Tuesday, July 31, 2018


On July 15, some of you may have received the following report from Jerry Silverman:

"Dear Colleagues,

As you may know, I am currently in Israel, where the country has just emerged from an extremely tense Shabbat in the South. Our Israel office has prepared this update on what has taken place.

Since the early hours of Saturday morning, some 200 mortars and rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israeli territory, triggering 173 separate Red Alert sirens. Tens of thousands of residents spent much of the Sabbath in shelters. Approximately 30 projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defense system and some 73 projectiles landed in open areas.

In the most serious event, three people were injured when a rocket hit a home in Sderot. One 17 year-old girl was wounded with shrapnel wounds to her face, a 20 year-old girl with injuries to her limbs and a 52 year-old man with a chest injury. In a separate incident, a rocket hit a synagogue, also in Sderot, but there were no injuries there. Another rocket landed near homes on a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Video of some of the damage can be seen here. Chilling footage from a security camera showing a rocket hitting a public area in Sderot just in front of a passerby can be seen here.

During the afternoon, the IDF instructed residents in Gaza border communities to remain within 15-seconds of bomb shelters or safe rooms, closed the local Zikim Beach, and restricted gatherings of more than 100 people in open spaces and more than 500 people in closed spaces across the Gaza border communities. As of early this morning, those restrictions have been lifted. See here for a video report from the IDF at the scene of Sderot rocket attacks.

In response to the rocket fire, Israel’s air force carried out its largest daytime operation against Hamas since 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. Israeli jets reportedly hit some 40 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip in four separate military compounds. As part of the operation, the IDF hit a Hamas high-rise urban training facility and a terror tunnel that had been dug underneath, two additional terror tunnels, a Hamas Battalion HQ in Beit Lahia and dozens of other terror targets in several military compounds. Video of the attack on Beit Lahia can be seen here. According to Israeli military spokesman Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, “The battalion command’s entire infrastructure has been destroyed.”

The IDF spokesperson issued the following statement: “The IDF holds Hamas accountable for everything happening in the Gaza Strip. The IDF is prepared for a wide variety of scenarios and is ready to take necessary steps, which will intensify according to the situation assessment and the operational need. The IDF is determined to continue to implement its mission to defend Israeli civilians.”

The IDF also released a statement in Arabic on social media, addressing Palestinian in Gaza. The message read: “This is a special announcement for Gaza's residents. You are requested to immediately remove yourselves from every facility or infrastructure that are used by terror organizations, to stay away from every person that is known as a terrorist and from every space in which terror organizations operate….Beware, you have been warned.”

At 11pm last night, Hamas announced that a ceasefire agreement had been reached, but this has not been confirmed by Israel. Since the announcement, two additional rockets were fired at southern Israel. At the time of writing, Israel’s security cabinet is meeting to discuss the current situation.

At this point, we are monitoring the situation closely and reviewing all contingencies. As of today, Sunday morning Israel time, the violence does not appear to be escalating further. Nonetheless, the situation remains sensitive and tense. We will continue to observe closely and will keep you informed if the situation changes."
This was informative, of course, but all of us get better on the scene information from actual reporters for The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The Times of Israel. I can only hope that Jerry's successor appreciates that his/her service to the Federations is not as our "war correspondent."

I, for one, would have appreciated learning of JFNA's impacts on serious issues that impact on Diaspora-Israel relations. You know, like those reported in https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-u-s-jewish-chiefs-warn-against-passage-of-racist-nation-state-bill-1.6270788. After all, Silverman is reported in that article as having traveled to Israel to lobby against this legislation. 

And, then, voila -- Richard Sandler sent out Jerry's letter the day following the one above. to his Federation colleagues. It's both excellent and informative:
"Never a dull moment in Israel - especially in summer.  The Gaza border was quiet all day yesterday, and let’s hope the unofficial ceasefire holds.  At the same time we spent the day with our partners at the Jewish Agency in the Knesset giving our passionate and direct input on the Nation-State bill.  We have been working to drive home Federations’ concerns about this proposed legislation. This bill has challenges and some positive elements.   Our voice needs to be heard and we are ensuring that it is. 

There has been significant maneuvering by a number of different factions to shift wording and to address these concerns.  It’s too early to say what the final form of the legislation will be. This memo will provide insight into some of the specific issues on which we have focused.

The Nation-State bill is a proposed “basic law” that would enshrine in legislation Israel’s status as the nation state of the Jewish People. Various bills of this kind have been proposed and shelved over the years but this one is close to being enacted. While the aim seems worthwhile enough, there are at least three provisions in the draft that are highly problematic, with potential ramifications for Jews across the world.

