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Philly Young Professionals Briefed on the Gaza Conflict

July 28, 2014 By:
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Elad Strohmayer, Israel’s deputy consul general to the mid-Atlantic region, briefed 75 young professionals on the Gaza conflict at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia on July 24, 2014. Photo by Amishai Gottlieb.

A group of about 75 young professionals gathered at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia on July 24 to hear an update on the Gaza conflict from Elad Strohmayer, Israel’s deputy consul general to the mid-Atlantic region.

The event was sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Renaissance Group, the Collaborative, Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region, InterfaithFamily, Hillel's Jewish Graduate Student Network, Young Friends of the National Museum of American Jewish History, Anti-Defamation League and Moishe House Philadelphia.

Danielle Weiss, an attorney who is involved with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Renaissance Group, recently returned from a Jewish Federations of North America mission to Israel and introduced Strohmayer.

“It was my first time setting foot on Israeli soil and now that I’m back I still can’t believe I did it in a time of crisis with rockets in the sky and sirens blaring,” Weiss said.

Strohmayer briefed the crowd on events in Israel and gave a general overview of the conflict.

One point he stressed was that the operation was launched as a response to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and not as a reaction to the slaying of three Israeli teens, a tragedy that has been pegged by many as the spark of this latest round of Middle East violence.

“It looks like revenge and it’s not,” said Strohmayer.

He also addressed the rising rate of Palestinian civilian casualties, a number that is in the hundreds and includes many children, saying that Israel has been put in an impossible position.

“Every time we hear criticism about Israel bombing a school, bombing a hospital, the problem is that Hamas is using these places as commanding controls and shelters for rockets,” Strohmayer said. “The moment these places are used for fighting, they’re becoming legitimate targets.”

The deputy consul general’s update lasted about half an hour and was followed by a lengthy question and answer session.

Though the crowd was mainly composed of young professionals in their 20s and 30s, there was one man in attendance who stood out. Jean Ronald Desir, 41, is a political science student at Temple University who originally hails from Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. He also attended the pro-Israel rally on July 23 and said his support of Israel began when the Jewish state sent a fully equipped field hospital to the Caribbean country in the wake of the 2010 earthquake there that measured in at 7.0 on the Richter scale and killed or injured at least 500,000 people.

“Israel was the first nation who went to Haiti and built a hospital, that’s something I really feel good about,” said Desir, who was already living in the United States when the tragedy struck. He added that his relationship to Israel is “something very deep, it’s something in my soul, I feel connected and I’m part of it.”

Also present was 26-year-old Jackie Abrams, who lives in Center City and is an adult special education teacher. Abrams said she attended the briefing to hear more about the situation in Israel from a “legitimate source” and that she learned more about Hamas’ “propaganda” perspective.

She also added that she has been trying to keep those in her social and professional circles aware of the latest news in Israel.

“I’m a teacher — I’ve told my students about the conflict and made them aware, I also work with people who may not be attuned to Jewish news so I was able to kind of shed some light about how important this is on an international level,” Abrams said. “I’m going to follow the Philly consulate now” on social media and continue to “get some of the real facts.”

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