This posting was written by Richard Friedman, Executive Director of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, who is blogging from southern Israel during a solidarity mission for UJC National Young Leadership Cabinet members and alumni and members of NYL's Ben-Gurion Society (read more about BGS)
TEL AVIV -- It's a dreary Sunday morning here as Israelis begin their work week. I have come to Israel on a UJC solidarity mission along with 13 other people from across the US.
As a result of eight years of deadly rocket attacks, and then having to endure an even more intense situation during the recent war with Hamas, many Israelis in the southern part of the country are traumatized. The social service and economic needs are tremendous. Monday, our group will head to Sderot, a city in southern Israel that has been a constant target. Our purpose is to show our support, assess needs and better understand the day-to-day anxieties Israelis in the southern part of the country are still facing.
During the recent conflict, funds raised by UJC/Federations helped provide, among other things, social workers, immediate financial relief to people whose homes were hit by rockets, therapeutic services for those who'd been traumatized, safe days away from the conflict zone for children, help with strengthening bomb shelters, activities to keep youngsters occupied and support for soldiers who have no family in Israel. Additional funding is now needed to help restore normalcy in the region.
It's an important time to be in Israel. In addition to the needs in the south, there's nationwide understanding that the situation with Hamas remains unfinished, deep concerns with Israel's image in the world and a renewed post-war focus on Israel's national elections, which are nine days away. Israel is especially miffed at Turkey and its prime minister, who has been attacking Israel relentlessly over Israel's military response to Hamas. Israeli tourism to Turkey is down significantly as one major indicator of frayed relations between the two countries.
These are uncertain times, not just in Israel but in our country as well. Our challenge at UJC and local Federations is to raise enough money this year to sustain our support for Israel, maintain our support for our local community institutions, address increased human needs and help the international Jewish community fight growing and serious anti-Semitism. As daunting as the challenges are, I have total confidence we will prevail. Jewish history teaches us that those who have sought to destroy us have ultimately vanished.
For many of us who have increased our UJC/Federation pledge this year, the satisfaction of doing so has been tremendous, given the tough economic times we're facing. Increasing one's pledge creates -- yes -- a sense of sacrifice, and there's nothing wrong with that. We need to raise more money, so please think about increasing if you can or if you have not given previously, consider making a first-time gift to the UJC/Federation campaign. Do what may be difficult and know that you will derive deep comfort from knowing you stretched this year to help the Jewish people. As tough as it may be, we have it easy compared to our brothers and sisters on the front lines here in Israel and in other places throughout the world, such as Venezuela.
As I finish writing this, the sun has broken through the clouds, casting a magnificent reflection on the beach and adjacent area, all of which I can see from my hotel room. It's a beautiful view and a reminder that though these may be somewhat dreary times, what has sustained Israel and the Jewish people throughout the ages is our indomitable faith in the future, and belief that we are destined to live in the sunshine.
Give to UJC's Israel Solidarity Drive Now.