More than 650 Chicagoans, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, showed their support for Israel and the Jewish United Fund’s Israel Emergency Campaign at a fundraiser Thursday night. (View photos from the event.)
“Chicago Stands with Israel: An Evening of Solidarity and Support” was held at the Chicago Hilton & Towers and featured remarks from the mayor, Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin and former ambassador from Israel to the U.S. Michael Oren.
Emanuel thanked JUF and the crowd and shared his impassioned thoughts on how the lives of children have been embroiled in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.Oren spoke to this as well, and to Hamas’ strategy of delegitimizing Israel through the media.
“While striving to kill Israeli civilians, Hamas hides behind Palestinian civilians, hoping Israel will kill them,” Oren said. “Dead Israelis or dead Palestinians; either way, it’s a victory for Hamas … Those images [of dead civilians] Hamas knows will translate into diplomatic pressure on Israel, and to charges of war crimes and worse. Those charges will lead to the denial of Israel’s right to defend itself, and ultimately to the denial of the Jewish people’s right to maintain a sovereign state in our homeland.”
Support also came from the Capitol. Sen. Durbin recorded a message that was shared with the crowd and Sen. Kirk, in person, delivered the single message of "what better way to say what we are 'for' and what we are 'against' than to support our allies in the State of Israel?"
The program was interrupted several times by a small but well-organized group of protestors who had registered and paid in advance in order to gain admission. They were quickly escorted out by security personnel.
The evening benefited JUF’s Israel Emergency Campaign, which works through JUF’s overseas partners to provide urgent humanitarian needs and vital services for Israelis most grievously affected by the approximately 4,000 Hamas rocket attacks this summer. Including last night’s event, the campaign has raised $8.7 million to date.
“For those Israelis in harm’s way, it is important to know that world Jewry is standing behind them—that we are advocating for them in the halls of power and in the media, that we are coming together on their behalf with public rallies and programs like this one,” said Bill Silverstein, incoming JUF Chairman of the Board.
Two Israelis from JUF’s Partnership Together city of Kiryat Gat, which was struck by rocket shrapnel a few weeks ago, shared their experiences during Operation Protective Edge.
Yohay Buhbut, a 25-year-old soldier who served as a commander in the Israel Defense Forces, had just begun working with JUF’s Kefiada program, an English-speaking summer camp for Israeli children, when he was called up from reserves. His unit was responsible for locating and destroying two terror tunnels.
"I felt it was a bigger duty than before, because now my soldiers were parents, leaving their children at home," Buhbut said.
He asked the crowd to imagine themselves in the situation of trying to locate a tunnel “30 inches wide, a hole inside the ground 100 feet below." It took five days to find the tunnel and destroy it.
Avital Mimran-Rosenberg, a 29-year-old mother, was en route to the U.S. to speak at this event when the “Red Alert” app on her phone went off during her layover in Rome. Her husband was at work, her 4-year-old daughter at day camp (which was being held in a bomb shelter) and her 2-year-old son was with her in-laws. “I couldn’t breathe until I got the text from my husband saying that everything was okay,” she said.
Mimran-Rosenberg said her daughter has a lot of questions about what the sirens are. The last day before the cease-fire, she asked her, “I know the siren means go to our safe room, but what’s the explosion that comes after it?”
“What do you say?” she said.
To help Israelis recover as this war continues, please donate to JUF’s Israel Emergency Campaign today.