Keeping Life Normal in Southern Israel

Puppet therapy at the Cheruv Absorption Center in Be’er Sheva; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.

by Ravit Elia-Leib The question on our minds these days is how can we best grapple with and confront this emergency situation, which continues on and on - endlessly, it seems. How can we help our small children, who waited so long for their summer vacation, to overcome their fears and disappointments? … [Read more...]

100 North American Olim Children Land in Israel

Ilana Barta, 23, from Teaneck, NJ, came to Israel to marry her fiance next month. Ilana has not heard from her fiance, a  Paratrooper who is currently on active duty in Gaza, since the ground operation began.

Jerusalem, July 22, 2014 - Despite the tense security situation in Israel, 228 new Olim, including 100 children, from the United States and Canada arrived at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport today as new citizens, on a Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah charter flight, in collaboration with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA. The children included 39 girls and 61 boys. Altogether, 29 families and 54 singles joined the landmark flight, which included Olim planning to live in Israel’s south and north, as part of a joint project to settle Olim in the Negev and the Galilee. Those who are planning to live in the south also received special briefings about the security situation, such as information about trauma counseling and support … [Read more...]

The Jewish World Responds: Better Together

JDC Better Together

These photos showcase Better Together, a JDC program serving children in disadvantaged Ashkelon neighborhoods. During this time of crisis, Better Together is operating in community centers and shelters, working with at-risk children to provide them with a respite from the stress of Operation Protective Edge and with daily activities and program. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee benefits from centralized emergency fundraising coordinated by the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with the Reform and Conservative movements. … [Read more...]

Youth Futures: In the Full Sense of the Word

Youth Futures, Operation Protective Edge, July 2014; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.

1,421 participants in the Youth Futures Program: “A day like this affirms the strength of the South” "It is good to get out of the house for a little bit, to break from our routine, Aviv, a participant of Youth Futures from Sderot, tells. “Today I played in the pool and on the slides, it was really fun ... At home, I usually play on my cellphone, on the computer, and watch television.” Whenever the Water Park of Shefa’im would make announcements on the loud speaker, the hearts of the managers and mentors of “Youth Futures” would skip a beat - the announcements sounded too much like 'Code Red' alerts - the sirens blaring all over Israel warning of incoming rockets from Gaza. In times like these, every sound on the loudspeaker reverts them back to their roles as managers, mentors, and parents. … [Read more...]

The Jewish World Responds

A child victim of terror participates in a Jewish-Agency-run respite camp; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.

On July 7th, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge and the Jewish world immediately mobilized to provide a range of services to soften the war's impact, particularly on the lives of children and families. Following is a partial list of initiatives underway (culled from list-servs of the various organizations). JDC / The Joint Since the crisis began, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) immediately activated its network of programs for the most vulnerable Israelis to quickly ensure the needs and safety of the elderly, people with disabilities, and children and youth throughout the country as rockets rain down from Gaza. JDC’s emergency response includes: For the Elderly: JDC’s Day Centers for the Elderly in Netivot, Merchavim, Sdot Negev, and Rahat delivering … [Read more...]

The Tzeva Adom Song: Helping Children Deal with Terror

[Back during Operation Cast Lead, I had the opportunity to travel with a FLIGHT mission around Israel's South. The following post was originally published on January 23, 2009. The YouTube video was not available at the time.] The UJC's Breakthrough Solidarity Mission continued Tuesday morning with a visit to Sderot. Driving through town, the first thing one notices is the extensive use of concrete reinforcement. Whether it is the small sheltered stations on almost every corner (especially where no underground shelters exist) or the concrete roof built over an outdoor basketball court, one cannot escape being aware of the continuing threat to residents and visitors. Something CNN, who was camped out near the police station, didn't seem to be processing. Our first stop was a kindergarten … [Read more...]

The Sound of Laughter in Sderot

JNF Sderot playground

[With continuous stories of life in Israel's South, we look at a one-of-a-kind indoor recreation center built in Sderot - providing Sderot's youth with a place to have fun, connect with friends, enjoy stimulating classes, and be children, beyond the conflict. This post originally appeared in eJP on March 11, 2009.] Children playing; enjoying themselves; laughing. We take it for granted. But for the past eight years, this scene has been in short supply in Sderot. That changed yesterday - appropriately on Purim. For (according to JNF's CEO Russell Robinson) “the biggest and most important gift that could possibly be given to the children of Sderot and the entire region” a new $5 million indoor recreational facility, was dedicated by JNF-US in a particularly moving ceremony. Like many … [Read more...]

Reverse Birthright: Pioneering Academic Program takes Israelis on U.S. Adventure

Students of the University of Haifa's Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies visit Ellis Island last month as part of their 10-day U.S. trip; Photo courtesy Gur Alroey.

by Jeffrey F. Barken Gur Alroey, chair of the School of History at the University of Haifa and director of the Israeli school’s pioneering Ruderman Program for American Jewish Studies, has likened a 10-day United States trip for the program’s students to “Reverse Taglit,” referring to the free Taglit-Birthright trips of the same length that bring diaspora Jews to Israel. Last month, the Ruderman Program’s inaugural class of 21 graduate students took part in that immersive U.S. journey, attending lectures, meeting community leaders, and touring historical and religious sites that reflect the American Jewish experience. “The focus is American Jewry, to examine this community as a group that stands in its own right, independent of Israel,” Alroey tells In August 2013, … [Read more...]