Обращение Зеева Бельского - Главы Всемирного еврейского агентства "Сохнут"
Tamuz כ"ב, תשס"ו
July 18, 2006
The State of Israel is currently under a murderous attack by missiles which are aimed at the heart of the civilian population in towns and communities in the northern part of Israel. As of today, the death toll stands at thirteen killed and hundreds of injured victims and traumatized civilians.
Hundreds of thousands of people live in these areas, whose daily routine has been turned upside down. Among them are tens of thousands of children who only two weeks ago began their summer vacation and who today find themselves in bomb shelters in terrible conditions under severe stress. So too are 2300 immigrants who live in our absorption centers in this region. These new immigrants came to Israel only a few months ago and now find themselves in the midst of a war.
Based on the commitment of the Jewish People in the Diaspora for the State of Israel and its citizens, the Jewish Agency has taken upon itself to assist the towns and communities on the confrontation line and to attend to the requirements of the most needy population in this region- the new immigrants on one hand and the children from the towns and communities on the other.
The Jewish Agency has succeeded by the wonderful and speedy organization of its devoted employees and many volunteers to organize a large scale operation in the framework of which we will bring to the center of Israel 4000 children from the communities in the north, among them both Jewish and Arab kids, new immigrants and veterans whose summer vacation joy has been shattered and who are now living under unbearable tension in the north of Israel.
I would like to share with you a very moving experience which I had yesterday and today during visits to the summer camp that we have set up on the banks of the Yarkon River with the help of the " Noar Haoved Vehalomed" youth movement where we are caring for 1000 children and
youths. This camp will cater throughout the summer to additional sessions of participants.
Today I visited two more summer camps, one at the Jewish Agency's youth village of Ben-Yakir, and the other at the Wingate Israeli National Sports Center. In each camp there are hundreds of kids from the north.
It is difficult for me to describe to you the joy and excitement of the kids whom we brought out from the north and enabled to be far from the line of fire. The eyes of the children say everything.
We would not have been able to carry out this wonderful activity without the support and backing that we have received from all our friends in the Jewish world and in Israel.
Once again, I would like to single out and express my appreciation for the special partnership with the UJC and those who stand at its head, who in light of the serious situation in Israel decided to increase their contribution and thereby enable us to absorb thousands more kids in the summer camps in the center of Israel.
Special thanks to all our friends in the countries of Keren Hayesod for the special campaigns which they are organizing for this project.
I am proud to share with you the news that today we received a contribution of $1million from one of the Israeli members of the Board of Governors who joined me today on a tour of our summer camps. I feel it is a great honor that such a prominent leader of Israeli society chose to express his support of the Jewish Agency and grant us this generous assistance.
This donation is a moving example of the recruitment of Israeli society towards the efforts of the Jewish Agency and furthermore marks an important milestone in the involvement and contribution of our Israeli partners.
Over the past few hours I have been speaking with many of our friends throughout the world, including the directors of Partnership 2000, whom I briefed on our current needs as well as those of the towns and communities in the north.
This is an hour of grace, an hour of good will, an hour of national responsibility for the Jewish people in Israel and throughout the world.
I turn to you to mobilize as one and to work together with us so that we will be able to fulfill the important tasks which stand before us on behalf of the State of Israel during these days.
The past 24 hours have been tumultuous and trying for the State of Israel. Eight Israeli citizens were killed this morning in a fatal rocket attack launched on Haifa. These missile attacks, which began three days ago, are continuous and aimed at cities and towns throughout the north. At last count, some 1000 rockets have been launched over the region, all directed and aimed at the heart of the urban centers with the purpose of hitting civilian targets.
Over the course of Shabbat, our Absorption center in Safed suffered a direct hit by a Katyusha rocket that completely destroyed the offices and some 64 apartments occupied by new immigrants. At the time of the attack, the residents and staff were secure in the shelter thereby avoiding a large-scale disaster. The Director of the Absorption center, a member of the Ethiopian community himself, along with top staff, local Jewish Agency workers and key officials from Jerusalem have been with the residents in the shelters since the situation began and are doing everything they can to ease the tension among these new citizens.
