Thursday, January 08, 2009

Middle East

Dear friends,

We are all very deeply concerned with the events now unfolding in the Middle East, yet in these challenging times, it is important that we all try to as much as we can to be there for the citizens in need from southern Israel, and for the country as a whole.

Hundreds of rockets have been fired from Gaza by Hamas at civilian targets since the start of the fighting, some with a range that extends far beyond the areas whose regular bombardment led to the operation. All of this means that for hundreds of thousands of Israelis, everyday life is filled with severe stress and anxiety, and a simple trip to the corner market, a quiet evening at home or even a Jewish community’s holiday celebration can risk injury or death.

I am writing to you today to inform you that members of the World Union’s staff in Jerusalem, along with the Israeli Progressive movement nationwide, are providing emergency assistance and relief to residents of southern communities that are being hit by these retaliatory strikes.

World Union staff members in Jerusalem have volunteered their time to conduct food drives, host families and support the IMPJ activities of Keren B'Kavod (Dignity Fund), the humanitarian aid project run by the Israel Religious Action Center. These include emergency home hospitality in the center of the country, temporary housing solutions for people with special needs, day-long recreational and cultural excursions outside the area, delivery of food parcels for civilians and soldiers, and entertainment for youngsters stuck for long hours – and even days – in bomb shelters.

At World Union headquarters in Mercaz Shimshon/Beit Shmuel, the culture department has organized free educational walks for families and children – more than 150 people – who have been displaced from the south. The professional guides, led by Beit Shmuel’s educational walks director, Ishai Shavit, are taking the groups through Jerusalem and its neighborhoods.

The department has offered to organize further siyurim (walks) for future groups, has made Beit Shmuel’s Hirsch Theatre, the city’s acclaimed center for educational and cultural activities, available for performances, and has publicized the availability of these activities in the Israeli newspaper,Yedioth Achronot.

If you would like to 
add your support for our movement’s emergency efforts – which can help pay for transporting and housing families away from the danger zones and for much needed supplies, such as food, water and toys – please make a donation through the World Union’s Web site. Click hereand indicate in the Purpose box that your donation is for the response to the Gaza crisis. 

Members of the besieged and assisting communities in Israel would also be grateful for words of comfort and support from fellow Jews the world over. Visit the 
IMPJ’s congregation page to contact them.

Staying informed about the issues is also critical for Jews throughout the Diaspora. You can read and join a very active discussion of the situation online at the blog of North America’s Union for Reform Judaism. Click 
here to visit that site.

For those of you who have plans to visit Israel in the near future, or who have been considering attending our convention in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – 
CONNECTIONS 2009 in March – I urge you to move forward and join us. Our leaders and delegates will be tackling many timely and profound issues, such as this one, and your show of solidarity with Israel will be enormously appreciated.

We hope that you will join us in our prayers for peace in the region, and for the strength and wisdom of our leaders to achieve that peace.


Steve Bauman