The Jewish World Responds

A child victim of terror participates in a Jewish-Agency-run respite camp; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.
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 meals to the homebound and other elderly who regularly rely on the Centers for hot meals.
  • JDC’s “phone pal” program connecting elderly Russian-speakers living under rocket fire to family and friends at JDC Hesed social welfare centers in the former Soviet Union;
  • The deployment of 80 additional expert caseworkers dispatched to 13 locations throughout southern Israel to assist vulnerable elderly and Israelis with disabilities caught in the rockets’ path. Caseworkers join ongoing efforts to reach out and facilitate urgent assistance for those in need of hot meals, medicines, transportation, emotional support, groceries, medical care, or any other support to make it through the emergency period.

For People with Disabilities:

  • Newly appointed emergency coordinators for JDC’s Centers for Independent Living (community-based multi-service centers for Israelis with disabilities) in Tel Aviv and Beersheva and at JDC’s Accessible Community programs – which unite people with disabilities in activism and the lobbying of services and rights – working to provide care for people with disabilities by ensuring service delivery, emotional support, medical care, and others supplies for the homebound or those with physical disabilities.
  • The wide use throughout Israel of special emergency materials and manuals for people with disabilities that are now being used by the Home Front Command and Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services. This is an initiative of JDC’s Israel Unlimited partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation and Government of Israel.
  •, another JDC Israel Unlimited partnership initiative, is an internet-based program which allows people with disabilities to participate in supervised chat rooms; connect directly to tips for dealing with emergencies; or contact a local professional social worker who can help them through the immediate difficulty and if needed, refer them onward for additional professional assistance, that is being actively used throughout Southern Israel.

For Children & Youth

  • 300 JDC youth volunteers are providing activities to children who are in bomb shelters in Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot. JDC is supplying activity kits for children in the shelters: each kit serves approximately 20 children and are filled with arts & crafts supplies, board and card games, sports balls, building blocks, and other recreational materials.
  • JDC’s Better Together program for families in low-income neighborhoods is creating alternative recreational activities for children in the range of the rocket fire, with an emphasis on activities for children who may have to endure extended stays in bomb shelters.
  • JDC’s Center for Young Adults in Sderot is welcoming children and families to utilize the safe space available at the facility, and young adult volunteers are developing activities to occupy the city’s children, who due to the crisis cannot participate in the usual summer activities.
  • The Red Alert song – developed by JDC in 2008 to address post-traumatic stress among children living under constant rocket fire in Sderot – is having a huge revival – with some 50,000 hits on YouTube since the crisis began. The song is a part of a series of therapies that JDC developed and disseminated to help children cope by expressing their fears and anxieties using hand and body movements.

For All Populations:

  • JDC Respite Relief programs for a range of vulnerable populations – at-risk families, children & youth, people with disabilities, needy elderly – include one to three day respite excursions out of heavily bombarded areas with special arrangements for accessible transportation.

The Jewish Agency (including P2G)

The Jewish Agency for Israel will take thousands of children and teens from rocket-battered southern Israel for rest and recreation activities outside the line of fire throughout this week. The activities were made possible by the support of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and are being undertaken in coordination with the National Emergency Authority, government ministries, and local authorities. 1,500 children and teens will enjoy recreational activities today (Monday, July 14) at the Kiftzuba amusement park; the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens (the Biblical Zoo, also in Jerusalem).

In the month of July, over 2,000 young people and adults are scheduled to take part in summer programs in their P2G regions in Israel. To date, we have been working hand-in-hand with the Jewish Agency’s Security Department to move some of the groups to alternative venues: For example, a group of Kefiyeda participants from Chicago has been moved to Eilat and a group from Montreal did not go to Beer Sheva but rather to Nitzana. A small number of groups have cancelled their arrival. It’s important for you to know that we work in full cooperation with Jewish Agency security to ensure the safety of all participants.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has been able to respond quickly to the needs of the people of Sderot during this time of need with emergency relocation for families whose homes have been damaged by rockets, and relief for children who are spending their summer in constant fear.

  • Emergency Relocation: Providing temporary accommodations for families who need to be relocated due to rocket damage to their homes.
  • Summer Relief: Funding day camps for children grades 1-12 to provide a break from the stress of rocket attacks.

Israel Association of Community Centers

Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Israeli families have been forced into shelters, their kids kept from their summer camps, and schools closed. While Hamas escalates attacks on Israel and all normal activities have been harshly interrupted the IACC’s Community Centers continue to provide a variety of programs and activities for children and youth within the shelters as well as recreational activities out of the rockets and missile range.

Hundreds of teenagers were bused in to other parts of the country to take part in a variety of creative activities including sports, arts, games, theater, and music and challenging hikes. The teenagers return to their homes happier and in much better spirits than when they arrive.

Recreational activities have been provided to children and youth in more than 200 shelters spread all over the south area for e.g. in Netivot young Madatzim have made-fit 30 public community shelters for all.

Activities vary from fun, experiential activities to entertainment programs.

Daycare Center for Young Children: Parents in southern Israel who cannot stay home with their children because they are employed in jobs that are vital for running the country (e.g. utilities, transportation, health services) face a serious dilemma. What do they do with their young children? The Community Centers continue to operate these frameworks housed in safe rooms with trained staff to enable these parents to do their job with a clear conscience.

World ORT

In light of the security situation in Israel, World ORT’s operational arm in the country is arranging special recreational and educational programs to help children from the south, which has been most affected by the waves of rockets from Gaza.

World ORT Kadima Mada will hold science and technology summer camps and various educational activities for 500 children from Sha’ar HaNegev municipality, where World ORT has an affiliated high school with 1,600 students. The children will enjoy respite from air raids in the tranquillity of a youth village in northern Israel and take part in activities at Kiryat Yam, in cooperation with the municipality.

World Union for Progressive Judaism

Beit Shmuel-Mercaz Shimshon, the World Union for Progressive Judaism’s headquarters in Jerusalem, is providing free food and board to families who have been forced to flee their homes from the south.

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)

Jewish Federations across North America have launched an emergency fund – “Stop the Sirens” campaign – aimed at providing urgent and immediate assistance to Israeli communities under the barrage of rockets attacks from Gaza. The campaign is a partnership with the Reform and Conservative movements and is being implemented in collaboration with Jewish Federation’s overseas partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Israel Trauma Coalition and other groups and coordinated with the Government of Israel.

The campaign began with an initial commitment of $10 million, $5 million of which has already been made available. The expectation is the $10 million will be spent over the next two weeks with additional monies forthcoming.