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Update #11 - February 20, 2024

Coming Home: From Destruction to Redemption

by Geoff Winston

Two weeks ago, while guiding a solidarity mission comprised of members of the Stephen Wise Temple of Los Angeles, I received a phone call from an officer of the Home Front Command in the Western Negev.  He told me about the plans for Moshav Shokeda – located six kilometers (four miles) from the Gaza border – to return home after being evacuated four months ago.

Although we thought we would be working in abandoned agricultural fields, being that our solidarity missions are meant to support Israel and Israelis in any way possible, we jumped at the opportunity to help with replanting this community. 

Thanks to Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback who led the trip, we were able to find and purchase dozens of Israeli flags and poles which we would use to decorate the entrance to the village. 

We travelled from Tel Aviv in the morning, arriving at Shokeda.  There we met with some of the village leaders to learn about the village, the residents, the aftermath of October 7th, and our mission.

We were told that about 100 of the 120 families were evacuated on October 7th to a couple of hotels in order to keep the residents safe from the war due to their close proximity to the Gaza border. But now that the security fears from Gaza were dwindling, they decided it was time to come home.

We obtained a couple to very tall ladders which would aid us in hanging flags on the very high lampposts, we hung “welcome home” signs around the moshav, we set up the tables onto which the celebratory food would be served, etc.

Once we finished preparing for the celebrations, the group returned to the bus and traveled but a few kilometers to Kibbutz Kfar Aza.  There we met a local resident, who took on a heartbreaking tour of the kibbutz to see the enormous tragedy of October 7th. Over 60 people from the kibbutz were brutally murdered that day – including the mayor of the regional council, with whom a group I was guiding met last year - and nearly 20 were taken hostage. Walking through the ruins of this once-beautiful kibbutz, one could only imagine what the members of this kibbutz have gone through from October 7th until.

When our time at Kibbutz Kfar Aza ended, we returned to Moshav Shokeda. We were greeted by excited residents and soldiers ready to celebrate their return.

Accompanied by loud music, hundreds of people gathered outside of the front gate of the moshav. When the DJ announced the beginning of the celebrations, we al entered the village underneath the chupah (canopy) of a huge Israeli flag.  We paraded into the moshav and were brought to a park, where we stared with a delayed tu b’shvat tree planting ceremony.  The moshav was able to give their thanks to those who deserved it, including the local mayor, the brigadier general in charge of the area, and even our very own Rabbi Yoshi, who organized the donation covering the expenses of the celebration. Yoshi was even asked to give a speech – in Hebrew! – which he did flawlessly. 

From there the moshav “finished” their hakafot – dancing with the Torah – that they had started on Simchat Torah on October 7th but were unable to finish.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we were so happy to be able to take a part of.

To see the gamut of destruction to redemption was something I will not forget.

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Update #10 - February 1, 2023

See what the evacuated community of Kiryat Shmona has to say to you for helping them with your donations!

Update #8 - November 23, 2023

Deja Vu from 2006

by Kayla Ship

A conversation between Yitzhak and myself on Wednesday, November 21:

Yitzhak:  Hi Kayla.  Do you remember Yariv, the supply sergeant from that base near Zefat who had 56 female combat soldiers who needed stuff in 2006 that you delivered?
Me:  Of course!  I bought over 27,000 shekels worth of stuff at Superpharm for them.
Yitzhak:  Well, he was in touch with me.  He’s retired from the army now but is now helping evacuees from Kiryat Shemona and soldiers in the area.  They’ve gotten a lot of donations but once again need supplies for women and children plus 2 clothes dryers.  Can you call him and figure out what he needs and how to get it to him?
Me:  On it

**************************************

After Yitzhak sent me Yariv’s number, I called him, ready to explain to Yariv that I work with Yitzhak at Keshet and we met during the Second Lebanon War.  Here’s how the conversation went (more or less translated from the Hebrew).

Cellphone ringing-
Yariv:  Ahalan Kayla from Keshet!!  How are you!  You brought me all that stuff for my female soldiers in 2006.
Me:  Wow Yariv!  You still have my number in your phone.  What an honor!  Yitzhak asked me to call you and find out what you need and how we can get it to you.
Yariv:  Thank you, thank you.  We'ver received some donations but are lacking toiletries and clothes.  Plus we need 2 clothes dryers.  I’m working with the “chamal” (HQ) in Kiryat Shemona.
Me:  OK.  Can you pick up what’s needed and have the store call me to get my credit card information and get a tax receipt in Keshet’s name?
Yariv:  Yes!  I can go this afternoon or tomorrow morning to Superpharm and Delta.   We’ll call ahead and have them put the order together. 
Me:  Great.  What about the dryers?
Yariv:  Can I have the person from the store call you to arrange payment?
Me:  Absolutely.

 

**************************************

 

Within 15 minutes, I had spoken with the person from the appliance store and had a copy of the invoice and credit card receipt for the 2 clothes dryers.  (We ended up buying 2 washing machines as well).
Yaniv sent me this text message: 

קיילה אתם לא מבינים איזה מצווה ענקית אתם עושים לאנשים פה לראות את החיוך שלהם בתקופה כלכך קשה אין עלייכם ישר כוח ותמשיכו ככה להעניק ולתת אמן.

(Kayla, you all have no idea what a huge mitzvah you are doing on behalf of the people here.  You should see their smiles during this difficult time.  You’re the best!  Yashar Koach!  May you all keep on helping and giving.  Amen.)


I can honestly say that my phone conversation with Yariv was the best one I’ve had since October 7th.  (No offense to my mother or anyone else I’ve spoken to.)  Yariv’s positive energy was palpable and his dedication to helping others is admirable.  But it’s not unique-so many people are stepping up to help others at this difficult time.  I thank Yitzhak for letting me be a small link in this huge chain of chessed that stretches across the globe to embrace Israelis, fighting this war whether in or out of uniform.  Am Yisrael Chai!

