In the last two decades, the culture of the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora changed. The old paradigm of a besieged Jewish state looking to Jews living elsewhere for aid became as outdated as the old gung-ho "We Are One" rhetoric that was once seen as a can't miss marketing strategy for raising funds.
Israel was stronger than ever with a vibrant economy and, so we were told, on its way to peace. The notion of a crisis-driven massive outpouring of financial and political support in the manner of the American response to the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War was, we thought, relegated to the past.
The current situation in Israel is nothing less than an emergency on the scale that's precisely reminiscent of the wars of 1967 and 1973. The fighting that began last month with the cross-border attacks by the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorists has left a quarter of Israel's population sleeping in bomb shelters or forced out of their homes altogether. Scores have been killed in these rocket attacks that have exacted a bloody toll throughout northern Israel. And dozens more Israeli soldiers — including native Philadelphian Mark Levin — have been killed fighting in defense of their country.
The goal of the terrorists and their sponsors in Syria and Iran is explicit: the destruction of Israel and the murder of its population. The war of self-defense that Israel is waging to end the menace of Hezbollah is nothing less than one of survival.
And just as the conflict has united Israelis across the ideological spectrum in support of the campaign, so too must American Jewry unify behind Israel. But while Israelis are being asked to fight, we have another task: to give generously to the new Israel Emergency Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
The Fund, part of the national United Jewish Communities campaign, is needed to help pay for the enormous social costs of this conflict, which has killed so many and created hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees (though there has been little mention of any suffering in the general media but that of the Lebanese).
· It will help take Israeli children out of harm's way and place them in summer camps where they can play without fear.
· It will provide for the elderly and other vulnerable populations, give medical assistance to the disabled and trauma counseling to the hundreds of thousands trapped in overheated bomb shelters.
· It will provide relief and support for soldiers and their families and for the many civilian victims of the Hezbollah campaign.
· It will help pay for rebuilding the infrastructure and the homes lost in the rocket attacks.
The scale of loss and suffering exacted by this war is greater than anything Israel has faced in decades, including the dreadful cost of the Palestinian suicide bombing offensive earlier in this decade. Our response must be commensurate.
Though we live here in peace, freedom and prosperity, American Jewry cannot afford to pretend that Israel's peril is unrelated to our lives. Just as our parents and grandparents rallied to Israel's side in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, so, too, must we do the same today. Though there are many worthy pro-Israel causes, none will directly address the real costs of this crisis as will the Israel Emergency Fund. And, to its credit, the Jewish Federation has pledged that every dime raised will go directly to Israel.
The nature of this crisis obligates all of us, no matter what our financial position, to give as generously as we can. It's no use pretending this war has nothing to do with us. Like it or not, it's our fight, too. No matter our politics or religious affiliation, we must now do our best to aid Israel in this moment of need.