JUF President Steven B. Nasatir reports from the South of Israel
So says Alon Shuster, mayor of the Sha’ar Ha’Negav Regional Council. Our group of Jewish Federation leaders are now in Sderot, and we hear the booms of bombs and the booms of fighter planes, and it is easy to grasp why people are tired after so many years.
I have known Alon for about a dozen years. He is a quiet but strong leader who has done much in this difficult region, where missiles of one sort or another have been dropping continuously over that time. Twelve-year old children don't know what living without the threat of being blown up is like. The people of the region are heroes and they are tired. Tired but incredibly resilient.
I don't know how they do it. We are their partners, but we can't begin to understand the toll this takes on their lives.
I just saw the Iron Dome defense system blow a Hamas rocket out of sky in the town of Kiryat Malachi. We scrambled out of our vehicle and onto the ground. Red alerts are sounding in Ashkelon as well.
We went to Kiryat Malachai to pay two shiva (condolence) calls--the first to the family of Yitzach Amsalem, age 24, who was killed in a rocket attack last Thursday. We listened to his father and sister talk about their dear son and brother. Our Israel Terror Relief funds are helping pay for some of their immediate needs.
We then visited with the family of Aharon Smadja, also killed in that attack. He was the father of a 14-year old and 9-year old twins. His brother thanked us for coming and said that at this time of great pain it’s good to see in our visit the unity of the Jewish people. “That will ensure our future,” he said.
We met this morning with high-raking spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office, who reported that 120 rockets were fired into Israel on Sunday. It’s not clear what happens next, but the goal is to reach a situation where the population lives normal lives, without the threat of rockets. To that end Israel is pursuing parallel military and diplomatic tracks.
Hamas firing on Israeli citizens is a war crime. Hamas embedding rockets among Palestinian civilians is a war crime. The Israeli Government believes that Hamas began this latest round of fighting after stockpiling 11,000 rockets. Israel needs others to prevent a new buildup when this is over.
Visiting new immigrants...
We are far South now, about three kilometers from Gaza, at Ibim, a center for absorbing new immigrants. We had a couple of red alerts and we can hear the booms.
The center is safe as the walls and roofs have been reinforced. With Federation funds the Ethiopian aliyah (immigration) has been accelerated and some of the olim (new immigrants) arrived only three days ago from Gondar province. Most of the children were out of our area on a trip to the center of the country, made possible by our Israel Terror Relief Fund. All in all 5,000 children are finding respite today under this Jewish Agency For Israel program. We then moved on to Sderot to visit a bomb-proof indoor center for kids a very necessary facility.