today. May the memories of Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Daniel Stein, Richard Gottfried, Joyce Fienberg, Melvin Wax, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon and Irving Younger always be a blessing and may we never forget our responsibility to the safety and security of our communities here in North America and around the world. And, of course, we add to the names of the martyrs of the Jewish people the more than 1400 victims of Hamas’ attack on October 7th.
Torah – This Shabbat we read the “origin story” of the Jewish people – God’s call to Abram to leave his land, his place of birth, his father’s home, and “go to the land that I will show you.” This parsha, Lech Lecha, reminds us – even as thousands sit shiva for victims of Hamas terror and for the soldiers who defended against the attacks, hundreds of thousands of soldiers are at the front lines to restore security to Israel, thousands of doctors, nurses and aid workers are caring lovingly for the wounded – that the Jewish people and the State of Israel are one. We always have been and we always will be.
Prayer – And as Shabbat begins with over two hundred hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza, we pray for their speedy return to their families and for their health and safety. May the Holy One bless and protect them, and may those charged with negotiating their return be granted wisdom and courage in their efforts.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat of rest and calm.
Julie Platt, Chair, Board of Trustees
Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO
July 24, 2023
Dear Friends,

Following hours of high tension, protests and political maneuvering in Israel, the “Reasonableness” Bill that will reduce the Israeli Supreme Court’s power to strike down some government decisions passed its third reading in the Knesset, and is now law.

The new law passed with 64 votes in favor and 0 against, as opposition MKs boycotted the final vote on the bill in protest. The law stipulates that courts can no longer use a “reasonableness” standard to strike down decisions made by the cabinet or government ministers, including appointments. See further background on the new law here and see here to read arguments on why many feel it will diminish the checks and balances of the Israeli system of government.

The law passed after almost 30 hours of continuous Knesset debate that began on Sunday morning. During that period, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the country both in favor of and opposed to the bill.  This morning, hundreds chained themselves to the entrances to the Knesset to try and prevent MKs from entering the building. Many businesses, shopping malls and other venues were shuttered.

On landing back in Israel last night from an official visit to the United States, President Isaac Herzog went straight to the hospital bed of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who had a pacemaker implanted yesterday), before meeting opposition leaders, to try to reach a compromise. This morning the President said, “We are in a state of national emergency. This is the moment for responsibility…During these decisive hours, I call on elected officials to act with courage, and to reach out in order to arrive at an understanding.” Within the Knesset, last-minute attempts were made to amend the bill or to come to a broader compromise (see more here), but none of these efforts ultimately bore fruit.

The leadership of the Jewish Federations of North America will be meeting this afternoon to consider further steps.  In the meantime, please join our webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, July 25 at 12PM ET to hear the latest developments and examine possible repercussions. Register here. As always, please do not hesitate to contact us for any assistance you might need in your communities.

For further reading see:
Reasonable guardians? How repealing ‘reasonableness’ may affect top custodians of law
An explainer on “reasonableness” by Prof. Amichai Cohen
As judiciary fight reaches a climax, both sides set to lose

Rebecca Caspi
Senior Vice President Israel and Overseas
Director General, Israel Office

July 24:  In these crucial days when Israel's Knesset decides the future of the Israeli judiciary, the leaders of the National Institutions and the Jewish Federations of North America have sent a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Leader of the Opposition, Yair Lapid, emphasizing the need for unity and peace within our home. They call for respectful dialogue, moderation, and a shared commitment to the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

As partners in shaping the destiny of the Jewish people, we urge leaders to seek common ground for the well-being of Am Israel. Let us remain united, a beacon of hope, strength and unity for the entire Jewish community.