                                                     2006                                                                                                    2023

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Update #9 - December 4, 2023

Reflections from the field

by Yitzhak Sokoloff

Dear Friends,
 
It’s been over a month since I shared reflections with you—a month of war and a truncated cease-fire, of unbelievable solidarity and enormous dissonance between the view from Israel and from abroad, but most of all for many Israelis, a month of mourning. Given that, I will take the liberty of sharing thoughts about two friends. Almost every Israeli today can share similar thoughts.
                                                      
Na’aran
Na’aran Eschar was 33 years old when his tank turned over along the Lebanese border near Rosh Hanikra. Na’aran had been my son Yuval’s best friend for over a decade. They spent four years together in yeshiva- studying Torah, talking late into the night, hiking in the desert and making incredible music. After we lost Yuval seven years ago, and even before that, Naaran became a member of our family. He organized a group of Yuval’s friends who would come to our house every month to study Torah; he did all the arrangements for the music that my wife and daughter Avigail composed; and he would bring his wife Tsuf and his children, Be’eri and Redeem, to spend Shabbat with us every few months. 
 
Na’aran was a gentle soul, a man of faith and values, and perhaps the most gifted musician I’ve ever met. After yeshiva, the army and another stint in yeshiva, he became a rabbi and inspired and encouraged his students to find their own paths in Torah.  Only four months before the war, Na’aran donated a kidney to an unknown recipient. He is most likely the only person in history to have donated one kidney in life and another in death- along with his heart and lungs. After his operation he was exempted from reserve duty, but he insisted on joining his unit anyway. I spoke to him after Simchat Torah and tried - but failed- to convince him to sit this war out. He forced the army to let him join his unit with the question- “Do you need me”? On the night of the accident, it didn’t occur to me that Na’aran was involved.  I learned the truth from another soldier in our three-man patrol along the periphery of Gaza. A siren went off and we took shelter in a secure structure. I had heard of the accident in the north and took advantage of the pause to call Na’aran to check up on him, My team member saw Na’aran's name on the screen of my iPhone and it turned out that he had been an adopted member of Na’aran’s family during his conversion process. He called Na’aran’s brother Ohad, and we were both shocked to hear that he was the soldier described in the news as having been badly wounded. For a week my wife, children and I went back and forth to the ICU unit in Nahariya to be with his family, to sit next to him and to pray for a miracle. I begged him to stay with us, to embrace Yuval but to tell him that the time had not yet come for them to be together in eternity. But it was not to be. Tomorrow night we will mark Na’aran’s shloshim- with tears and with the music that he played and composed.

At the funeral his brother Ohad reminded us of a particular nigun that Na’aran had made a point of singing every Shabbat evening. It was a melody sung by Gerer Hasidim in Poland. Ohad recalled that while their great grandfather had sung that particular nigun together with other Hasidim just before being gassed, Na’aran had sung it as a soldier of the State of Israel. As hard as his passing was, is and will continue to be, the difference is enormous.
 
Let his memory- and the memory of all of those consumed in this war- be a blessing.

Na'aran Eschar z"l

Vivian
In my last update I wrote of my concern for Vivian Silver, a courageous and irrepressible activist who lived in Be’eri and was thought to have been kidnapped on Simchat Torah. Alas, while searching through the wreckage of Vivian’s home, my own army unit discovered her remains. After the identification was confirmed she was buried on Kibbutz Gezer, which she had helped found together with a group of young and idealistic Americans after the Six Day War. Vivian’s funeral was attended by thousands. Besides her own family, most of the speakers were Jewish and Arab women who had worked closely with her on one or another of her many projects. The last eulogy was read out in the name of a close friend of both Vivian and myself, a Palestinian activist (who I cannot mention by name in order to protect his safety) who fled Gaza after the Hamas put him on its execution list, and who has met many of our Keshet groups. They spoke on the phone while Vivian was hiding from the Hamas terrorists on that terrible day. Our friend, whose mother is now sheltering under terrible conditions in the southern part of Gaza, calls me every few days to check in on me and my family and to share news about his. He never fails to remind me that for years he has been saying “If Israel doesn’t destroy the Hamas it will be a tragedy for the Israelis and a catastrophe for the Palestinians.” If only we had listened harder. 

Vivian Silver z"l

Back in the Army
It’s now been seven weeks since I volunteered to spend four days patrolling in Ashkelon for the Home Front Command. I’m one of dozens of volunteer jeep drivers who are serving with combat units charged with protecting the Gazan Envelope. We’ve been stationed in moshavim in the area, in Netivot and in Ashkelon itself. I am by far the most senior member of my unit, but the soldiers seem to enjoy having someone the age of their parents around as part of the team. They are a reflection of much of Israel- religious and secular and in between, men and women, students and hi-tech executives, students just back from their post-army trek and parents of young children and teenagers. They were called up on October 7th and only go home every few weeks, but they are completely dedicated to each other and to their mission, and no one seems to complain about the hours, the conditions or the infrequent days off. Today we combed a valley near Kibbutz Miflasim to search for anything that could possibly shed light on the fate of the people who fled the dance festival and are still missing. Miraculously, considering that we were the third group of soldiers to search the area, we found a bracelet that somehow had been missed on previous sweeps! We passed it on to the intelligence officers working with us and can only hope that we may have been able to bring some closure to someone’s family. 

The Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund 
I am more than proud to be able to report that we have raised and distributed some $325,000 from 416 veterans of Keshet programs and their personal networks. Of this amount, $188,000 was given to our general relief fund in response to our original appeal.  (The rest was specifically earmarked for our Drone Project, see below)   As promised, we distributed the funds wherever we could identify an immediate need for intervention that was not being met by the government or any of the large American or Israeli organizations. This included monetary grants to the kibbutzim attacked on Simchat Torah and to individual families forced to flee their homes and places of work, purchases of truckloads of food, washing machines, driers and household goods for evacuees, books and tablets for school children who are studying remotely, toiletries-primarily for women and mothers, boots, fleeces, flashlights, tactical glasses, winter gear and tents for reserve army units. We have also funded counseling services to members of the haredi community serving in the burial societies and in Zaka, who together with the Military Rabbinate had the unimaginable task of identifying and burying the dead with dignity and compassion. In some cases, we have partnered with and supported other organizations whom we know and trust, such as the Jaffa Institute, which has been focusing on the evacuee population in the Tel Aviv region.  As word of our initiative has spread we have received more and more requests for assistance from those whose lives have been so cruelly disrupted, and as more donations arrive we will continue to offer our help to those who have “fallen between the cracks”. 

