Responding to the Crisis in Israel: News from HF Grantees

Oct 13, 2023

We are all reeling from the horrible news coming out of Israel this past week. We know that many of you have been directly affected or have friends and loved ones that have been murdered, taken hostage, or injured – not to mention the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and reservists being deployed.

At this terrible time, we are sharing some of what we’ve been hearing from our Israeli grantees, as well as some articles and resources that we’ve found particularly meaningful. As we reached out to our grantees to learn about the impact of this war on their work, we have also learned about the horrible personal losses they were experiencing. We felt the need to share these with you as well, so that we can try to understand the depth of these tragedies for each individual and family and to the country as a whole. Please know we are actively reviewing our funding strategies to ensure that we can be as responsive as possible to the emerging needs of our grantees.

We hope this is meaningful and look forward to when we can report on healing. Please do let us know if there are additional resources that you have learned about that you think would be helpful. Like you, we are praying for better days ahead.

In addition to reading below, please click here for resources and articles.

From Our Grantees, Current and Recent

(Please note that this is not a comprehensive report, but simply highlights of what we’ve learned so far)

Personal Losses

(To protect the privacy of individuals, we are only sharing information that already has been shared publicly on social media or in the press):

Vivian Silver, the former co-executive director of AJEEC-NISPED (Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment & Cooperation; Negev Institute for Peace & Development) has been taken hostage. You can learn more about Vivian and her commitment to peace this article.

Tamar Kedem Siman Tov, a participant in one of WePower’s training programs, who was running to head the Eshkol Regional Council was murdered along with her husband and three children in their home in Kibbutz Nir Oz.

Hayim Katsman, the son of Center for Women’s Justice staff member Hannah Katsman, was murdered.

Gal Navon, the son of longtime Women’s Spirit volunteer Naama Navon, was murdered. Other staff members and volunteers have also lost close friends and family members.

Some Actions in Response

Several of our grantees have been spotlighting the many heroic women who have stepped up this week, including Inbal Lieberman, the security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am (the first woman in more than 25 years who’s served in this role in this region), who was able to save hundreds of people on Saturday. No one inside the kibbutz was killed, in large part because of her actions and decisions. Learn more here.

Association of Rape Crisis Centers is encouraging rape survivors for whom the events are re-igniting past traumas to call its hotlines for help. It has also raised concerns about sexual violence by Hamas attackers and the possibility that abducted women are being raped and has reached out to the Red Cross to help bring back the hostages.

Beit Ruth a long-term therapeutic residence and school that gives vulnerable and at-risk girls the opportunity to thrive emotionally, socially and academically, reports that all of the girls in its residence, which is in the Galilee, are safe, along with the staff, and that it has ramped up round-the-clock security. It has also reached out to alumnae of the school and offered to host them if needed.

Itach Ma’aki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice has highlighted the impact of the Hamas attacks on the Bedouin Arab community in the Negev. Dozens of people, including children, in this community have lost their lives, families lack shelter spaces, and there is a shortage of food and supplies. In partnership with another organization, Itach Ma’aki is bringing food and helping connect community members, including widows and single mothers, to psychological assistance and legal counseling.

Project Kesher, which builds Jewish community and advance civil society by developing and empowering Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking women, reports that it has been offering support group programming in Russian and Ukrainian on Zoom. Many of the women in its network live in some of the most destabilized areas in southern Israel. It is also planning special Zoom programming for Shabbat, along with an art and storytelling program for children to address trauma. (The organization was also quoted in The Chronicle of Philanthropy this week, talking about how its constituents are traumatized not just by what’s happening in Israel but by the ongoing war in Ukraine.)

Merchavim, which brings together Israeli citizens of different backgrounds to get to know each other, appreciate diversity, create joint communities and organizations, and promote a fairer society, says it is “in constant touch with the staff and participants in all our programs, and especially Arab teachers, to support and strengthen them in their complex interface with Jewish society following the horrific events of the last few days.” It also highlighted civil initiatives showing solidarity among different groups in Israeli society, such as the offer by the Kfar Kassem municipality (an Arab Israeli community in central Israel) to provide home hospitality to families from the south and efforts by Druze communities to send food and equipment.

Women’s Spirit, which works to promote economic independence for women survivors of domestic abuse and financial abuse, reports a sharp escalation in domestic abuse due to the severe stress and trauma that we all experience, accompanied by an increased flow of requests and growing needs. Its case managers are busy maintaining continuous contact with participants, who are currently in shock and reliving long-term trauma amid the endless flood of images and videos. The group says it is also preparing for the day after: “Our experience teaches us that every period of stress is accompanied by a sharp increase in the level of domestic abuse, following the prolonged and forced stay at home, the return of post-traumatic spouses from the battles, financial distress, emotional burden and burnout following the cancellation of children’s studies and more. This is a pressure cooker that is overflowing and results in severe violent outbursts.”

Moving Traditions, which serves teens in North America, is focusing on helping teens process and reflect on the news, particularly as many have been exposed on social media to horrific scenes, conspiracy theories, and even posts celebrating the murders, demonizing Israel or justifying the violence. “Adults who work with teens have an important role in helping teens reflect on what they are seeing, process their emotions, find their voice, and connect to sources of meaning and hope.” It has created this guide for reflection through poetry and is preparing additional resources to release soon.

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