3 Fellows from 3 Countries Reflect on Operation Protective Edge

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The image of Kippa by Idit Rubin, Board Member, Ginot Hair Community Center, Jerusalem:

“This past summer, we experienced in Israel a long war that lasted more than 50 difficult days, when home became the war front. A time where many Israelis were running to protected spaces and did not enjoy a normal summer time.

Most of you followed the news about the war and its grim outcomes up close – the stories about heroism of many soldiers who have died and at the same time, the destruction in the city of Gaza and its surroundings.

I want to focus my comments on three images; all have one common word that can exemplify some of the dilemmas and discourse of this past summer. The word is Kippa  which means a cap or a dome.

1.     Kipat Barzel – Iron Dome

Iron Dome is the anti-missile system that was developed in Israel and used to protect its citizens against the Hamas missiles. The name connotes a religious protection. The connections between religion and army made the headlines when one of the senior officers wrote a letter to his soldiers telling them that they are asked to fight also for the sake of God. This caused a lot of debate in Israel. The letter may exemplify a social shift – from an army elite coming from Kibbutzim and Moshavim to senior officers coming from a religious/Zionist background.

2.    Kipat Hasela – Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock is a known Muslim building in the old city of Jerusalem, believed to be built on top of the Foundation Stone. It has become a symbol of the Arab- Palestinian nationality and its picture is presented in many Arab/Palestinian homes. Even the Hamas, that calls for the annihilation of Israel, depicts the Dome of the Rock on its symbol. We see that religion and culture concepts are part of this war and not just national sentiments. It is important that we grasp and understand that a possible solution will have to take into account these aspects and not just those of geographical borders.

3.    Kippa Aduma – Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood is a known tale by the Grim Brothers which shows the care and concern of a granddaughter to her grandmother. It expresses social and familial solidarity. Indeed, the acts of solidarity that were shown by the Israeli society during this war were outstanding. They encompassed all parts of the Israeli society. Many segments of the civil society were mobilized to help out. There were campaigns to help merchants and business people from the south earn income. Many donations and contributions were given to soldiers and to welfare and educational institutions.”

A Hasbara Campaign at Hebraica by Jackeline de Nichols, President, Hebraica, Caracas, Venezuela 

“In order to help clarify the reality of the conflict in Middle East and to provide real and balanced information, the CSCD Hebraica, Caracas-Venezuela, organized three Hasbara meetings aimed to all the staff of the community center and to professionals of other community institutions in Caracas, especially for non-Jewish workers.

Staff workers from all the Departments in the JCC participated: security, maintenance, administration, culture, sports and also managers, coordinators, teachers, coaches and professionals of various departments of the community center and some members of the Board.

The presentation was made by professionals from the Youth and Education Department of the institution, Jenny Mahfoda, David Kaufman and Tomas Glasermann; who used supporting materials for their explanations, such as videos, photos and maps. At the end there was time for questions and answers and reflections of the participants.

These meetings are important for non-Jewish workers, especially in a country as Venezuela, where all the governmental press is anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish ideas are instilled daily.  A possibility to know the other side of the information, and to raise questions and discuss views is important at this time of distress and violence in our world.”

Israel on My Mind by Michael Feinstein, CEO, JCC of Grater Washington, Marylnad, USA

“Summer at the Center is typically filled with the joyous sounds of children playing in our camp and is an opportunity for me to catch up on projects and prepare for the new program year. But this summer was different. The wonderful ruckus of camp happened as usual and it was an exceptionally good camp summer on many fronts. But, while I was physically here, my mind and heart were in Israel. I was focused on the tragic, unfathomable kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teens, the conflict with Hamas and the brazen anti-Semitism on display throughout many parts of the world. The lightness of summer became heavy as I focused on what I could do, and what the Center could do, to support Israel during this difficult time.

I am very aware that every Jew has his or her own relationship with Israel. From my personal perspective, I make a clear distinction between specific policies of the Israeli government, which I may or may not support, and my steadfast support of Israel’s right of self-defense. So, I can’t say that I was surprised when a member called to complain about our promoting the “Stand Strong for Israel Rally” that was held downtown. The member felt that as a community center, taking a “political” stand for Israel is not part of our mission. I shared that as a Jewish Community Center, our mission statement includes “connecting the people of our Jewish community with Israel” and that the idea that “all Jews are responsible for one another” (Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Bazeh) is inherent in our core values. For the JCCGW, standing with Israel when it is under attack is not political. We agreed to disagree.

The conversation prompted me to consider how the Center should live its mission and values, besides promoting the rally. Camp JCC, with its 500 campers and 250 staff, offered the perfect opportunity to create connections to Israel and help develop a love of Israel. Our four Israeli counselors (shlichim) were worried about their families and friends in Israel, some of whom were being called up as reservists. The camp organized a “Stand with Israel” program in which each Israeli counselor spoke about growing up in Israel and their love for their country, followed by the singing of Israeli songs. Subsequently, our campers created cards to send to Israeli soldiers and signs to hang throughout the building. I was proud that we created such a positive experience for campers while emotionally supporting our shlichim.

In conjunction with the Israeli Embassy, we also hosted an evening of solidarity and prayer that was attended by an overflow crowd of more than 350. You could hear a pin drop as Israelis and American Jews solemnly listened to the recitation of Psalms and heard from community leaders and embassy personnel. At that moment, you could feel that we were standing together as one community and were making a positive difference just by being there.

Elan Arnowitz, a sophomore at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, recently approached me to ask if the JCCGW would host “ISRAELRave,” a dance for high school students to raise money for the Israel Emergency Campaign. I was thrilled by his initiative and that the Center could assist our teen community to stand with Israel.

For me, being supportive meant doing lots of “little” things. None of them seemed sufficient but in totality, I felt that I was doing all that I could. I attended the rally downtown and our solidarity evening at the Center, contributed to our Federation’s Israel Emergency Campaign, and connected with my friends and colleagues in Israel. I even downloaded the Red Alert (Tzeva Adom) app which alerted me with a vibration every time a missile was launched from Gaza. There were times when my phone vibrated non-stop, distracting me from whatever I was doing. And that was exactly my intention, as it kept me from feeling that life was normal when I knew it wasn’t for my friends in Israel. What’s left is for me to stand with Israel, in Israel, which I hope to do by participating in a solidarity mission this fall.

By the time you read this, the ceasefire will either have turned into a longer truce or rockets will be flying again. If this conflict has taught us anything, it’s that the situation can change from day to day and hour to hour. And even if there is calm, there are many new human service needs to be addressed in Israel.

Rosh Hashanah will soon be upon us and we will wish each other L’shana Tova Tikatevu – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for a good year. May it be a good year for you and your family and may it be a good year, and a year of peace, for our families and friends in Israel.”

 

 

 

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