The Drone Project
About two weeks ago, I was made aware of an enormous shortage of hi-quality and commercially available drones for special units of the IDF actively engaged in Gaza and along the Lebanese border. Initially this information came to me in a very Israeli way- during a conversation with one of my daughter’s best friends that took place at my granddaughter’s birthday party!   It turns out that her friend (who was also a Keshet counselor)  serves in a Special Forces unit as an expert on the use of mini-drones capable of flying inside buildings and locating booby-traps, enemy ambushes, innocent civilians and hostages without risking the lives of our soldiers. Such drones are already approved and in use by the IDF but nowhere near the numbers required at present. She arranged for me to receive a series of in-depth briefings at her base and together with her colleagues convinced me that the need for these and other types of drones is immediate and urgent in order to safeguard the lives of our soldiers. 
 
Purchasing equipment suitable for tactical use is generally beyond the scope of normal philanthropy, but because these drones are available commercially and serve in a warning capacity, I agreed to take upon the mission of providing as many as possible. During the last ten days we have raised $125,000 for this purpose and are buying as many as possible. 
 
Donations for both the Drone Project and the general relief fund can be made through the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief fund.  (donation information below.  Please note that only donations specifically earmarked towards the Drone Project will used as such.)
 
General Reflections
Many friends, family members and Keshet program veterans have written to ask me to share impressions of the overall situation. I apologize for my reticence during the last month. Tonight is perhaps the first time I have had a few hours to myself. The time will come when I will hopefully write full blown articles dealing with many different aspects of our current reality.  But for now, given that I am writing in between my shifts in my IDF unit, I will take the liberty of only offering bullet-point responses to the questions that I receive the most. I cannot offer in-depth analysis tonight to support any of these responses, so please view them more as free associations from someone who has been far more involved in the practical sides of this war than the theoretical ones. In any case I am always eager to discuss and consider other views.
 
Can the Hamas be Defeated?
In a word, yes- if we stay the course. I am in daily contact with soldiers operating in Gaza and we are making steady progress. 97% (!) of Israeli Jews and over a third of Israeli Arabs support the total military and political defeat of the Hamas. My own belief is that anything short of that will place the State of Israel in grave danger. Our immediate enemies will be encouraged to attack us again and again despite the cost to themselves in the belief that if we can be forced or pressured to leave the Hamas standing after the Simchat Torah massacre, then ultimately we can be defeated. This would indeed be a tragedy for Israel and a catastrophe for Palestinians, as well as for the people of Lebanon and even Iran. 
 
Can the Hamas be defeated if Israel loses much or all of its international support?
Yes. Calls for a permanent ceasefire are in fact calls for a Hamas victory. Israel can and must defeat the Hamas. In order for the army to kill as few innocent Palestinians and lose as few of its soldiers as possible, it would be better to have all the time in the world to implement a slow and cautious strategy. If pressure for a cease-fire becomes overwhelming, the IDF will be forced to step up the pace of its attacks, risking the lives of far more soldiers and Palestinians alike in order to achieve the same end.
 
Is the price being paid by Palestinians civilians in Gaza justified?
That is a question for the Hamas to answer. Were it to surrender tomorrow the battle would be over, Hamas members would be arrested, while the reconstruction of Gaza could commence immediately. Otherwise, Israel will continue to wage a war designed to defeat its enemy while killing as few innocent civilians as possible. Alternatively, I’m sure Israel would be willing to cede the battlefield to the U.N., or anyone else who could guarantee to bring about the surrender and destruction of Hamas with less collateral damage, but I don’t see anyone standing in line. Ultimately this is a war we will need to fight ourselves.
 
Does Israel’s ongoing existence as a Jewish state justify the human cost paid by its enemies?
Yes. We still remember what it means to be a people without an army to defend it. We are actors on the stage of history. Sometimes that demands a heavy price but we will never return to a state of permanent impotency.
 
Is a two-state solution possible?
Perhaps, were the Palestinian leadership to be replaced by people who actively reject and publicly denounce those who teach their children that Israel is fundamentally illegitimate, that violence against it is heroic, and that any feasible compromise is treasonous. There is no leadership in Gaza or the West Bank speaking this language today. I wish there were.
 
Was a two-state solution ever possible?
We may never know but it seems that Abba Eban may have gotten it right.

Could Israel have done things differently?
Undoubtedlty.  In particular, it's Israel's obligation to ensure that anyone living under Israeli law or jurisdiction is protected by a legal system with the right to due proess and equal human rights.  There's no excuse for indiviudals who take the law into their own hands-whether Israeli or Palestinian-and should be punished.

Can there ever be a solution to this mess?
If we get over the concept of all or nothing solutions there are many possibilities. For instance, with responsible Palestinian and Israeli leadership it would be possible to provide Palestinians with freedom, prosperity and dignity in the spirit of Yitzhak Rabin’s formula after Oslo, which admittedly was “less than a state”. If that were to work the Middle East as a whole could flourish and we might be able to imagine possibilities that are today out of reach.
 
What about Iran?
Iran is the head. Hezbollah and Hamas are the tentacles. While everyone is looking elsewhere the Iranians are racing towards producing nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran led by people more invested in the meta-history of Shi’ite Islam than in the welfare of their own people will constitue a mortal threat to both Israel and the United States. Like Hamas, the Iranian leadership seems to be willing to risk the destruction of their own people in order to inflict intolerable damage on their enemies, meaning at least Israel and possibly the United States as well. The United States and the West in general have a history of waking up to unimaginable existential threats only after paying an enormous price. This is a human condition to which  even Israel has proven itself susceptible.  Israel and the U.S. should work together to put an end to this threat while offering the Hezbollah the option of saving Lebanon by standing aside. 
 