July 23 United in Support of Israel & the Latest on Judicial Reform

Dear Friends, 
Like everyone who loves and cares about Israel, we are following the news from our Jewish State today with great concern and anxiety.  
We wish Prime Minister Netanyahu a complete and speedy recovery and pray that his newly installed pacemaker will provide the health benefits that his doctors seek. 
As a vote on the first piece of legislation that would change the balance of power between the government and the Supreme Court approaches, protests in Israel both for and against the legislation continue to grow. Efforts to seek compromise also continue, including a visit by our good friend President Herzog to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hospital room immediately upon his arrival back from his historic trip to the United States, and further meetings with Opposition Leaders Lapid and Gantz, as well as the notable involvement of Israel’s Histadrut Labor Federation. We of course hope for and encourage these efforts at compromise as the very best possible outcome for the country. 
Whether compromise is achieved on this bill or not, the divisions in Israeli society caused by this bitter debate are deep. Even as we approach Tisha B’av, the day on which we commemorate the destruction of the Temples and the loss of Jewish sovereignty for two millennia, it is apparent that the work of building a flourishing Jewish State, to which Jewish Federations are committed, is not done. Israelis with whom we have worked for years – and who have always helped us put Israel’s political debates in perspective – have been issuing dire warnings. The rhetoric that some Israeli officials are directing at segments of society that disagree with their positions is growing harsher and, God forbid, the unity of the IDF is even at risk. This contentious behavior is seeping into our own communities, and we know it would be even worse if our Federations weren’t making constant efforts to bridge the gaps and keep us all working together. 
All of us in the Jewish Federation system will devote the necessary efforts and resources to helping Israel build the social, legal and political structures that can bind the wounds of the past few months and engender the widespread support and respect needed to solve the most vexing issues the country faces. Many of these efforts are already underway, including support for organizations such as the Jewish People’s Policy Institute, the Israel Democracy Institute, our own iRep coalition on religious pluralism, and support for LGBTQ organizations in Israel, as well as many other important efforts of individual Federations. We will all work together to develop additional steps we can take to help build Israel’s civil society.
It is important to emphasize that our efforts to date on judicial reform have not been in vain. Every conversation, every meeting, every fly-in, has had an impact. This week’s Knesset session – whatever happens – is but one moment in a long-term struggle that will play out over many years. 
Nevertheless, the stakes this week go far beyond the particulars of the bill under consideration, and all sides know it. To the governing coalition, the failure to pass this bill would be a major setback. To the opposition, the passage of even a minor bill on the topic of judicial reform would embolden the government to take further steps in the same manner.
Yet the particulars do matter. It is difficult to provide a succinct summary of the legislation under consideration and why it has engendered such strong feelings because the details are complicated and because concerns about the bill must be understood in the context of Israel’s system of government, which does not readily translate to our own systems in the United States and Canada. We will delve more deeply into this subject at a webinar this Tuesday – whether the bill has passed or not – at 12PM ET. In the webinar, we will also consider the impact of President Herzog’s visit to Washington D.C. and New York.
Jewish tradition holds that the age of prophecy ended with Malachi. There are several explanations given throughout Jewish texts for this, but the one that resonates with us today was offered by Rabbi Hayyim Angel: “No longer having prophets to tell us what God wants of us enabled mature human participation in the natural covenant between God and humanity.”
We are in the Three Weeks of mourning stretching from the 17th of Tammuz to Tisha B’av. In a remarkable coincidence, the seven and one half year long cycle of studying a page a day of Talmud – daf yomi – focused during these Three Weeks on the destruction of the Temple, and especially on the opinion of the sages that the Temple was destroyed because of divisions within the Jewish people. In yet another coincidence, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog addressed a Joint Session of the United States Congress on Rosh Chodesh Av – the first day of the month of Av, the beginning of the intense Nine Days from the first to the ninth of Av. We may not have prophets, but our history, our sages and even our Jewish calendar are screaming at us, trying to get our attention.
We still have time for “mature human participation in the covenant,” but the harm that has been caused is real and will require serious efforts at repair. President Herzog has led the call for dialogue and civility. His trip to the United States was a triumph of leadership and diplomacy. We must do everything we can to bolster his resolve and help him carry this burden. We must also use all the considerable influence of the North American Jewish community to insist that all sides in Israel take a step back from their extreme positions and return to negotiations. 
In the Talmud, Rabbis Akiva and Tarfon famously debate the relative merits of study and action. Rabbi Akiva wins the argument by concluding that study is greater because it leads to action. We must learn the lessons of our Torah and our history and, as Rabbi Akiva taught, turn those lessons into action. Join us on Tuesday at 12PM ET as we continue to study and consider our role in this important moment.

