Operation Falcon: A business-philanthropy partnership to get supplies where they’re needed on Israel’s home front
A mobility-focused VC, an Israeli health-tech investing firm, the Jewish Agency and FedEx teamed up to create a 'magic carpet,' getting aid from the U.S. to Israel
A major effort is underway to provide Israelis with a supply chain from the U.S. to meet needs on the home front in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks. Dubbed “Operation Falcon,” the initiative is being run by venture capitalist fund Maniv Mobility, Israeli health-tech investing firm TARA Group, the Jewish Agency for Israel and FedEx, which earlier this month began sending kits to Israel with emergency supplies for the civilian home front, including thousands of first aid kits and hundreds of generators. The operation plans to fly 10 planes per week with goods throughout the war.
Michael Granoff, an American-Israeli tech entrepreneur and managing partner of Maniv Mobility, which he established in Tel Aviv in 2015, told eJewishPhilanthropy that in the immediate aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, “the obvious answer of how to respond was to use our network of transportational logistics to try and make it easier to get Israel things it needs to fight the war.” Maniv Mobility, which also has a New York office, invests in mobility startups across five continients.
“We tapped our network and found that everybody was itching to do something to help. We used all that goodwill to build what we term a ‘magic carpet’ to facilitate the efficient, inexpensive movement of important emergency supplies to Israel, mostly from the U.S.,” Granoff, who said the Operation Falcon team has been working 19-hour days, continued.
“I had never worked a Shabbat before in my life,” Meir Dardashti, a principal who joined Maniv Mobility in 2019 and is now working on Operation Falcon around the clock, told eJP. “It’s a different level. I usually work hard but not this hard.”
“We’ve seen a lot of planes stuck on tarmacs and packages stuck at customs,” Dardashti continued. “Moral high ground doesn’t get you past customs, it’s logistics. Logistics are knowledge-based and a network. Organizations that are suddenly trying to come to Israel don’t have the logistics muscle and they’re trying to exercise a new muscle in the most complicated shipping environment we’ve ever seen. Everyone is competing for fewer planes than ever, the regulations are tighter than ever and the information is more opaque than ever.”
Dardashti said Granoff started the operation by tapping a senior supply chain executive from Amazon and Johnson & Johnson with several notable patents to his name (the executive requested his name be withheld). “He’s a genius and because he’s a tzadik, he agreed on the spot to set up a logistics center,” Dardashti said. “We’re creating a plug-and-play experience to get important goods to Israel but that exists on both sides of the Atlantic because part of the problem is here in Israel. To clear customs, you need the right connections here in Israel,” Dardashti said, noting that’s where the Jewish Agency for Israel’s involvement comes in.
“It is so clear that the target of this special cooperation is precisely aligned with urgent needs,” Yaron Shavit, deputy chair of the executive at the Jewish Agency, who is leading the project on behalf of the agency, told eJP after attending a special Knesset committee hearing on the mobilization of Israeli society in late October.
“Both the chair of the committee, as well as the wounded mayor of the Eshkol regional council, where 17 of the kibbutzim and moshavim were severely hit, strongly emphasized the importance of strengthening emergency responder teams — and that is exactly what we aim to do,” Shavit said.
Dardashti said the Operation Falcon’s first mission, assigned by the agency, was to bring “life-saving” gear that will increase Israeli civilian resistance “in the kinds of worst-case scenario disasters that weren’t possible to imagine [before Oct. 7],” Dardashti said. “Our list reads like the world’s most depressing Home Depot shopping trip. It’s the worst to look at.”
To date, the operation has distributed $700,000 worth of goods in 140 Israeli towns. “But we have three times that number of towns on our list, and we know that if this war expands there is no town that is beyond the line of fire,” Dardashti said. “Future funding allows us to expand the circle of towns being addressed.” Goods that have gone out include nearly 2,000 trauma first aid kits, 130 generators and 770 professional-grade walkie-talkies. No war materiel is provided, but rather equipment that can be used by municipal emergency responders on Israel’s home front.
Dardashti said that purchases have been placed of over $1 million for the next round of goods, including megaphones, binoculars and protective goods needed to ensure municipal response and continuity of civilian services under fire.
While some goods are provided free of charge or discounted, Operation Falcon relies on “tens of millions of dollars” of donations for goods, including $5,000 raised by the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy, a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school in the Bronx. In total, $2 million has been raised so far. “There is a cost and we have [been] actively soliciting donations,” Granoff said. “We’re going to need more. We don’t want to be viewed as competitive to other pressing needs, but we think the bang for the buck in the long run is going to be worth the investment in helping us get these goods out the door.”
Dardashti noted that prospective donors are overwhelmed with options to help Israel currently. “Everyone is being asked impossible asks right now,” he said. “What makes us interesting is what we are doing is a little bit different. It’s a force multiplier.”
“There’s going to be a day when this war is going to be over and all of us are going to need to take account, not just the government,” Dardashti continued. “I need to look my three boys in the eye and say I brought the skills I know I have to help solve the problem. What we know how to solve is logistics. We know how to set this up and that’s what keeps us going through this.”