Update from JCC Israel Center

JCCs Stand with IsraelOperation Protective Edge – Day Nine

As I was writing yesterday’s update about Israeli volunteers, 37-year-old Dror Hanin, father of three from Israel’s center, drove to the Gaza border to share refreshments with Israel’s soldiers.  Dror was hit by a missile and died from his wounds a few hours later. Dror paid for his kind heart with his life.
 
At the same time we were happy to hear that the Bedouin sisters, ages 10 and 13, who were hit by a rocket that landed in their village, are doing better and that their condition is no longer life-threatening. 
 
Unfortunately, most of the Bedouin towns and settlements have neither shelters nor protected spaces. Residents seek protection in open space when the siren goes off, and as we’ve seen, Hamas does not differentiate between Jews or Muslims, but indiscriminately targets the entire Israeli population of which the Bedouin community is a part. Bedouin community centers, part of the Israeli Association for Community Centers, have been invited to participate in a new campaign called Rest & Relaxation, which offers activities and trips to the Bedouin community outside of their at-risk region, while respecting the Ramadan fast.

Sixteen community centers operate throughout the southern areas of Israel, from Eilat to Ashdod. Of the 16, three are Bedouin community centers. Most of these areas are under a barrage of rocket fire and faced with life-threatening conditions daily.

These community centers moved their operations and activity rooms to bomb shelters, where they can offer free programs to their local members.  One of these community centers’ directors is my good friend, Igal Shrim. Igal lives in Talmei Yafe, a small village just five miles from Gaza. I hear the name of Igal’s community many times each day when the red alert siren goes off and the media announces where the missiles are headed.

Igal directs a community center in Holon, another community under rocket fire. I called Igal to ask how he is doing and he replied that he’s doing what any community worker would: Open his center to all community members, and adjust the activities so that they address current needs (such as providing day camp activities at bomb shelters). Igal told me he is focused on sweetening the kids’ daily lives by providing them with ice cream, chocolate and more fun activities than originally planned.

Igal understands that the kids he serves were robbed of their summer. They can’t enjoy the beach or the pool, they can’t go to the mall, they can’t just hang out. For nine days, instead, they have had to remain close to bomb shelters. Igal and his team are doing everything they can and at the same time, Igal and his family of four children live just five miles from Gaza, within constant earshot of the bombing and explosions.

This is when being a community center director means being a parent to hundreds of kids, doing your best to cover the cruel reality with indulging sweets.

That cruel reality has stretched into the ninth day of Operation Protective Edge, which began with more rocket fire at southern Israel and the most severe attack on Israel’s center. Since Hamas violated the cease-fire, the Israel Air Force (IAF) attacks have been relatively moderate and surgical. Unfortunately this is not the case for Hamas’ attacks, which are indiscriminately launched at Israel’s towns and cities, and number 1,300 rockets as of today.

Last night the IDF dropped leaflets over northern areas of the Gaza strip, calling residents to evacuate by morning as a warning preceding a planned strike. The IAF plans to attack these areas in hopes of destroying rocket launchers in the area.
 
The leaflets read: “The IDF has no desire to hurt you and your families. Evacuating the area is done in order to save your lives. You must not return to the area until further notice. Those who fail to comply with these instructions and evacuate immediately are risking their lives and the lives of his families.”
 
Hamas has instructed these residents to stay in their homes, knowing that by doing so, they are risking their lives. Hamas has been sending threatening messages to Gaza’s residents, saying that they will take their revenge on those who evacuate.
 
We are fortunate that we have people like Dror Hanin and Igal Shrim at a time when Hamas is trying to break us. They, and so many others, help restore our spirit and show us a true sense of what being part of a larger Jewish community is all about.
 
Leah
Vice President
JCC Israel Center