How to give to Israel right now
These organizations are working to provide immediate aid and long-term assistance to Israelis affected by Saturday’s terror attacks and the subsequent war
Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images
Since the deadly assault by the Hamas terrorist organization on southern Israel on Saturday, in which over 1,200 people in Israel were murdered and some 3,000 people were injured, Jews and Jewish organizations from around the world have sought to help those affected by the war and the country more generally.
This has taken many forms. For people in Israel, there are a myriad ways to help as individual communities from across the country and of all faiths are coordinating aid efforts: offering homes, supplies and child care to those forced to flee southern Israel; helping the spouses of reservists called up for duty; sending meals and equipment to military units; transporting people out from areas under fire; mental health-care professionals offering free assistance to those affected by the war; and so much more.
This, on the one hand, represents a profound testimony to Israelis’ generosity and support for one another in times of crisis and also reflects a level of civil cohesion that was unimaginable a week before when the country was in the midst of fierce social, political and religious turmoil. At the same time, it also reflects a certain breakdown in the Israeli state, as many of the services that are meant to be provided by the federal government are instead undertaken by industrious citizens due to both budget cuts and slow response times in the wake of a rapidly developing situation.
For Jews — or anyone — outside of Israel who wants to help the country, the scale of both the devastation and the relief efforts, from both established groups and new initiatives, can make it difficult to know how best to help.
In order to facilitate the desire to contribute to the State of Israel and Israelis, eJewishPhilanthropy has put together a list of organizations and initiatives that are and will be needed based on conversations with people on the ground as well the relevant organizations.
This is not an exhaustive list — every day, new fundraising efforts are starting up to provide for the people directly affected by Saturday’s terror attack — nor should it be seen as an endorsement of the organizations in question. There are many organizations on the ground in Israel who are already helping those in need, and others that will likely be called upon to do as well as fighting continues.
In addition to the organizations in Israel listed below that can receive donations directly, Jewish federations across the country, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America, have launched “crisis funds,” which will donate money to a variety of causes related to the war and its victims in Israel, as are similar fundraising efforts by a variety of Jewish community centers, denominations and other communal groups. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which operates humanitarian teams in Israel, is also raising funds that can go directly to those affected by the war.
Since the outbreak of fighting, three main civilian emergency services have been at the forefront: Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and ZAKA.
MDA and UH provided immediate medical assistance to victims of both the initial assault and the subsequent, ongoing rocket attacks across the country. (At least two MDA ambulance medics, Aharon Chaimov and Lior Levi, were shot dead by terrorists on Saturday morning; a United Hatzalah volunteer, Dr. Tarek Abu Arar from the Bedouin village of Arara BaNegev, was shot twice and held hostage by Hamas terrorists before being rescued by Israeli security forces.)
ZAKA is a somewhat lesser-known organization that both provides medical aid and collects human remains in accordance with Jewish law. Due to the unprecedented number of people killed across a large amount of territory, ZAKA has been hard-pressed for volunteers. “You can’t even describe these horrors. It’s very difficult,” one ZAKA volunteer operating at one of the hardest hit communities on the Gaza border, Kibbutz Be’eri, told Israel’s Kan news broadcaster. “And we are used to dealing with difficult things. These are so much worse.”
The two main hospitals treating victims from the initial attacks were Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center and Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Center. Barzilai, which is located some six miles from the Gaza border, has repeatedly come under rocket attack since Saturday, which has damaged portions of its main building (no one was injured as these unfortified areas had already been evacuated).
While these hospitals will be dealing with most of the casualties from the fighting, both soldiers and civilians, all Israeli hospitals are expected to face strains both in terms of personnel and equipment, as the war continues. Every Israeli hospital maintains an affiliated U.S.-based 501(c)3 organization.
In the wake of Saturday’s deadly terror attack and the official declaration of war, the Israeli government has approved the conscription of 360,000 reservists, the largest number called up since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This has placed significant strains on supply lines, with bottlenecks causing some reserve units to not receive the equipment that they need. In addition, soldiers are often provided with the minimum equipment that they require, which is not necessarily the best gear possible. To address these shortages, Israeli citizens have been raising money to purchase equipment — from sweat-wicking antifungal socks to ceramic plates for vests — for military units.
