Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA) wrapped up a tour of speaking to Jewish communities in major cities across the United States about the environmental crisis in southern Israel caused by Palestinian rioters in Gaza, led by Hamas. Titled the “Gaza Border Crisis: The Trauma, The Damage, The Needs,” the 11-city tour kicked off in Los Angeles on Aug. 19 and ended on Aug. 30 in New York.
On Wednesday evening at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood, Pa., outside of Philadelphia, more than 200 people filled seats to listen to three Israeli speakers: Michal Uziyahu, director of community centers in the Eshkol region; Sarit Khanoukaev, a 21-year-old resident of the hard-hit city of Sderot, less than a mile from Gaza; and Yedidya Harush, who represents the Halutza communities and Gaza Envelope region.
They told powerful stories of resilience in the face of Hamas protests and arson terror since March 30, the beginning of the Palestinian “March of Return.” They have also had to deal with rocket fire and Red Alerts, sending residents to bomb shelters at all hours.
To date, 10,000 acres of land in Israel’s south has been burned by incendiary kites and balloons — the size of about 10,000 football fields.
“We wake up and go to bed with the smell of smoke,” said Uziyahu, a mother of three. “And with rockets falling, we have 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter once the siren goes off. It’s a sound we hear all too often.”What’s needed, said the speakers, are fire trucks; fire-extinguisher wagons; fire-fighting equipment such as helmets, coats and axes; and, perhaps most of all, more bomb shelters. Trauma-resilience centers are another increasing need with the uptick in both adult and child-related cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.
All three speakers thanked their American brethren for their support, both fiscally and otherwise. They also expressed great appreciation for JNF-USA’s emergency campaign that is advancing relief efforts for the communities affected by terrorism.
And in typical Israeli steadfastness, Uziyahu noted that “99 percent of life is heaven of us” in the growing Jewish communities of the southern Negev Desert. “Only 1 percent is hell.”