On the ground in Israel

On the ground in Israel image
Pictured from left: Bill Silverstein, JUF/Federation incoming Chairman of the Board, and Jerry Silverman, Jewish Federations of North America President and CEO, see a plume of smoke rising in Gaza as they stand on a Sderot, Israel ridge during an early July Solidarity Mission. (2014, The Jewish Federation of North America. All other rights reserved.)

Israel deeply appreciates the Chicago Jewish community's support of its beleaguered citizens, who, as JUF News went to press, have endured more than 2,000 rocket attacks during Israel's conflict with Hamas since early July. 

That was the overarching sentiment expressed in a July 21 briefing to the Jewish Community Relations Council by Bill Silverstein, Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) incoming Chairman of the Board, who just returned from a Solidarity Mission to Israel, and JUF Chairman of the Board David Brown, reporting from Israel via webcam.

"Everywhere we went, people were thankful," Silverstein said to the audience of more than 100. JUF's support "means a lot to them. It is very important."

In mid-July, JUF advanced $1.5 million and launched its Israel Emergency Campaign to help Israel's most vulnerable populations bear the burden of war, including bringing children to safety, and assisting the homebound and the traumatized. 

Silverstein said the constant stress of life under fire, and the ground operations to eliminate Hamas' terror capability, is affecting young Israelis the most. 

Israel's Iron Dome air defense system is effective-but not 100 percent so, said David Prystowsky, JCRC executive director, who was in Israel with Silverstein. They visited one family whose home was hit by a rocket. "There is still destruction and casualties caused by those rockets."

Brown arrived in Israel July 20 to lead a national Solidarity Mission. "We're here to say that we care, that we stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel," he said. "It's an important time…to show Israel that we're not abandoning them." 

Ofer Bavly, director general of JUF's Israel office, also spoke via webcam. "The battle is raging in the northern part of Gaza," he said. "This is the area from where Hamas launches most of the rockets. Israel's goals are to strike rocket launchers…and get rid of tunnels used to attack Israelis and smuggle weapons into Gaza."

"We have been dragged; we have been forced into this situation," said Roey Gilad, Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, concerning Operation 'Protective Edge' (Israel's campaign to end Hamas terror). "We have no wish to see what's happening in Gaza [occur]." 

Silverstein and Prystowsky said they both observed that Israelis were very sensitive to the difference between Palestinians, with whom Israelis must coexist, and Hamas, who are sworn to Israel's destruction. 

"We should be mindful of how we talk about this conflict," Prystowsky said. "All of us have the ability to affect how people perceive this conflict." 

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