I am writing as I sit outside under the trees at Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI). Camp is a place that is in many ways sheltered from the rest of the world, it is a place of peace, where lifelong friendships are formed, and Jewish souls are nurtured. But this summer I as I sit under the trees, teach and learn, connect with colleagues and friends, sing songs and watch campers grow, I am deeply troubled.
Since arriving here, Israel has entered into a ground war in Gaza, to protect her citizens from the non-stop barrage of missile attacks from Hamas. Operation Protective Edge began just a few weeks before I came to camp, and in a short time it became clear that the Iron Dome system would not be enough to halt the attacks. Israel has agreed to multiple cease fires, Hamas refused to stop shooting. This forced Israel to consider sending troops into Gaza. After completely withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, going back into Gaza for a ground operation was not a decision made lightly. As Israel calls phones and drops leaflets to warn Gazans to take shelter, Hamas continues to urge its citizens to ignore the IDF’s warnings, to be human shields for the warfare, and continues to place armaments and rocket launchers in schools, hospitals, and mosques. The United Nations continues to condemn Israel for her actions, even as they admit to discovering rockets placed deliberately in school buildings, and then amazingly, handing over those same rockets to the Palestinian leadership.
Since entering Gaza, Israel has discovered 31 tunnels so far with more than 60 shafts leading to them. These tunnels were built by Hamas using forced child labor. More than 160 Palestinian children died constructing them. Israel us reporting that these tunnels are full of explosives, missiles and other weaponry. These tunnels were built as part of a long term large scale plan to launch a massive assault on Israeli civilians to take place just two months from now, on Rosh Hashanah. This surprise attack was planned to send 200 Hamas fighters through the tunnels under the border from Gaza into Israel, wearing Israeli army uniforms. Then the plan was to take control of kibbutzim and other communities while killing and kidnapping Israel civilians.
Antisemitic acts of violence and demonstrations are occurring with increasing frequency These reports of violence and anti-Israel sentiment, which simply put is anti-Jewish sentiment, are frightening. There have been riots and anti-semitic mobs in Paris, Calgary, and Belfast and anti-Israel rioters and vandalism in Chicago, Connecticut and Boston.
Here at camp, on this past Shabbat, our Israeli counselors shared prayers for peace, and prayers for safety for their families and friends, and for those in the Israeli Defense Forces. The Israeli counselors have shed more than a few tears and I can see worry on their faces, but for the most part, here at camp, we are immersed in providing all of the campers with a great environment for learning about themselves and their Jewish identity.
Friends and colleagues in Israel have been sharing their firsthand experiences, of traveling in Israel, running to bomb shelters, and going about their daily lives. I am proud of our NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth) staff and the URJ, who were able to continue touring with our teen groups on our Israel trips this summer and keeping them safe. I am proud of my CCAR rabbinic colleagues flew to Israel on a quickly arranged mission of support. They are taking shelter in stairwells and bomb shelters as they visit the border towns adjacent to Gaza, and deliver care packages of toiletries, energy bars, and other items for lone soldiers. Aliyah flights to Israel have continued, and despite arriving in a war zone, not one family backed out of their plans to make aliyah.
It is a very troubling time. Many of us feel powerless to be able to do anything. Some of us feel conflicted about what is happening in Israel and what is happening in Gaza. It is certainly disturbing that so many children on both sides of the conflict are again living with fear. And there are people suffering. If you want to do something, below are some ways to support Israel and those who are living with daily missile attacks:
Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack
Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (Reform Judaism in Israel - IMPJ) through the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ), 633 Third Ave. 7th floor NYC 10017. http://wupj.org/Contribute/Giving.asp The WUPJ and IMPJ are doing great work to assist those impacted and to keep lines of communication open between Israelis and the Arab communities in Israel They are even donating food for Eid.
Friends of the IDF - Friends of the IDF is in Israel supplying the IDF soldiers on the frontlines with snack packages, toiletry kits, and underwear. https://donate.fidf.org/page/contribute/rapidresponsefund
Silence the Sirens - JewishFederations.org/StoptheSirens The URJ and Jewish Federations of North America are collecting funds to provide emergency aid and alleviate the pain and suffering of our Israeli brothers and sisters.
Yad Eliezer has distributed food and supplies to residents of Southern Israel living under a constant barrage of rockets with food and treats for families stuck at home in bomb shelters. http://www.yadeliezer.org/program_info.php?program_id=38
The Jaffa Institute, which looks after children across South Tel Aviv and Jaffa, have relocated 170 at-risk children from communities hit hardest from rockets - donations go to recreational activities, learning materials, food and treatment. http://www.jaffainstitute.org/home/the-jaffa-institute-responds-to-state-of-emergency-declared-in-south/
Natal is an organization that provides hotlines for people who are suffering anxiety and need to speak with someone - both for people in the North and the whole of Israel. http://www.natal.org.il/English/