Assistance to Non-Jewish Populations

Moneeb Bader
“It is a great step that the Jewish Agency is becoming involved in the Druze community. There are many needs in the educational and social arena that need to be addressed. The Jewish Agency’s involvement can be a major factor in moving things forward.”

Moneeb Bader was born in the Druze village of Hurfesh, where he currently lives with his wife and three small children. The 52-year-old retired military attaché to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia had an illustrious 29-year career in the Israel Defense Forces. Although he served as the Deputy Commander of the Galilee Division, in charge of the Israeli-Lebanese border, the recent war came as a surprise to him. “This was the first time that citizens suffered so much. It was terrible,” says Moneeb. During the Second Lebanon War, the Hezbollah rockets that rained down on Northern Israel did not discern between Jew and non-Jew. “Over 60 Katyusha rockets fell on our village,” says Moneeb. The Jewish Agency for Israel made a commitment to assist all of Israel’s citizens in distress. In northern Druze villages such as Hurfesh, children were brought to safety in the center of the country through the Jewish Agency’s emergency summer camps. Bomb shelters were equipped with air condition units and when the war ended school readiness activities helped children prepare for school after an extremely stressful summer. The Jewish Agency is building on the relationships with non-Jewish populations established during the war and moving forward with innovative new programs. “There is a very large gap educationally and economically between the Druze population and the Jewish population,” says Moneeb. “I am certain that the Jewish Agency’s involvement will help change this.”

Scholarships for Students Studying at Northern Regional Colleges and Students Called-up for Emergency Reserve Duty

Ilanit Sigati
“I’ve been living in the North for four years. I love the region. But the war made me question whether I wanted to stay. The scholarship to study at Tal-Hai College has erased any doubts that I had. The Upper Galilee is where my future lies.”

Ilanit Sigati, a 27-year-old third year student at Tel-Hai College in Upper Galilee spent a nightmare summer in bomb shelters. Originally from Dimona, Ilanit moved to Kiryat Shmona after meeting her partner Yair, who is from the Upper Galilee. Throughout the war, Ilanit remained in Kiryat Shmona. Yair was serving in a combat unit in Lebanon, and she wanted to remain close to him. When the war ended both, Ilanit and Yair, who will be studying electronics at the Jezreel Valley Regional College, planned to continue their college education. But the financial situation was difficult for both of them. “As a student in Israel it’s always a struggle to make ends meet,” says Ilanit. “I have to work to pay for my tuition and living expenses. This year it is harder, as both of us were unable to work because of the war.” The young couple heard about the Jewish Agency scholarships on the radio and applied. “It’s very moving to know that Jews around the world care about us. It gives me enormous incentive to succeed,” says Ilanit. Registration for northern regional colleges, which serve as an engine of the northern economy, has significantly increased as a result of these scholarships. In addition, more than 5,000 students like Yair, who were called-up for emergency reserve duty, also applied for scholarships. Now, students who dropped everything to fight for their country can move forward with their education.

Emergency Funds for Small Businesses

Levana Halfon
“One week after I applied for the Jewish Agency grant for my business I received a check in the mail. I cried when I read the accompanying letter explaining that the money was donated from Jews living in the US. There are such good people in this world.”

Levana Halfon runs a manicure, pedicure and eyebrow shaping business in Acre. The 42year-old mother of three rents space in a beauty salon and has a thriving clientele. Summer is her busiest season. This summer, the war brought her to financial ruin. “Everything was just awful,” says Levana painfully. “My son was in the army. The rest of the family was crowded in a bomb shelter. My husband and I had no income. I don’t know what we would have done without the support of our families.” The five people who were killed when a Katyusha rocket fell in Acre lived close to Levana. It is difficult for her to think back to that time. When the war ended, Levana’s 10-year-old son was suffering from trauma, and Levana needed to get her business back on its feet. She heard about the Jewish Agency’s grant for small businesses and immediately applied. A week later her daughter screamed from the mailbox that a check from the Jewish Agency arrived. Levana received approximately $1000. “I told all my clients about the letter and the check. They all thought I was talking about a loan. They could not believe that it was a grant that I didn’t have to repay.” Some 2,600 small business owners like Levana, who suffered severe financial setbacks as a result of the war, are receiving emergency funds from the Jewish Agency. Some 40% of the recipients are from non-Jewish populations.

Equipping Public Bomb Shelters

Lanna Zohar
“I have four small children under the age of 11. It was impossible for us to continue living under such horrible conditions in the bomb shelter. There was no air circulating and it was stifling. The heat was unbearable.”

Lanna Zohar grew up in Hatzor Haglilit, a small town only thirty kilometers (18 miles) from the Lebanese border. A few years ago she moved to a new house on the other side of town. In the first days of the war, a Katyusha rocket severely damaged her home. Lanna took her four young children and went to live with her sister. When the sirens went off and everyone ran to the public bomb shelter, Lanna was appalled at the conditions. “The shelters had not been used in years. The conditions were absolutely terrible,” says Lanna. Her neighbor, Shimon Mor Yossef, agrees. “I fought in most of Israel’s wars. I remember only too well the first Lebanese War in 1982, when Hatzor Haglilit came under fire from Katyushas. But this is worse; we never had to withstand such sustained confinement. The shelters are very small, and unbearably warm in the heat of the day. People yearned to go outside and breathe fresh air, but unfortunately learned how dangerous it was.” The Jewish Agency for Israel answered the urgent needs of residents like Lanna and Shimon, installing close to 2000 air-condition units, 1,600 televisions, 2,700 emergency lighting fixtures, 50 chemical toilets, 150 water coolers and 30 water pumps in bomb shelters throughout the northern region. Over 2,700 bomb shelter kits were distributed to disadvantaged families. These kits included sanitary items, cleaning products, games, fans, electric kettle and emergency lighting.

Brenda Woodward
“We made aliyah on July 9th. Three days later we found ourselves on the front line of a war. It was terrifying. But at the Carmiel Absorption

Support for New Immigrants During the War

Center we were all protected and cared for by the incredible staff. We came together like a family and never thought of leaving.”

Brenda Woodward (43) and her husband Tony lived in East London, South Africa. There were a total of 90 Jewish people in the city. With the dramatic increase in crime and the failing economy, Brenda and Tony wanted a better future for their teenage daughter Kaeleigh. “We had never been to Israel, but we decided to make aliyah,” says Brenda. “I did my research on the Internet. When I saw the Carmiel Absorption Center, in such a beautiful location, I decided that this was where we would begin our new lives.” Three days after they arrived, the second Lebanon war started and the Woodward family was on the front line. “It was absolutely terrifying at first,” says Brenda. “But the staff at the absorption center was with us all the time. They told us what to do and made sure that we ran for the bomb shelter the minute the sirens went off.” A total of seventy new immigrants from all over the world remained at the absorption center throughout the war. “We were like one big family,” says Brenda. “We ate our meals together and spent hours in the underground bomb shelter. We didn’t lack for anything.” “The Jewish Agency was fantastic. They took us on day trips to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They provided great entertainment in the bomb shelter; clowns, musicians, celebrities and a disco that was fun for everyone.” “Our desire to stay in Israel and our connection to the country and the people became even stronger during the war,” says Brenda. “We’re here to stay together with the Jewish people – our people.”