What about the Haredim?
The good news is that thousands of Haredim have joined the army or are serving in the most difficult of all jobs, collecting the remnants of those murdered and burying the dead. Haredim have also organized large grassroots efforts to support soldiers and evacuees, which is something new and welcome. The bad news is that with few exceptions no one in the Haredi community challenges the concept that young men of the same age as Israeli regular combat forces who are capable of putting in long days of yeshiva study should join the army, be trained for combat and in short, share the burden and the risk. At the same time they wrap themselves in the mantle of Torah, which from my perspective constitutes a Hilul Hashem (desecration of the Name of G-d). But first things first, it is slowly becoming more acceptable for at least some Haredim to serve in the army, and that is a good thing.
 
Is there any good news?
Plenty. Israel is more unified than it has been in half a century. Virtually everyone not serving the IDF has found some way to make a contribution.  It’s clear that the political leadership will undergo a massive upheaval sooner rather than later. The unprecedented rate of murders taking place within Israeli Arab society has dropped precipitously and Israeli citizens of Israel have exhibited restraint and even solidarity. A Bedouin Arab from Rahat saved the lives of 30 Jews by repeatedly driving under fire on Simchat Torah. Mansour Abbas, leader of an Arab political party in the Knesset, has publicly condemned the Hamas in Hebrew and in Arabic and offered a refreshing and desperately needed model for Jewish-Arab co-existence. Jews from around the world are buying more apartments in Israel than before the war, and I anticipate there will be more Aliya from North America than in many years.  Three hundred thousand Jews and non-Jews massed in Washington and hundreds of thousands more in London and Paris in support of Israel and the Jewish people. Despite what it may feel like at Harvard or Columbia (my alma mater), WE ARE NOT ALONE.
 
Am Yisrael Chai!

Join a Keshet solidarity mission!  For more information, click here.

We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate the donation process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less. 
 
How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund
Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to: Rabbi's Discretionary Fund
 
Mailing Address:
Temple Beth-El
Attn:  Rabbi Gluck
67 US Highway 206
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the email address below.)
 
Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.

 

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Some other things we have contributed to:

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Update #7 - November 7, 2023

Overflowing Love

Three days of travelling the width and the breadth of Israel

by Geoff Winston

Last week I had the honor and pleasure to take two American rabbis, Yoshi Zweiback and Shoshanna Conover, around Israel on our own little solidarity mission to get a glimpse behind the scenes at what is happening in Israel today.
We started off at Tel Aviv’s Convention Center, where we had heard that one of the country’s main “chamals” (civilian action headquarters) was based. We saw people with “Brothers in Arms” shirts walking into a certain building, so we followed them and were able to watch the morning update of those in charge of this initiative.  From there, we were taken to a volunteer sign-up center and waited until our help was needed.  We proceeded to the huge underground parking lot to see the enormous amounts of donations by (mostly) locals to all facets of society: clothing, electronics, baby cribs and carriages, games, books, army gear, etc.  We were taken off for the crucial job of making cardboard boxes.  We had the chance to meet the people across the social spectrum of Israeli society who all united for the same cause.

What caught our eye was the station collecting gear for the army. Once we used up all of the tape needed to make hundreds of boxes, we meandered over to the army station.  One of the rabbis had brought over with him – in his six duffel bags – gear intended for our soldiers in the field.  We were put in touch with Rafi, who oversaw the civilian aid for the military.  With our suitcase packed with the military equipment, we were escorted into the command force for the thousands strong “Brothers in Arms” operations network. 

The next morning, we woke up early and travelled south to the Bedouin village of Segev Shalom.  We met with Gil, a Jewish volunteer (and evacuee from the city

of Sderot) who brought us to a very different

chamal (headquarters) run by an awe-inspiring

Bedouin woman named Amal.  She invited us into

her living room and scrambled to find chairs and a

small table for us as her house had been emptied

out in order to store piles of food that was to be

delivered to Bedouin throughout the Negev. 

Amal studied for her master’s degree and

developed a network for female empowerment for both Arabs and Jews throughout Israel.
Amal told us that the Hamas and their rockets really didn’t care to distinguish between Jews and Arabs. Some of her Bedouin friends and family were killed and/or kidnapped by the Hamas – as was her very good Jewish friend and colleague, together with the rest of her family.  Hamas’s rockets targeted her village and the neighboring expanses of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev.

In Amal’s living room, we met Yair, a Jewish Israeli who had asked around how he can help Bedouins and was repeatedly given Amal’s name and number. With Amal’s lead and Yair’s and Gil’s assistance, together with other Bedouin residents of the area, this multi-cultural team is able to provide food, clothing and assistance to the vast majority of Bedouin living in the Negev (around 200,000 people).

Our next stop was the protest tent for the return of Israel’s captives, located outside of the Army Headquarters and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.  We met with some of the friends and families of Israeli captives being held by Hamas in Gaza and heard their stories as a show of our support of their loved ones whom have been

missing since that tragic day.

 

Then we were off to an army training base.  At the entrance to the base, we were taken in an army jeep by Avraham and Yisrael – two commando paratroopers who are supposed to be at the end of their mandatory service.  They drove us into the Center for Urban Warfare Training. There, one of the rabbis blessed the troops while the other lead us in a prayer for the wellbeing of Israel’s soldiers.  We witnessed the paratroopers’ last training exercise before going into Gaza.  We spoke with these calm and collected “kids” with their fancy guns and top-notch equipment.  Avraham then took out his “toy” for a demonstration: he donned goggles and set into the air his drone armed with cameras which allow him to virtually enter each building and show him any “surprises” in store for the soldiers whose mission is going through buildings with a fine-tooth comb, to capture or kill the terrorists without harming civilians.  He let us all try the goggles on so that we could experience exactly what he does—  Sony PlayStation meets crucial IDF life-saving equipment.