During the course of the last few days, Israel has sustained harsh blows affecting the morale of the soldiers and resulting in hundreds of injured persons and large numbers of shock and panic victims. Normal, daily life in northern towns has ceased to exist. Hundreds of thousands of residents, among them children and elderly individuals, are forced to sit for long hours in shelters in difficult conditions. Others have been instructed not to wander far from their homes. While the military operation is in full force in Lebanon, the fighting continues in Gaza and the residents of towns in the western Negev are still on high alert.
This morning I began touring and visiting towns throughout the north and the sights are heart wrenching and at times difficult to view. In Nahariya, Safed and Carmiel, the streets are reminiscent of ghost towns. Not a soul to be found. Shops are closed. Activity and signs of life are almost completely absent. The public announcement system fills the air with orders calling on everyone to stay in the shelters, intermittently interrupted by frightening explosions with impact of the falling missiles.
Accompanying me on my tour are Joel Alperson, Rani Garfinkle and Kathy Manning, key professionals of the United Jewish Communities (UJC) who are currently visiting the country along with other Campaign Chairpersons and Directors from the United States. These wonderful and courageous people, with their steadfast dedication and commitment to the Jewish people and State of Israel, are a symbol of the unity of the global Jewish population. I met with members of the delegation this past Friday in Jerusalem and was impressed and proud of their determination, in spite of the difficult situation, as they chose to come here to be with us and show their support and solidarity.
Throughout the morning, we met with the mayors of Nahariya, Safed and Carmiel. We received updates regarding the situation in the different cities. We met with residents and children of our Absorption Centers, which currently house some 2300 new immigrants, who have recently arrived in the country and are going through an especially difficult experience right now. In every place we visited, we brought our message of unity and support as well as our pledge to provide assistance to the inhabitants of the region in any capacity needed.
The Jewish Agency is on full alert to provide aid to the residents of the north and especially those in desperate need – primarily new immigrants and children - in these difficult hours.
Over the weekend we provided our assistance to the family of Monica Lehrer Saidman, the new immigrant killed in Nahariya, by arranging for transport for her burial in Argentina.
Today, we opened a summer camp in the central region of the country, with the help of the “Ha’Oved” Youth Movement and members of Kibbutz Ravid of the Galilee. This program is set to receive thousands of children from towns throughout the north, in coordination with local and regional councils. In addition we have prepared our youth villages and contacted the local authorities, organizations and other youth villages in the central region of the country and today we began operating a summer camp for 700 children of new immigrants who currently reside in Absorption centers in the north. We are providing assistance to those families of new immigrants, who request to be relocated, in temporary housing in various parts of the central region. We have also extended this service to immigrants who have arrived within the past five years under the auspices of community absorption throughout cities in the north.
We have begun a nationwide campaign, in conjunction with the local media, to involve Israeli society in our aid programs as well as private organizations and institutions and the business sector to raise funds to help with the costs of the aforementioned summer camp programs. This weekend alone, we have raised a total of one million dollars and I am confident that throughout the week, we will be successful in raising additional funds from worldwide Jewry, the Israeli business sector and private citizens.
We are in constant contact with all groups of young people throughout the country from the Jewish communities who are currently participating in various programs and moreover are at their disposal to help with any issue that may arise. I would like to reiterate that the Jewish Agency’s Situation Room is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week at telephone: 972-2-620-2202 and is prepared to deal immediately will every request.
In this time of turmoil in the State of Israel, I would like to recognize and praise our friends abroad, especially the UJC and Keren Hayesod both in Israel and abroad, who are working together with us, hand in hand, to help us to face the challenges and in the end, to fulfill our the mission that we have taken upon ourselves. I would also like to thank the JDC and World ORT for their partnership and dedication.
I am in daily contact with many of you and each time we speak, I am filled with pride as I witness the enormous support and you so generously provide. It is this dedication and devotion that allows us to stand beside the citizens of Israel in the face of this war forced upon us.
I promise to continue to keep you updated and on behalf of all of my colleagues at the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization, I extend my personal gratitude and thanks for all that you have done and continue to do.