Today’s message is co-authored by Kim Salzman and Laura Cherner. Laura is the Director of the Community Relations Council and Kim is the Director of Israel and Overseas for the Jewish Federation.
This past weekend, our hearts were breaking once again as we learned of rocket fire in Israel. Israel launched Operation Breaking Dawn in a pre-emptive military operation against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Over the three-day operation, Islamic Jihad indiscriminately fired over 1,100 rockets into Israel, many falling short of their intended target and resulting in several Palestinian casualties.
The operation took place less than two months after our Pittsburgh Jewish community was in Israel for the 2022 MEGA MISSION where participants formed connections with Israelis and explored the beautiful Jewish homeland. The contrast between swimming in the beaches of Tel Aviv with hearing news reports of sirens sounding in the same area just a few months later was surreal for many of us. While some may have considered it ominous that the operation took place during the Jewish holiday Tisha B’av (which marks numerous calamities which have befallen our people), we choose to look at it in a different light: the operation was a reminder that this is the first period in history where the Jewish people have their own state able to defend itself.
In a situation where we can feel helpless in the Diaspora, we are reminded of our impact through our partners on the ground. Throughout Operation Breaking Dawn, the Jewish Agency immediately sprang into action by providing support to the most vulnerable communities living in the south, including approximately 3,500 Olim (immigrants who made aliyah to Israel), many from Ethiopia and Ukraine, and 4,000 older adults in assisted living facilities. These communities were experiencing incessant rocket fire throughout the weekend, many for the first time. The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Victims of Terror Fund was ready to provide support to victims of terror through immediate grants to any individual or family suffering damage to their person or property. The Israel Trauma Coalition provided emergency 24/7 services through their resiliency centers, including support hotlines, home visits, and on-call therapists. These are just a few examples of the amazing crisis-response work of our international partners.
In addition to our partners on the ground in Israel, the US government also played a critical role in ensuring Israel’s security. In 2021, Congress overwhelmingly voted to increase funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system. This most recent clash demonstrated the Iron Dome’s 96% effective rate in intercepting rockets and preventing casualties. You can take action by urging our elected officials to publicly support Israel’s right to self-defense and thanking those who continue to vocally do so.
Israelis deserve to live in peace without fear of indiscriminate terror attacks on civilians. This should be afforded to every nation. However, Israel continues to be singled out and scrutinized for fighting for that peace and is subject to inevitable bias and manipulation of the narrative. The Jewish community continues to exhibit its strength and resilience in the face of adversity, but we cannot do it alone; Israel and the Jewish people need allies. Now more than ever, we must engage our allies in the non-Jewish community to stand with Israel and to correct misinformation whenever and wherever we see it. This Shabbat, let us take a moment to pray for peace in Israel and reflect on how fortunate we are to live in this moment in history where we have a Jewish and democratic state that is worth fighting for.