Our last stop for the day was at a hotel in Tel Aviv, where the evacuees of the Gaza border village of Nativ Haasara were staying.  There we me with Barak, a resident for the last 15 years, whose wife was raised in the village.  Keshet has often brought its groups to meet with Barak, to see and hear why anyone would raise their four young children yards away fro the Gaza Strip.  As Barak put it, “95% of the time, this village is paradise; the other 5% of the time, it is hell”.  Hell doesn’t begin to describe what the residents of Nativ Haasara lived through on October 7th.  After sirens went off unexpectedly at 6:30 that morning and their electricity and mobile connections fell, they heard gunshots from close by.  With his family closed in their reinforced “safe” room, Barak went window to window to make sure no terrorist was coming.  But unfortunately, no soldiers arrived in the area even hours after the initial events.  In the late afternoon, as their cellphones were dying and darkness was approaching, Barak and his wife decided to make a run for it.  They got into two cars with their four boys, told them to put their heads down, and sped out on the dirt paths that lead out of the back of the village.  They had to slalom through the dozens of dead terrorist bodies in order to make it out safe.  Today, despite the fact that they are in a five-star deluxe hotel, they feel helpless. They cannot leave the safety of the hotel as sirens have been sounding in Tel Aviv on a daily basis.  They are not willing to go home until there is no more Hamas in Gaza to threaten them.  And even then, they will need to find the courage to return to a different home, one in which 20 of his neighbors were murdered.  With the war going on, they can’t even think of the next step.
The last day, after returning to the chamal in Tel Aviv to donate more goods, and meeting with the head of the NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief – which provided immediate emergency services for the first time ever in Israel – we met with the students at the Reform Rabbinical School HUC in Jerusalem, followed by an Israeli Arab to hear his experiences during these challenging times.  We also met with the IRAC Israel Religious Actions Center and with Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute.

 

It was time for our last mission: visiting the boyfriend of a friend of the rabbi with us who was in critical condition after being shot numerous times by terrorists on October 7th.  At the hospital, we received the good news that  O, a fighter in an elite Commando Unit, had made a miraculous recovery and was sitting with his fellow soldiers and girlfriend.  He told us his story before digging into his girlfriend’s delicious schnitzel. 
O and his fellow commando troops got the word on October 7th to take their pickup trucks and head south toward the Gaza border.  When they approached one of the main junctions in the south, they saw pickup trucks similar to theirs, but they belonged to Hamas.  They

were able to defeat the terrorists and continued south, with

other encounters with terrorists on their way.  When they

reached Kibbutz Beeri – one of the worst hit communities in

the south – they were confronted by hundreds of terrorists in

the kibbutz.  After hitting the ground to protect themselves,

they saw fellow soldiers coming toward them and yelled in

Hebrew not to shoot toward them.  Unfortunately, those

soldiers were actually terrorists, and they were shot.  Luckily

for O, he fell over a low-lying wall which gave him protection. 

His friend next to him was killed.
O saw the amount of blood pouring from his body and said to himself “that sucks, I’m dead” and lost consciousness.  A few minutes later, he awoke and saw he was still alive.  He applied a tourniquet to himself and was spotted by members of his unit.  They took him and put him on a kibbutz scooter used by the kibbutz elderly.  One soldier held him and guided with the steering wheel, while another held him from the other side and pressed on the gas.  They were moving too slowly, so O pushed the guy to his right off of the scooter and slammed on the gas himself.  This brought them quickly to an ambulance, then a helicopter and to the hospital.
O was operated on and at last we had heard – before actually seeing him – was that he was fighting for his life. What a relief to see him and speak to him!!
Once he told us his story, we allowed him to dig into his schnitzel…but Hamas did not.  A siren went off, and we all had to head into the shelter.  All’s well that ends well – after a few minutes and a few booms, we were able to come out and O devoured his schnitzel.


These three days allowed me to see the incredible work done by the entire spectrum of Israeli society.  After nearly a year of a splintered society due to the political situation, it was enlightening and endearing to see so many people giving all they can in order for Israel to unite and start to recover from the atrocities of October 7th. 

 

2,000 years ago, Jerusalem was destroyed by baseless hatred.  What I saw throughout Israel last week was an abundance of love.  It is with that overflowing love that we will be able to recover and even thrive in the coming months.

If you or your community would like to come to Israel on a solidarity mission, please contact us.  Israel needs your support more than ever, now and in the coming months.

Donating to KIERF:

We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate the donation process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less. 
 
How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund
Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to: Rabbi's Discretionary Fund

 
Mailing Address:
Temple Beth-El
Attn:  Rabbi Gluck
67 US Highway 206
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the email address below.)
 
Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.

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Update #6 - October 26, 2023

Dear Friends,

For the last few days I’ve been serving with a reserve IDF unit charged with

protecting the communities in proximity to Gaza and the few residents who haven’t

left.  I just returned from a patrol along the security fence of a small moshav where

we are stationed, and since my energy levels are still high and I’ve received many

requests from family and friends, I thought to channel them into a summary of my

experiences during the last two weeks. Currently, I’m sitting on my mattress

balancing my iPad in a room full of sleeping soldiers. They were all called up on

October 7th. In the background there are constant explosions coming from Gaza

and the lawnmower like sound of an Israeli drone searching for targets overhead.
 
Simchat Torah found me in Yerucham with my wife, our daughters, and five of our

grandchildren. We had just begun hakafot on Shabbat morning when the siren went

off.  The fact that it sounded during the middle of services immediately brought me

back to the Yom Kippur War when I was in Jerusalem. Sadly, as it turned out there

were good reasons for that.  Like then, a day of prayer was interrupted by a surprise

attack and like then we had no idea at first of the scope of the disaster. It reminded me of the Yom Kippur War in another way as well- within an hour of the siren dozens of men of military age departed for their army units.  Seeing them race away, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu.  In 1973 I was of military age but had not yet made Aliyah or served in the army. Now, in 2023 time I’ve been out of the reserves for well over twenty years.  In both instances I felt an enormous sense of frustration, which I tried to channel into being as helpful as possible.  During the Yom Kippur War, I filled sandbags and volunteered at Shaarei Tzedek hospital.  This time, I started writing to raise and distribute funds and now I find myself back in the army.
 
Israel is a tiny country and the news that poured in during the first few days struck us very personally.  One of the Israeli teen participants on our Dor L’Dor Program, Hersh Goldberg-Polin was taken hostage even though he was severely wounded.  So was Vivian Silver, a 74 year old member of Kibbutz Be’eri who has met many of our groups, speaking to them about her many activities on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza.  Amir Sekuri, the husband of a close friend of my daughter Avigail, fell in action trying to protect Be’eri from the onslaught of Hamas, which took the lives of at least 111 residents and soldiers.
 