Julie Platt, Chair, Board of Trustees
Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO

 July 11, 2023

Dear Friends,
Today has seen very high tension in Israel, with perhaps the most significant developments since the new government was formed just over a half a year ago. The debate and protests over the issue of proposed judicial reforms intensified dramatically, with protest groups launching a “National Day of Resistance” as a first bill moves through the legislative process.

Last night, the controversial Reasonableness Standard Bill passed in a first reading in the Knesset (in a 64 to 56 vote). Today, it will be brought before the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, where it will be further debated in preparation for a second and third reading in two weeks, after which it would become law.
If passed, the bill would block Israel's courts from applying a "reasonableness standard" to decisions made by elected officials. This standard was established by the courts decades ago, and allows judges to strike down decisions made by the prime minister, ministers or other government officials if they believe the decision is beyond the scope of what “a responsible and reasonable authority would do.” (See more about the bill and its background here and here). 

Examples of this clause's use in the past include a case in which Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman decided to unilaterally end funding for day care centers for some parts of the Haredi sector in the middle of a school year (the Supreme Court overturned his decision) and more recently, the prime minister’s decision to appoint Shas Party leader Aryeh Deri as Interior Minister and Health Minister. (Deri has been previously convicted by the courts, and according to the Supreme Court, had pledged not to re-enter public life; a claim Deri denies. See more here). The actual cases in which the courts overturned government decisions have been few, averaging less than one a year in the past quarter century.

The proposed law has been softened from its original version. The new version, currently before the Knesset, still allows judges to strike down decisions by unelected government officials, but would prevent it from having oversight of decisions of ministers and the prime minister. Opponents of the proposed change see this as giving unbridled power to elected officials, without appropriate checks and balances.

Tens of thousands of Israelis began protesting early this morning. Dozens of major roads in the country have been blocked, including the main Jerusalem – Tel Aviv Highway, one of the country’s busiest and most important corridors and the alternate route into the city – 443 – along with the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. Police used water cannons and dragged demonstrators away from the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv Highway, and one protestor suffered a head injury from the high-pressured water. (See video footage here). Other protestors are attempting to disrupt activities at Israel’s only major international gateway, Ben Gurion Airport. In response, Energy Minister Israel Katz called for the arrest of a protest leader "for sedition and disruption of public order.” Police have detained at least 40 people for disruptions.

A crowd of several hundred people have also gathered outside the Histadrut Labor Federation Headquarters in Tel Aviv, demanding that Israel’s largest labor union declare a general strike. While the Histadrut, which has the power to shut down large sections of the economy, has not yet joined today’s protests, its leader, Arnon Bar-David, warned of possible action today.

Meanwhile, some 300 IDF reservists in cyberwarfare units have issued a letter saying they will not show up for reserve duty in protest against the proposed reforms.

As most of you know, shortly after the new government was sworn in just over six months ago, it announced proposals to launch a series of sweeping reforms to the way the country is governed. (For details, see Jewish Federations’ Resource Page here). The past half year has seen much back and forth on the issue, with the protests increasing and decreasing in intensity, according to the government’s changing stance. Notwithstanding Prime Minister Netanyahu comments to English-language media that he intends only to move ahead with those aspects of the reforms where there is widespread consensus (see, for example, his interview with the Wall Street Journal here), members of his coalition have made contradictory statements, and the process of turning some proposals into law continues, spearheaded by Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog has been working hard to get all sides to agree to a compromise proposal, and to return to the negotiating table.  For now, however, those talk have been halted. Jewish Federations have repeatedly called on all sides to join the talks under the President’s auspices (see here).

We will continue to monitor developments, and report as needed. Meanwhile, please feel free to share Jewish Federations’ comments, as well as this update.
Rebecca Caspi
Senior Vice President Israel and Overseas
Director General, Israel Office

Update on Security in Israel 5.12.23

Dear Friends,

Despite the optimism in yesterday morning's update that a ceasefire was likely, within a few hours Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired multiple barrages of rockets at Israeli population centers, killing one civilian in the city of Rehovot and injuring others. The rocket attacks continued for a number of hours.  While overnight only sporadic rocket-fire took place, a number of launches remain underway at the time of writing. There is wide-spread speculation that this may be a final volley before a formal ceasefire begins.

