Thursday, July 10, 2014

Do you even leave the shelter?

I was privileged to listen in to an Israel Crisis update with some of my colleagues. Once again we’re in a crisis mode, and once again the question is how do we help those who need us most. 

My colleague Yossi Tamir, Director-General of JDC-Israel, pointed out that this time, it’s different:

First, the residents of Southern Israel are under attack again … but they can’t send their kids north like last time, because Tel Aviv is also under attack. 

Second, we’ve learned from experience what works and what doesn’t, how to run programs with a wider nonprofit and government partnership, running emergency preparedness meetings with our colleagues in the Jewish Agency and the Government. The programs we’ve been running on an ongoing basis have set the foundation for today.

And finally, Hamas has also learned from the past and has greater capabilities. 4 million Israelis are under fire, and not just in the South.

My colleague Sigal Shelach made the point that the elderly and the disabled are the most vulnerable. If you have 30 seconds to reach shelter, or 15 seconds in Sderot, what happens if you’re handicapped or you're elderly? To leave the house is out of the question. Do you even leave the shelter? Meals on wheels, emergency programs, Community Caseworkers.We're going to need all these and more to provide aid for elderly and disabled Israelis.

All the overnight and most of the day camps are cancelled. So what do you do with kids stuck at home? You have scared, stressed, rockets, parents need to go to work. We’ve learned about the benefits of makeshift camps in emergency shelters – we provide huge activity kit-boxes, volunteers to operate the camps, the incredible Chibuki program

The coordinator of Better Together in Kiryat Malachi noted the stress of taking children to safety, especially during the night hours. When the siren goes off, she and her husband have only 35 seconds to get their three small children to safety! The helplessness she feels when deciding in a split-second which child to wake first, is even worse when she thinks of all the families going through the same thing. In Kiryat Malachi, 30% of families are raised by single mothers! Moms who have no assistance when the siren sounds. The feeling of vulnerability in these communities runs strong.

We're grateful for those federations and donors who are standing up and helping us help the most vulnerable. Those who need us now more than ever.

We're grateful for our amazing colleagues on the ground - some of them taking real risks to help the vulnerable, while worrying for their own children and families.

And my colleague Alan Gill, JDC’s CEO, pointed out that the reason we were able to mobilize so quickly this week in Israel was that we were there yesterday. And we’ve been there for a hundred years. And if you’re supporting our work through your federation or directly, then know how grateful we, and the people of Israel, are for you, too.

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