E Alert 7/8/2014
JUF News Express
Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Special Israel Update

At this hour, much of Israel is being blanketed by Hamas rocket fire. Already today, hundreds of rockets have targeted Israel's largest population centers, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Millions of Israelis are spending tonight in bomb shelters.

JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council has issued a statement of solidarity with Israel, affirming Israel's right to defend itself in the face of these attacks.

For a personal perspective, read about what it is like to be in Israel at this difficult time from Hannah Schlacter, a Riverwoods native working as a camp counselor with JUF's Kefiada and living in Lachish. Also, Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom on the North Side reflects on her experience attending the funeral of the three murdered Israeli teens.

This is an important time for community members to reach out to their Israeli friends, family and colleagues with messages of support, solidarity and prayers.

A nursery school was hit (July 3), two factories in Sderot were razed (June 28) and a number of homes and cars have been damaged by other rockets striking open areas. In addition, a terrorist armed with a grenade tried to enter an Israeli village (June 22) and there have been several cross-border attacks.

Yesterday, a farm was destroyed, and staff at the Soroka Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Beer Sheva rushed newborns to a protected area (click links to watch eyewitness video footage of these events). A retirement home in Yavne was also hit, and a large fire broke out in Ashdod when a rocket hit an empty house.

That same night, two Ashdod residents were out sailing when rockets were fired in their direction. This video shows the rockets, the Iron Dome response and their reactions. This short clip shows children running out of a swimming pool to shelter, leaving no room to question the impact of life under fire.

The projectiles being fired at Israel include a combination of military-grade Grad missiles, locally-made “Kassam” rockets and mortars. Rockets fired can reach over 50 km affecting more than a million Israelis. Here is a map illustrating areas within rocket range and detailing the maximum time available for finding shelter in each location.

Today, a rocket headed for Tel Aviv was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system and another fell on Jerusalem. No injuries resulted from these two attacks.

Once again, the preventative measures in place are helping mitigate the situation. As disconcerting as the sound of sirens wailing can be, residents in southern Israel are used to the need to move quickly and have been following the instructions of the military and civilian authorities, rushing to protected rooms and safe areas whenever needed. 

These measures, together with the deployment of Iron Dome, which is reported to have an 85 percent success rate against incoming rockets, have kept physical injuries to a minimum (primarily shrapnel wounds and shock), even as psychological and social support services are seeing a big spike in calls to help lines and other requests for assistance. In future updates, we will provide more information on the disruption of daily civilian and economic life.

School vacation started last week. Yet in some locations, children are returning to schools with protected space to which camp programs and other activities have been relocated. The situation for preschoolers is more complicated, as few daycare centers have sheltered space and facilities between 7 and 40 kilometers from Gaza have been closed under orders from the Home Front Command. Farmers tilling fields on the Gaza border have been ordered to stop work due to the threat of sniper fire. Additionally, the Home Front Command has prohibited gatherings of more than 500 people across the affected zone.
Needless to say, all citizens have been instructed to remain close to a shelter at all times. This means intercity traffic is very light and is having a significant impact on local business.
The Israel Air Force struck over 50 targets Monday night across the Gaza Strip, including rocket launchers, a weapon storage facility, training bases, terror tunnels and other key objectives. Some 1,500 IDF reservists were called up for duty yesterday, with breaking news of a further draft of some 40,000 now approved.

Many Israelis across the country, including those living outside the immediate range of the rockets, and Israel supporters abroad have downloaded the ‘tzeva adom’ phone app, which alerts users when a rocket is being fired at Israel. Supporters of Israel are being encouraged to download the app to raise awareness. Social media reports are trending under #israelunderfire and #protectiveedge.

In the past week as tensions have escalated, JUF's partners at The Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee have been mobilizing and are already swinging into action. Thanks to our core unrestricted funding and hard-earned experience from past emergencies, early assistance efforts are now underway. Below is information detailing some of that vital work. We will be providing additional updates in the days ahead.

The Jewish Agency is working with the National Insurance Authority and local municipalities via the SOS Fund to help meet urgent needs of three families from Sderot whose houses took direct hits. They have been evacuated to hotels and each family has been granted $1,000 to buy basic supplies, medicines, etc. We anticipate that additional similar requests will come through in the upcoming days as rocket fire increases.

Staff from The Jewish Agency is working together with Amigour – Israel’s leading sheltered housing company – to provide guidance and emotional support for elderly residents living in facilities in areas under fire. They are also assisting new immigrants living in absorption centers in dealing with the current crisis.

JDC approved a special grant yesterday to fund an emergency coordinator position at the Center for Independent Living in Beer Sheva. This facility serves a large population of young adults with significant disabilities living in the community. They face unique challenges in coping with emergency guidelines, in particular the need to move quickly to safe space.

The JDC Israel staff is working with Centers for Young Adults across southern Israel as they switch into emergency mode as they already have in Sderot. Where protected space is available, plans are being developed to welcome young adults as well as children and families, should the emergency situation continue.

Please support JUF’s work helping Israeli children, families, seniors and people with disabilities in the targeted areas. The need for our help is certain to intensify in the days to come.

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