Meanwhile, my own family has been called up in one way or another.  Our son-in-law Itamar is the Rabbi of a front-line paratroop unit. Our daughter Einat is back in the Air Force, our daughter-in-law Keren is now a captain in the Home Front Command, our son Chai is helping to coordinate the government’s efforts on behalf of the families of the missing and the kidnapped. Ruti and Avigail have been “drafted” into helping with our own grandchildren while working with their patients and their friends in need of support. I mention all this for the benefit of those of you who have met my family, but also because one could easily change the names and get a picture of the life of the vast majority of Israeli families. We all have children, parents, siblings, and friends in the IDF.  Even the Haredi community is taking part.  Thousands of Haredim are currently playing the most difficult and demanding role imaginable-trying to at least give dignity to the dead and some level of certainty to the survivors. In addition, over two thousand Haredi men have begun to join the IDF, breaking a taboo that is incredibly strong in their community. Israeli society after this war will be something else entirely.

On the first night of the war I somehow managed to write an article for the Times of Israel to explain as well as I could how this could have happened (https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-price-israelis-are-willing-to-pay/).  However, publishing an article rarely changes reality.  Therefore, with the help of the incredible Keshet staff and Rabbi Arnie Gluck at Temple Beth El in New Jersey, I quickly re-established the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund, which had been dormant since 2006. Our goal was and is to assist where a cash intervention makes an immediate difference. We wrote to the Keshet client list and almost immediately raised and distributed over $100,000 to the direct victims of the attacks for immediate necessities, to evacuees from the communities close to Gaza and to reserve army units lacking the necessary ancillary equipment to fight a war- from tactical boots to bullet-proof ceramic vests. We’ve spent the money as fast as it comes in and are continuing our efforts with the help of hundreds of friends.  Here is a link to those activities:  www.keshetisrael.co.il/kierf

After the first week, I read that the Home Front Command was

looking for Jeep drivers with military experience, but without

mentioning an age limit. Within a few hours, I was back in uniform,

and my Subaru Crossover had been converted into a military

vehicle by the neat trick of attaching magnets to its doors with the

IDF insignia. Even though it’s been 20 years of more since my last

stint in the reserves, it seems like old times. The main difference is

that a good number of the combat soldiers are female.
 
It’s not all that heroic- our unit is tasked with protecting the home

front rather than with going into Gaza, but the false alarms and the

dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket launches that go over our heads towards Tel Aviv and occasionally in our direction have kept my adrenaline going.  Seeing and hearing the “face of the enemy” keeps us focused on what we are doing here.  We also have a mission of combing the homes and fields of the kibbutzim that were attacked by Hamas, which has enabled me to see the extent of the destruction close up and to meet many of the front-line soldiers preparing for the ground invasion.
 
After speaking with dozens of soldiers of a wide range of ages from different units, my impression is that their morale is infinitely better than that of the country at large.  It’s good to be doing something of service of any sort, and even those of us tasked with defensive missions feel that we are part of the force that will be unleashed on the Hamas. 

Among the soldiers I have not heard a single word about the political strife of the last year. There seems to be total consensus on the goal of defeating and eliminating Hamas.  I also hear a good deal of talk on the dilemmas posed by the presence of our hostages and Palestinian non-combatants in Gaza. Often, I’ve heard versions of the sentence “Because we are a Jewish state we cannot purposely target innocent people.”  Given that the Hamas uses its own people as human shields, perhaps the best way to formulate this is that “We should kill as few civilians as possible and as many as necessary in order to defeat Hamas.”  Tragically, there are few illusions about the likely cost for our own hostages in the hands of Hamas.
 
The words “victory” and “the surrender of the enemy” have not been part of the Western lexicon since 1945, but Israel is under an existential threat that is clearly very hard for Americans and even Europeans to truly grasp. Simply put, France, Poland and Germany survived defeat. Israel would not.  That, rather than revenge, is the underlying force motivation us.

Every day this week new revelations have emerged about the tragedies that took place but also the heroic efforts on Simchat Torah. Some are almost impossible to digest.  But here, among the soldiers of the IDF, no one uses the word “Holocaust”.  We have awakened from our illusions in a horrible fashion, but the Jewish people are no longer the helpless victims of history. Perhaps that is why returning to the IDF and serving in close proximity to Gaza has been such a privilege and even a relief.  I can hear the Israeli Air Force overhead, see the army concentrating its forces and most of all, sense the resolve and courage of those of us who will be called upon to fight this war to its end.  The grief, the recriminations, the re-evaluation of so many cherished assumptions, the inevitable political crises-all these must be put on hold until the guns go silent.  Then we will begin to get back to the business of fulfilling our dreams for Israel.
 
So, I end with a personal plea to you as Jewish community leaders:  Now is the time to demonstrate your support for Israel and the Israeli people and show your faith in our shared future.  Announce to your community that “We’re going to Israel” in 2024-5.  Bashanah B’Yerushalayim has never been so important.

All the best,

Yitzhak
To donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund, please click here

Zoom Updates
If you would like to organize a discussion with your community on what is happening in Israel and to express your support to the citizens of Israel, our educational staff would be happy to provide real-time updates via Zoom on the current situation and how it affects us.  Please contact us to help organize your event at a time that is suitable for you and your community.

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Update #5 - October 20, 2023


On the civilian front, KIERF continues to send financial support to many of the families whose lives have been turned upside down.  Most have lost loved ones.  Many have lost their homes.  All have had to evacuate from their communities.  Some are being hosted by relatives or friends throughout the country.  Some are being hosted by strangers in their homes or are staying at hotels and guest houses.  About 300 are staying in the small town of Yerucham located in the Negev.  KIERF has provided food, home goods like pots, pans, tables, chairs, and blankets, and other supplies to the host families being coordinated by the Student Village and the pre-army preparatory (Mechina) program of Yerucham.