In the early evening hours yesterday, a particularly intense round of rocket fire from Gaza caused millions of Israelis to run to shelters, including in major cities in the country’s center, such as Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion. In an apparent malfunction of the Iron Dome defense system (see details here), one rocket hit an apartment building in the city of Rehovot that did not have its own shelters. One person was killed, nine others were injured, and the building suffered major damage. See further details here and here.

So far, more than 880 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza during Operation Shield and Arrow, now entering its fourth day. Of these, some 672 crossed the border from Palestinian territories into Israel, with the rest falling short, or landing in the sea. Iron Dome has been activated 260 times, and has had a 91% success rate during the current operation. See here for a PIJ-produced video of a rocket being launched. 12 Israelis have been wounded as a result of the rocket fire and thousands more are suffering from various forms of trauma. Millions have had their lives interrupted. See here for an article about one family’s life under fire.

Meanwhile the IDF continued to strike PIJ military targets, and says that the terrorist organization has suffered a major blow, including losing many of its top commanders. In total, 170 terror targets have been hit. See here for a video of the IDF striking a PIJ military post and here for footage of a strike on a mobile rocket launcher. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza says that 31 people have been killed in Israeli strikes since fighting began. According to the IDF, at least four Palestinians have been killed, including children, as a result of failed rocket launches from Gaza. See further details here.

According to media reports, strong efforts are still underway to finalize a formal ceasefire, under Egyptian mediation. In an indication of the country’s willingness to de-escalate, Israeli officials have repeatedly stated that “quiet will be met with quiet.” See more here.

Jewish Federations’ partners, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and the Israel Trauma Coalition, are addressing needs on the ground. The Jewish Agency’s Fund for Victims of Terror is providing immediate financial support to families whose homes were directly hit by rocket fire and is helping them with urgent needs. In addition to aid provided by the Government of Israel, the fund also grants supplementary aid to families affected by rocket fire, assists with rehabilitation needs, and addresses the needs of children and families dealing with post-traumatic stress. The Fund, which operates thanks to donations from Jewish Federations and others, was established 20 years ago and to date has supported 9,000 families affected by terrorist incidents and rocket fire, with grants totaling $20 million. Since the beginning of this year, the Fund has awarded grants to the residents of the Gaza border and victims of terror attacks totaling $220,000, and has also run special camps for approximately 350 children and teenagers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), another Federation partner, reports that close to 60% of residents living near the Gaza border have temporarily left their homes and are staying in areas further away from the conflict. ITC says the number of calls to trauma help lines have more than doubled in recent days, with the city of Sderot seeing the highest number of calls, by far. ITC says that the majority of the calls come from parents looking for advice as to how to calm their children. Due to the security situation, most trauma care is taking place over Zoom, but professionals visit homes in person where rockets have fallen within close proximity.

Jewish Federations of North America remain in close contact with the Israeli government, our partners, and others to monitor the situation. We will continue to update as needed.

Meanwhile, we are hoping for a quiet weekend here in Israel, and wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.

Rebecca Caspi
Senior Vice President Israel and Overseas
Director General, Israel Office

From the Consulate General of Israel 5.11.23

At the end of the third day of Operation "Shield and Arrow,” I wanted to share with you an update on the developments:

·         As of 4pm ET, the Islamic Jihad has fired more than 800 rockets which were aimed at Israeli civilian communities, reaching the area of Tel Aviv.

·         1.5 million Israelis are at rocket range.

·         An apartment building in Rehovot, the Central District of Israel (about 20 kilometers south of Tel Aviv) was hit. One person was killed and eight others were injured. Three houses in Sderot were directly hit by rockets. No injuries were reported.

·         20% of the rockets launched by the Islamic Jihad have fallen inside Gaza. These misfires have killed four innocent Palestinian civilians, including a ten year old child. The Islamic Jihad is a threat to the innocent men, women and children in Gaza, placing them in the line of fire.

·         The IDF targeted two commanders in the Islamic Jihad’s Rocket Launching Force.  Ali Ghali, the Commander of the Rocket Launching Force, a central figure in IJ, was responsible for the recent rocket barrages launched against Israel.  Abu Deka, Deputy Commander of the Rocket Launching Force, was directly responsible for the barrage of rockets fired toward Israeli civilians in the last few days.


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