While there are several organizations that operate outside of Israel to support specific military units, there is only one organization that is officially tasked with accepting donations on behalf of the Israel Defense Forces, and that is the Friends of the IDF, which also provides support to the Israel Police and other security services.
This is for several reasons, one is that FIDF maintains direct contact with the military’s Technological and Logistics Directorate so that equipment and donations can be delivered to the units that require it, and not just those that have large bases of support. Another is to ensure that the equipment being purchased is military-grade and is being purchased from reputable sources (there have already been cases of fraud and scams).
There are also a number of initiatives and organizations that specifically provide support to so-called “lone soldiers,” servicemembers who either do not have family in Israel or whose families do not support them financially. Two of the most prominent efforts are the Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center and Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Lone Soldier Program.
Tens of thousands of Israelis from southern Israel have been displaced by the fighting. The communities that were closest to the border were ordered to evacuate by the military, while individuals from nearby cities and towns fled the area of their own accord. Many are being housed in hotels, while others are being hosted by friends, family members and — in many cases — complete strangers. As they fled the area quickly, many of the internally displaced people do not have clothing, hygienic products and other necessities.
The Israeli education system across the country has also shut down since the outbreak of war on Saturday with no clear indication when schools and day care centers will be allowed to reopen.
The efforts to collect and distribute supplies, as well as to provide entertainment for children, has fallen on local communities. Much of this work is being coordinated by the Israel Association of Community Centers, known in Hebrew by their acronym Matnasim.
The association has a U.S.-based 501(c)3 organization to receive funds: American Friends of The Israel Association of Community Centers.
For the first time, the IsraAid humanitarian aid organization is running a full-scale mission in Israel, helping evacuees who are being housed in hotels in the Dead Sea. “We set up safe spaces for kids to be kids and receive emotional support,” IsraAid CEO Yotam Polizer told eJP. “We are also working with the Dead Sea regional council to coordinate humanitarian aid.”
Mental health care:
Both the horrors of the initial terror attacks on Saturday and the ongoing rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria, represent profound psychological traumas, in addition to the physical ones. This comes at a time when the budget for Israel’s public mental health-care system has been gutted, making many state-offered services unavailable. Nonprofit organizations have stepped in to fill that void, as have masses of individual volunteer psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists.
The Israel Trauma Coalition and its member organizations, particularly Eran and Natal, have expanded their offerings since Saturday in response to the large numbers of requests for assistance, as have other trauma-focused mental health organizations, including Metiv: The Israel Psychotrauma Center. (Full disclosure: This reporter’s wife is the head of research at Metiv.)
The residents of the Israeli communities that suffered brutal terror attacks, in which hundreds of their neighbors were murdered and many of their homes were severely damaged or completely destroyed, are all being housed temporarily in hotels or guest houses and being provided with clothing and supplies, but it will be at least several weeks if not months before they are allowed to return home.
The regional councils surrounding the Gaza Strip, as well as individual communities, are in the process of establishing funds where people can donate in order to contribute to both the immediate needs of the evacuees and the eventual reconstruction of their homes and towns.
As many of these efforts are only now getting underway, not all of them are yet easily able to receive donations from abroad. One that is already operational is being organized by the Sha’ar Hanegev regional council, which includes some of the hardest-hit communities, including Kfar Aza. As more become available to foreign donors, they will be added to this list. Another is being organized by the Eshkol regional council, which includes one of the other hardest-hit communities, Be’eri.
In order to assist the victims of Saturday’s terror attacks and subsequent rocket and mortar fire, as well as their families, the Jewish Agency for Israel has provided them with immediate grants of NIS 4,000 (approximately $1,000). They are also eligible for further grants of up to NIS 25,000 (approximately $6,300). These grants are meant to help them with sudden expenses that are not already covered by government benefits for victims of terror.
The Jewish Federations of North America is the primary donors to the fund, but private individuals can also support it.