The U.N. resolution and conditional cease-fire may have halted the monthlong confrontation with Hezbollah, but Israelis are still facing some of their most difficult challenges as they return home to war-torn communities and crippled local economies.
Nearly 4,000 rockets hit Israel's northern communities, resulting in damaged infrastructure, businesses, schools and homes. Vital social-service programs that were condensed or suspended will need to be re-established to even greater capacities to aid the elderly and other at-risk populations.
The journey home for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Israelis marks the beginning of the struggle to restart their lives. In the aftermath, the effects of the war can be compounding, since returning to normal life will require major reconstruction projects, reactivation of communal services, as well as increased trauma services to facilitate the well-being and healing process for Israelis of all ages.
Accordingly, several of Greater Philadelphia's most prominent Jewish leaders have come together to provide and enhance local support for Israel. Renowned Israel supporters Leonard and Madlyn Abramson, Howard Gittis, Sidney Kimmel, and Raymond and Ruth Perelman have provided leadership and generous support to help Israelis by contributing significantly to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Israel Emergency Fund. They have been named honorary chairs of the fund's campaign.
"We must ensure Israel's security; its future is our future," said Kimmel. "Our Federation can best mobilize our community's response to demonstrate the response that is so urgently needed."
"Our community's strong commitment to Israel has been galvanized into strong leadership and support for her during a critical time of need," said Beryl D. Simonson, Federation's board chair. "The community is coming together to help thousands of Israelis re-establish their lives and rebuild their communities."
"The coming together of Greater Philadelphia's community leaders reflects not only their personal commitments to Israel, but a caring Jewish community that continues to participate in Israel's security and well-being," said Ira M. Schwartz, president of Federation.
Michael Coslov, a veteran Jewish community leader, is the campaign's chair. Vice chairs are Richard Cooper, Gary E. Erlbaum, Marjorie Honickman, Stephen B. Klein, William A. Landman, and Laurence N. and Harriet Weiss.
The Rebuilding Begins
"The Israel Emergency Fund is supporting programs that are responding to the needs of Israelis,"explained Coslov. "From moving children to safety and back home again to helping families rebuild their homes and businesses, the fund is giving hope to Israelis by delivering the necessary resources to meet their most pressing needs."
Federation's partner agencies in Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee are administering the aid programs, and are the main recipients of funds being raised by the Israel Emergency Fund, which joins the United Jewish Communities' North American campaign. Approximately $234 million has been raised so far. The campaign is seeking to raise a total of $500 million to address the ongoing recovery needs. Federation's Israel Emergency Fund's target is $15 million to contribute to the campaign goal.
Anticipating Israel's rebuilding needs, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an Aug. 7 live video address to Federation leadership, stated that, "In the coming weeks and months, we will have to rehabilitate our cities. We have to rebuild thousands of houses and properties that were destroyed."
Understanding what laid ahead for the country from the Israeli government's perspective, Federation's partner agencies in Israel have been preparing recovery programs. The Israel Emergency Fund has remained proactive and prepared, and is now focusing on supporting active programs that will tackle the country's rebuilding, revitalization and human-services needs.
These include programs that deliver trauma services to impacted citizens; assist the unemployed and those suffering economic hardship; rebuild communal infrastructure, housing and temporary housing needs; restore social programs for vulnerable populations; promote Israel advocacy in response to media bias; restore and foster youth travel to Israel; and establish a fund for the victims of terror to assist their families.
A Need to Increase Security
Even with the cease-fire and recovery efforts now under way, the situation in Israel remains tentative. With tensions high, a resumption of hostilities is possible, particularly if the U.N. fails to enforce its resolution and disband Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, or prevent it from attacking Israel again. In addition to recovery needs, security remains a central issue for the Israelis and Jews throughout the world. Cease-fire or not, Israel's survival is being challenged every day by an Islamic terror ideology that is being perpetrated by Iran, as well as Syria.
"For the first time since the days of the '50s and the '60s, there is a nation that stands up in a most public and formal manner, and says its ultimate goal is to destroy the State of Israel and wipe it off the map," stated Olmert.
"It is important to have a secure homeland for the Jewish people," said Coslov. "We, as fellow Jews, must take on the responsibility of ensuring Israel always exists in a way that makes us all proud."
"When Jews come together to help Israelis, the positive impact for Israel is much more powerful and enduring than the thousands of missiles that were used against her," added Simonson. "With the war largely shutting down Israel's northern communities, they need our help now as much as they did during the attacks."
"As we stand together with Israel, not only do we help Israelis, but we unite as a determined global Jewish community," declared Coslov. "With its next challenge right around the corner, a robust recovery is Israel's best defense, and will reaffirm the very hope and strength that her enemies have tried to take away."
For more information on the Israel Emergency Fund, go online to: www.jewishphilly.org or call 215-832-0564. Checks payable to "Jewish Federation" can be mailed to P.O. Box 57200, Philadelphia, PA 19111-7200. Write "Israel Emergency Fund" in the memo field.
Israel Emergency Fund Leadership*
Leonard and Madlyn Abramson
Howard Gittis br>Sidney Kimmel
Raymond and Ruth Perelman
Gary E. Erlbaum
Stephen B. Klein
William A. Landman
Laurence N. and Harriet Weiss
Board Chair, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Beryl D. Simonson
2006 Jewish Community Fund Campaign Chair
Samuel J. Greenblatt