January 14, 2009

JDC-ISRAEL: Update from Jerusalem

From Arnon Mantver, Director of JDC-Israel:
The Gaza War

Shalom all,
Yesterday an officer from the paratroopers was wounded very badly. He got married two days before he was called to fight in Gaza. This underscores the three "circles" of people who are really hurting in this war: the soldiers themselves; the parents, wives, siblings of the soldiers; and the residents living down south. We are praying for the first two groups and continue to work with our partners to bring comfort and care to the last group.

Easing the Trauma of the Children
The Chibuki program was devised during the Second Lebanon War to alleviate stress among pre-schoolers and was later replicated to Sderot and the surrounding areas. The young children become "mini-counselors" to a huggy puppy, allowing them to express all their own fears and anxieties by acting as if the feelings belong to the puppy.

We have re-activated the program for about 120 children who are currently attending pre-school in protected buildings or shelters. One of the psychologists which works with the program reported that the "graduates" of Chibuki jumped right into the play-therapy, explaining how they had been sleeping with Chibuki to keep him calm, had taught him to go toward a protected area when the "red alert" is sounded.

Those who received their first Chibuki took time to get to know him and to listen to his worries and fears. In one of the kindergartens, the teacher took the children and Chibuki on a virtual tour of the neighborhood, stopping at each child's home. The program will be expanded/re-activated in all kindergartens in Ashkelon, Sderot and the surrounding area as soon as school resumes and with the generous assistance of the UJC.

Corporate Philanthropy Leverages Youth Volunteerism
IDB, Israel's largest holding company, also boasts one of Israel's most active corporate Foundations. JDC works hand in hand with the Foundation on a number of key programs in the community, and also works to promote corporate philanthropy throughout Israel via Matan, Israel's version of United Way.

Supersol, Israel's biggest supermarket chain which is owned by IDB, launched an initiative which allows Israeli consumers to purchase a variety items at half-price and to have them packaged and sent to an Israeli soldier directly from their local supermarket branch. IDB asked JDC to activate AMEN youth volunteers to pack the boxes, address them and include personal letters from the sender. Because AMEN exists in 45 locations and includes more than 50,000 teenagers, it was easy to mobilize them quickly and efficiently for this program. More than 500 volunteers are in 40 Supersol branches getting the packages out to soldiers serving in Gaza and the number grows each day.

Other AMEN volunteers are providing activities for children in shelters, hosting children and youth from the south in communities in the Center and North of the country, collecting donations to create activity kits for children in shelters and providing warm clothing for soldiers.

The Federation Response
A group of Federation leaders was here in Israel on a solidarity mission this week under the auspices of UJC. Yesterday they visited JDC's Supportive Community for the Elderly in Ashkelon to see how this program – which was established long before anyone envisioned missiles hitting the city -- is helping elderly who live in their own homes to cope with the current crisis.

John Ruskay reported experiencing a "Red Alert" during the visit as follows:
"We were listening to our colleague, Dr. Yitzhak Brick, director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s (JDC) programs in Israel for the elderly, explain how JDC has expanded its services, in partnership and at the request of Israel’s government, to serve the elderly during the war in Gaza. As Dr. Brick outlined JDC’s efforts to contact and identify the needs of every elderly or disabled Israeli person in Ashkelon and the other 25 cities and communities in the south, the sirens began. We immediately and quickly left the room and scurried down the stairs to protected areas in the basement. As we waited three minutes for the "all clear," a JDC staffer asked us to imagine what this must feel like for the elderly and disabled who can't leave rooms quickly — who can't get down those stairs."

It's very encouraging to us that the Federation leadership comes to Israel to experience and understand the situation here and how difficult it is for the most vulnerable populations which the Federations help via JDC. We are also extremely encouraged by UJC's $10M campaign for the South, a portion of which will enable us to expand the Supportive Community program to another 25,000 elderly in towns under attack.

Wishing for an effective resolution of the crisis and the speedy return of all IDF soldiers,

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