In Israel, when 300,000 civilians are called up for reserve duty, the lines become blurred between civilian and military.  KIERF has donated supplies to regular and reserve units serving on the Gaza border, in the Jordan Valley and in the North.  Your donations have purchased boots, special glasses, drones, helmets, protective vests, and basic supplies like shirts, underwear, socks, personal hygiene items, and more.  We’ve also tried to keep their morale high and “pamper” them with falafel dinners and other care packages.

As of Friday, October 20th:
Donors/Pledges to the fund:  319
Total amount of donations:  $105,705
Total amount dispersed:  NIS 335,747

The Israeli government has begun evacuating residents from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon because of the threat of Hizbullah.  These residents will also need support.  Please help us spread the work to others by sharing the following link keshetisrael.co.il/kierf.  Be sure to check-in yourself as we continue to post updates on the webpage.
 
Am Yisrael Chai!!
 
Shabbat Shalom,
The Keshet Team

How This Works

Keshet will continue to advance its own funds as long as possible, but for our efforts to be viable we need your financial assistance. We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate this process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less.  

 

How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund

Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to:

Rabbi's Discretionary Fund 

Mailing Address:

Temple Beth-El

Attn:  Rabbi Gluck

67 US Highway 206

Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the email address below.) Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.

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Update #4 - Monday, October 16

Every Cloud
We in Israel are now experiencing our ninth day glued to our TVs, computer screens and our WhatsApp messages, waiting, hoping, praying that the nightmare is over.
 
Many of you who have come to Israel on one of our tours over the last nine years have visited the Gaza border village of Netiv Ha’asara and have met with a local resident to hear what it is like to raise a family under the cloud of the Gaza Strip.  That resident just so happens to be my brother-in-law, Barak, who lives in that village where his wife grew up, and together they are raising four young boys.
 
At 6:30 on Saturday morning, they heard gunshots and rocket fire, then got the messages via their village security system to stay in their secure room. Their electricity went out, so there they were in the dark, with their weak emergency light the only light shining in the room. When Barak read the news about what was actually going on in the village, he left his wife and boys in the secure room and patrolled inside his house, from window to window, with a bullet loaded his gun’s chamber, making sure that no terrorist was going to come in.
 
At 4:30 that afternoon, with their phone batteries dying, Barak and his wife Aya made the decision that it was better to run for their lives than to be stuck in their home without communication with the outside world.  They took the boys - the youngest of whom is four - and ran to their two cars, telling the boys to keep their heads down, and sped off via the dirt paths that lead through the farms of the village.  They made it safely to his brother's house near Jerusalem, where they have been staying ever since.
 
Through the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund, we have raised over $90,000.  Barak has been identifying families who fled their homes from Netiv Ha’asara and some neighboring villages - including Kfar Azza, Nir Oz and Nahal Oz – so that KIERF can help them.  We have distributed a significant amount of the donated funds directly to those families, who escaped with nothing; no clothing, no belongs, no food, no wallets.
 

Every cloud has a silver lining. 
What is the silver lining here?  To be here in Israel, to see that we are here for each other, is absolutely incredible.  People from all streams of life - religious and secular (and ultra-Orthodox, and everything in between), right and left of the political spectrum, Jews and Israeli Arabs - have all come together to give all they can, both financially and physically, in order to help those suffering the most during this time.
 
And Jews and non-Jews from around the world have been sending us supportive messages around the clock, and have been giving whatever they can for the same purpose. 
 
There are endless examples of Jewish suffering throughout history. But this time, those suffering are not alone. More than at any time in history, we, as a people, are strong enough and capable enough of making sure that we are taking care of those in need during this difficult hour.
 
To those 272 of you who have already donated (as of today) we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping these families.  May you always be on the side that gives.  
 
The Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund is still open for those who would like to contribute, and we would appreciate it if you could share the following link to those whom you believe would be interested as well. 
keshetisrael.co.il/kierf
 
See more information below.
 
Together, we can make a real difference.
 

Am Yisrael Chai!!
 
Geoff Winston and the Keshet Team

How This Works

Keshet will continue to advance its own funds as long as possible, but for our efforts to be viable we need your financial assistance. We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate this process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less.  

 

How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund

Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to:

Rabbi's Discretionary Fund 

Mailing Address:

Temple Beth-El

Attn:  Rabbi Gluck

67 US Highway 206

Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the email address below.) Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.

Dear Yitzhak and the Keshet Team,

 

Nice to meet you - this is Michal Hacham from the Kolna organization.

 

We wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity and support for all of us during this time in which we have been hosting families on our campus in Yeruham. We are hosting about 150 men, women and children from the villages of Yated, Shova and Sa'ad from the outskirts of the Gaza Strip. With the support we have  received, we have purchased mattresses, cooking equipment, blankets, table tops and chairs for them.

 

With great appreciation, and in prayer for days of peace and quiet for the people of Israel and the region.

Michal Hacham and Kolna

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Post #3- October 12, 2023

 

Dear Friends,

 

We want to keep you updated regarding where your donations to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund are going.

 

As of Thursday afternoon Israel time, we have donated over 175,000 shekels ($50'00) directly to army units and residents of communities from the Gaza area who lost everything.  We are also covering the costs for food and basic supplies for the generous hosts in the town of Yerucham who are taking care of over 200 people evacuated from their homes.

 

Here is a link to a short video from the field:

https://youtu.be/S7euvGvtCOs

 

We are doing our best to frequently update this KIERF webpage so

that you can check back and receive updates.  We will include thank

you notes (below) from recipients and pictures as well as we

receive them.

 

Am Yisrael Chai!

 

The Keshet Team


How This Works
Keshet will continue to advance its own funds as long as possible, but for

our efforts to be viable we need your financial assistance. We have

partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El

in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate this process. Tax-exempt contributions

can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a

recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we

will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the

interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges

that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in

Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of

dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less. 
 

How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund
Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to: Rabbi's Discretionary Fund
 
Mailing Address:
Temple Beth-El
Attn:  Rabbi Gluck
67 US Highway 206
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the 
email address below.)
 
Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to 
IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.
 

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Post #2 - October 11, 2023

 

Shalom,

The general picture continues to be grim as the death count passed one thousand and unspeakable, unthinkable stories of atrocity became public. More and more names of the dead have been released and at this point everyone in Israel knows someone touched by the tragedy directly.

