BY JEFFREY E. LEVINE, PRESIDENT, JEWISH NATIONAL FUND
In early June three Israeli teenagers were abducted from Gush Etzion never to be seen alive again. Their brutal murders, the incessant rocket attacks by Hamas that followed and the discovery of the underground tunnels from Gaza into Israel have proved once again that terrorism is alive and well. Fortunately, the IDF says the “terror tunnels” have been destroyed and any pending attack on Israel via them in the near future has hopefully been mitigated. Sadly, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Protective Edge in order to protect the democratic liberties Israelis and free people everywhere enjoy. It is unfortunate that as a result of the war many civilians in Gaza lost their lives.
June, July and early August have been extremely difficult for the land and people of Israel. Each day, four million men, women and children experienced some form of attack as over 3,200 rockets were fired at them from Gaza. Thankfully, Israel’s Iron Dome anti-rocket system worked well and brought down many of the missiles, saving many lives in the process.
These past months have nevertheless seen inspiring moments as the global Jewish community has come together like at no other time that I can remember. Jews have displayed wonderful solidarity and generosity for their Israeli brothers and sisters, serving to reinforce the bonds such unity can produce when we realize that what happens in Israel happens to all of us.
I could not be more proud of our donors who showed deep compassion and empathy for our extended Israeli family. We sent out emails, made phone calls, had phone-a-thons, held conference calls with Israeli leaders, took 50 Americans on a solidarity mission to Israel, including members of Jewish National Fund’s future leadership, and asked for monetary support — and JNF donors delivered on every count. Our emergency campaign raised over $4 million dollars and helped to make life safer, calmer and a little bit easier for those under attack.
During the crisis I was on the phone with our partners on the ground in Israel to determine what the needs were and how we could aid. And help we did: we delivered mobile bomb shelters to Israeli communities on the border with Gaza, like Halutza, so families could have a safe place to go when rockets struck; coordinated programs and events for children and families in shelters; kept the JNF Indoor Recreation Center in Sderot open 24/7 to accommodate the daily needs of 1,800 people who needed a safe place to relax and play; brought hundreds of people each day to the northern parts of Israel — the beautiful Galilee — and out of harm’s way; delivered packages to Israeli soldiers; and made sure that the health and well-being of individuals with special needs was well maintained.
What we do at JNF in time of war is very similar to what we do every day. We are not an emergency 911-agency. We have been and always will be the boots on the ground, the organization that builds a better future for the land and people of Israel. It is why we were able to respond to the crisis so quickly and effectively. We did not have to find the people who needed bomb shelters. We knew them. We did not have to find the children who needed respite. They are our children, our extended family. We were part of their lives yesterday and we will be there alongside them tomorrow.
We have a bold vision for Israel’s future and have taken on the challenge to make it a reality.
We take the impossible and make it possible. We are JNF, Your Voice in Israel.