20 November 2012
Like you, I’m following the news of the current fighting very closely. The loss of life and the palpable suffering is gut-wrenching. And none of us can know how long the fighting will continue.
Our Israeli staff on the ground are hard at work seeking to help see Israel’s most vulnerable through this terrible crisis. They are doing this under trying conditions. Our Beersheva office is closed for the time being, with many of our staff having moved north or east to relative safety, although some have stayed in their homes despite the frequent attacks. And while the office is closed, they continue to do the work. They report that the emergency response in urban areas is better than it was four years ago during Operation Cast Lead. Nevertheless, in the more underprivileged places, daily life is harder, with immigrants and other marginalized populations facing more problems.
NIF is mobilized for this crisis. Here’s a quick, partial report of some of the work being done by our staff and partner organizations:
1). A number of the organizations we support are working to ensure that the Israelis living under the greatest threat of attack are cared for. Activities include: arranging hospitality for those wanting to leave the South, providing information in Russian and Amharic to immigrant populations living near Gaza about how to stay safe, ensuring that African refugees living in south Tel Aviv know what to do when a siren sounds, and continuing (and even expanding) food distributions to poor Bedouin families.
2). In partnership with ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel), we stand ready to protect the freedoms of expression, assembly, and dissent. In every society, there is a risk that civil liberties will be infringed upon during times of war, and efforts to malign the human rights community have already begun. We are committed to defending the rights of all Israelis to express their opinions, even in these trying times.
3). We’ve established a "Situation Room" to monitor reports coming in from our staff and partner organizations, so that we can respond quickly to emerging needs. For instance, we’ve heard from Ethiopian organizations that need help to set up an “operations room” to coordinate assistance and information within that community.
4). We are acting as a liaison between our partner groups and the Civil Society desk established in the National Emergency Authority, in which SHATIL takes part.
In these difficult days I continue to be inspired by the dedication and professionalism of our colleagues in Israel. In this spirit, allow me to share with you a message that one of our staff members -- Gili Baruch -- who lives in Kibbutz Urim (7.5 km from the Gaza border) circulated to her colleagues:
“I am asking you to join me in keeping on believing. Believing that this can be changed, that we all should keep on working, together, for a better region, as it is every person's right to live peacefully.”
I can’t think of a more appropriate sentiment for this moment.