And yet we also learned of unimaginable examples of heroism, Biden gave a heart-warming speech that resonated in Israel during these terrible days, civil society in Israel embraced the survivors of the massacre in a massive display of support, and the soldiers preparing for war are sober but determined as they gather along the borders of Gaza and Lebanon.

Within 24 hours of Monday’s appeal the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund received over $25,000.  Within 48 hours that amount increased to over $38,000 and is still growing. 90% of the donated funds was spent to support members of the kibbutzim that suffered the most and are in the most need of urgent assistance, and for purchasing equipment which was delivered to newly mobilized reserve units who were lacking basic personal equipment (primarily socks, water-carriers that fit onto combat belts, and headlamps). 

Last night (Tuesday), I visited paratrooper and infantry units in Sderot, meeting soldiers ranging from 18 to 45 years old. The 18-year-olds have only been in the army for 8 months, the older generation includes veterans of several wars who left up to seven children behind to volunteer. Religious and secular, Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Druze and Bedouin- they constitute a mosaic of Israeli society. No one ignored the risks, but they were united by a deep sense that their mission is to defend the very existence of the State of Israel and were confident that they would fulfill this mission. 

Today I met with many of the evacuated families and the volunteers hosting them in the Negev town of Yerucham.  We are providing meals and essentials for 200 evacuees who are being cared for by a pre-army program (Mechina) in the town.  

Lastly, we have just found a way to assist individual families with the most difficult circumstances from the Gaza communities struck on Saturday and would like to transfer $5000 immediately. These funds are subject to a matching grant. 

Thank you to all of those who participated for making this possible.

The list of needs continues to grow and with your help we will continue to respond.  


How This Works
Keshet will continue to advance its own funds as long as possible, but for our efforts to be viable we need your financial assistance. We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate this process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less. 
 

How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund
Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to: Rabbi's Discretionary Fund
 
Mailing Address:
Temple Beth-El
Attn:  Rabbi Gluck
67 US Highway 206
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the 
email address below.)
 
Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to 
IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il.
 
Sincerely,
 
Yitzhak Sokoloff and the Keshet Team

Post #1 - October 9, 2023

Dear Friends,

Fifty years ago, services in Israel were interrupted by sirens announcing the beginning of the Yom Kippur War, marking a low point in Israeli history that remains painful after half a century. On Saturday, the sirens sounded again, this time on the morning of Simchat Torah. Israel has already paid a terrible, unthinkable price- perhaps the highest in our entire history.  Yet, as during the Yom Kippur War, Israel and the Jewish people as a whole are rapidly coming together to defend the country against those who would destroy us. We will prevail, and then be able to focus on the most important part of being a free people in our own land:  creating a society that justifies the prayers, dreams, and aspirations of three thousand years of Jewish history.

I want to thank the many friends and clients who have reached out to us during these difficult days. Your concern and commitment are important beyond words to us personally and to the overall resilience of Israel.  Many of you have asked how you can help in practical terms. I hope that this letter helps to answer that question. 

We have taken upon ourselves to find ways to assist with the most immediate needs of those hit hardest by the situation- victims of the horrible attacks along the border, soldiers suddenly called to the front lines, and the families they have left behind and the most vulnerable parts of Israeli society. The key to our efforts is linking our deep personal knowledge of Israel in crisis mode and our very expansive network of contacts on the ground with the desire of our friends abroad to render assistance and to trust us to direct it to where it is needed the most.

The Immediate Mission

Like many of you, we have been inundated with requests for financial assistance over the last 48 hours from many worthy and important organizations in Israel and the United States.  While we applaud these efforts, we also recognize that although large organizations can mobilize large amounts of money, they require significant amounts of time to conduct due diligence and then disperse the contributions they receive. Right now there are pressing needs on the ground that simply cannot wait.  Our goal is to provide maximum assistance in minimum time to multiple trustworthy and deserving initiatives that we know from personal knowledge that require immediate interventions. 

Keshet is already helping…

Since Sunday, the Keshet team has gone into emergency mode. Using our own reserves, we have already responded to requests for emergency assistance of food, clothing and basic needs for the survivors of the massive attacks in Kibbutz Nir Am and Be’eri who were forced to flee their homes literally with only the shirts on their backs and we are now expanding these efforts to residents of other communities in the Gaza envelope. We have also been assisting reservists who were mobilized during the last 48 hours and are currently in assembly areas and in urgent need of basic supplies. We have received requests for everything from cell phone chargers, megalites, batteries, sleeping bags, fresh food, energy bars and ceramic vests. Lastly, we are reaching out directly to the communities most affected by the current situation to offer immediate emergency assistance as the needs change and develop over the next days and weeks. 

How This Works

Keshet will continue to advance its own funds as long as possible, but for our efforts to be viable we need your financial assistance. We have partnered with our good friends Rabbi Arnie Gluck and Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ to facilitate this process. Tax-exempt contributions can be made to TBE, which will in turn issue tax receipts to donors as a recognized U.S. based non-profit organization.  Based on your support we will expand our operations during the duration of the crisis, but in the interim we will continue to allocate our own resources based on pledges that we receive from you. This was the model we used during the war in Lebanon in 2006 and it enables us to disperse hundreds of thousands of dollars in response to urgent requests within 48 hours or less.  

 

How to donate to the Keshet Israel Emergency Relief Fund

Contributions should be sent to Temple Beth-El Israel fund via the TBE website: https://templebethelnj.shulcloud.com/form/israel-emergency-relief 

Or send a check made payable to: Rabbi's Discretionary Fund Mailing Address:

Temple Beth-El

Attn:  Rabbi Gluck

67 US Highway 206

Hillsborough, NJ 08844

Memo:  KIERF

(If you would like to make a donation by bank transfer, please be in touch with us for details at the email address below.) 

Please be sure to send us a note in parallel to your donation if paying by check indicating the amount of your donation by e-mail to IsraelNow@keshetisrael.co.il. 

 

Sincerely, Yitzhak Sokoloff and the Keshet Team

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