First, the bill would make Hebrew the only official language of Israel.  Historically, under the King’s orders during the British rule of Palestine there were three official languages:  Hebrew, English and Arabic.  When the British Mandate ended, English lost its status and Israel was left with two official languages.  In Israel, Hebrew is the de facto primary language and this bill would reaffirm that reality on the ground.  Out of respect for the Arab population in Israel, this new bill includes wording to the effect that Arabic will have a “special status” to be determined by a separate law and that its standing shall not be prejudiced.  However, no matter what intention, the effect of such a change will appear to be a demotion of the Arabic language to second class status, because it alters a previous and long-standing status quo. 

Second, a provision was included in the bill that would allow Israelis to establish closed communities, in which members of other religions or nationalities would not be allowed to live. This was by far the most controversial section of the bill, prompting the President of Israel and the Attorney General and many others to object. Thousands protested in Tel Aviv and complaints about this sectionreportedly reached Congress as well. At a meeting earlier today, it appeared that the coalition agreed to change this language.

Finally, the bill contains a provision which tries to define the obligation of the State of Israel to Diaspora Jewry. Israel-Diaspora relations are a two-way street – a point I tried to drive home in many meetings and consultations about this bill. Together with the Jewish Agency we strongly objected to the recently revised wording of this section, apparently aimed at limiting the influence of Diaspora Jewry over religious pluralism issues in Israel. Through a series of meetings and consultations with decision-makers, we voiced our concerns about this section loud and clear.
This proposed Nation-State bill will most likely come to a final vote within the next day or two, before the Knesset breaks for its summer recess.   It has potential ramifications for all who work to defend Israel’s character or who are associated with Israel simply by virtue of being Jewish.  As I sat in the Knesset listening to Israeli leaders vigorously discuss this bill, I had the opportunity to reflect once again on the challenges Israel faces in balancing its democratic and Jewish character. Passions run high on these issues and there are no easy answers. 

JFNA is on the ground making sure the concerns and perspective of North American Jewry are heard.  We will continue to keep you updates as consideration of the bill continues."
Kal ha'kavod

Hopefully, while Silverman our CEO might have reported on how he has led an effort to combat the ultra-Orthodox onslaught against the Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox Movements and their leaders; or how JFNA is meeting the challenge created by the Prime Minister's negation of the Kotel Agreement -- that Agreement which Silverman touted as a JFNA "success" (it wasn't, it was Natan Sharansky's, and now it is no more) when it was agreed to in 2016. 

Here is how one Large City CEO, South Palm Beach County's CEO Matt Levin, described the situation in Israel v'kol ram to his community over one year ago:

"I am writing from the Jewish Agency meetings in Israel, where the Prime Minister and his cabinet have made a pair of decisions that together could threaten the unity of the Jewish people and diaspora-Israel relations. First, the Israeli government suspended the historic 2016 "one wall for one people" Kotel Agreement for cynical political reasons. Second, the government introduced a bill that, if passed, would return a full monopoly to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate regarding conversions. South Palm Beach County has been a national leader in understanding that pluralism is crucial for Jewish unity, and our voices are needed now."
The situation has only deteriorated since even as the Prime Minister announces that he "hears" our concerns.

C'mon, Jerry, we're rooting for you.



Anonymous said...

What are we going to do when we no longer have Jerry to kick around?

Anonymous said...

This is another example of JFNA desperately trying to gain some credit for actially doing nothing. Silverman running around Jerusalem is not an image we who work here 365 days a year fighting against the Orthodox parties and the Netanyahu Government's constant efforts to disenfranchise our Movements only to see JFNA drop in from time to time. If JFNA wants to make a contribution, fund the effeorts of the Reform and Conservative Movements and please stay out of our way.

Anonymous said...

One can onlyread the "reports" from Jerry andthen Sandler reporting on Jerry's reports to fully understand the total waste that we have allowed JFNA to become. Obviously, JFNA itself has nothing to report on what IT has accomplished because it has accomplished nothing in Israel on our behalf. Tell us the specific actions that JFNA has undertaken for us, STOP telling us whatwe can read in the paper.

Anonymous said...

By asking JFNA to support the Reform and Conservative movement's work in Israel anonymous 8:38am shows that s/he has no idea about how the Federation system should work.

If Federations/JFNA were to support religious denominational efforts in Israel all denominations should be supported, not just those of which s/he approves.

If the Reform/Conservative movements want to make changes in Israel, instead of constantly criticizing, they need to build support for their institutions in Israel (which they are not) AND support Aliyah to a much stronger degree. Without votes on the ground none of they changes they wish to see will happen.

Anonymous said...

The statement that the OM "heqars our concerns" is probably true -- he "hears" but he does not care. JFNA is certainly nothing more than a joke to the Prime Minister, maybe an annoyance from time-to-time. And, now, will Sandler or Silverman risk losing Bibi as the only "draw" at the October GA? Don't be silly. Make no waves.